It’s the eve of gay Pride in London, and I thought I would share with you a personal Pride story.
I work for a large company in central London which has a strong ethos on supporting diversity in the workplace. I’m a member of the office LGBT group, and we’ve been busy planning our annual Pride office party. Yes, my company pays for us to have a party in the office the day before London Pride. How cool is that?! We will gather at 4pm today, there’ll be a few speeches, and then we’ll have some music and drinks for a couple of hours. In terms of this kind of openness, recognition and acceptance, this company is the most progressive I’ve worked at in all my time being out as lesbian. I will be giving one of the speeches today, and I thought you might like to see the text of it:
When the LGBT team met a couple of weeks ago to finalise arrangements for this event and tomorrow, someone asked the question of whether Pride was called a march or a parade. When I came out in 1990, and took part in my first Pride, it was most definitely a march. It was a protest march, pure and simple. To take part was a political statement, exposure of the most public kind. There was a fear, lurking on the background, of what could be said or done to us. But together we were strong enough to fight the fear.
We assembled just under the bridge outside Embankment station. We marched from there up Northumberland Avenue, skirted the edge of Trafalgar Square, and then headed down Whitehall. There were no floats – just banners, and placards, and singing, and shouted slogans. On the march we could openly hold hands, and show affection, something not many of us dared to do in public on any other day. As we marched past Downing Street, where Maggie Thatcher still held office, the noise rose to levels that made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck.
As we marched through this most central part of London, escorted by a heavy police presence, the mood was one of strength, and joy, and yes, a huge amount of pride. People stopped and stared. Some smiled, a lot frowned and turned away. Some called out hurtful things, but we ignored them, or jeered them. But as we crossed the river, and headed for the after-march party in Kennington Park, the mood changed. Now we weren’t flanked by disinterested or bemused tourists. Local people stopped and stared, just like the tourists, only a lot more of them jeered, and hurled abuse, and spat.
Tomorrow, I will walk, not march. I will parade, not protest. We’ve come a heck of a long way since my first Pride, and we’ve got a lot to celebrate. But tomorrow I will also walk with sadness, because as we saw in Orlando twelve days ago, unfortunately there are still people out there who refuse to see us as simply other human beings, and instead still see us as ‘other’.