Politicians might embrace Pride – but do they know the policies impacting LGBT+ communities?
I first attended Pride in 1996. The march (yet to be badged a parade) went from Hyde Park to Westminster, then we all piled onto the Northern line for a party of sorts on Clapham Common.
I was 16 and had not told anyone back home in Cardiff that I was off to London for the day. I had massive expectations – finding a girlfriend was top of my list. Instead, I got mild sunstroke and was home by 8pm without my parents being any the wiser.
These days Pride is a march, a parade, a party, a protest. There are local pride parties and massive events in London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, and Manchester. There are awesome events such as UK Black Pride, Trans Pride and Student Pride. LGBT+ youth groups take young people to local prides and keep them safe (and topped up with sunscreen).
Now, parents are more likely to come to Pride with their 16-year-old and buy the flags and whistles that seem to be an essential pre-requisite of any decent event. More and more people are likely to have taken part in events sponsored by their employers, learning about everything from lesbian visibility to bisexuality in Shakespeare. If a company can stick a rainbow on their product this June, they will do so. Look out for the more creative conflation of brands.
We’ve come a long way, of course. Politicians now want to come to Pride events (anyone remember Boris Johnson in a pink stetson?) and show that they are very much on-side with this massive annual outpouring of love and respect for LGBT+ people. And politicians are very welcome, especially if they’ve done a bit of homework about what this community might need.
Repeating the slogan ‘love is love’ isn’t going to cut it anymore
The LGBT+ communities are diverse and hold a range of views. We can unify pretty quickly if we need to, but we don’t vote the same way. LGBT+ people might be socially conservative, economically liberal, pro-brexit, pro-union, hate protests, love Extinction Rebellion, adore the monarchy, prefer Megan and Harry and have a range of views on the final episode of Succession. Our voting intentions are impossible to predict, and Twitter is never an accurate barometer of where “we” stand.
We do keep a watching brief on things that affect us though: Surrogacy, access to fertility treatment, banning conversion therapy, protecting LGBT+ refugees and asylum seekers, the UK’s relationship with countries that imprison and kill LGBT+ people, attitudes to trans communities, hate crime, education in schools and access to healthcare. We know how hard we fought to get the rights we have, and we know how tenuously some of those rights are held. We see the attempts to grab headlines with sound-bites at our expense, and we know the difference between civil disagreement and mean-spirited derision.
If politicians are going to get the most out of Pride season they need to do more than just enjoy the glitter and pose for selfies. They need to have some thoughts about the current policy issues that are impacting on the LGBT+ communities. They don’t have to be an expert but repeating the slogan “love is love” isn’t going to cut it anymore.
I’d encourage politicians to enjoy Pride. Go along to local events. Fly a rainbow flag, or don a pink stetson. Wear sunscreen. Eat a burger with a rainbow wrapper. But do a bit of research before you go. You might encounter a 16-year-old who wants to know what you really think before she decides how she’ll vote.
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