Sunday, August 05, 2012

Reflections on Liverpool Pride 2012

Photo courtesy of Catherine Higgins
Saturday and Sunday saw the third annual Liverpool Pride, which is held on the nearest weekend to August 2nd in memory of Michael Causer, who was the victim of a homophobic killing in 2008. According to the BBC, the festivities attracted 52,000 people, and I was one of them, wearing my Liverpool Antifascists t-shirt - and soon enough a lot of glitter - in solidarity.

Things started bright and early at 9:30, with a pre-Pride rally at Concert Square, organised by the Merseyside LGBT Student Network. In sharp contrast to those we would hear later, all the speeches were delivered with passion, as the young speakers talked up the political essence of Pride, as well as tracing LGBT liberation back to the Stonewall uprising of 1969.

We then marched through to the space between St John's Gardens and St George's Hall, where the full parade was forming up. Before that set off in near-torrential rain, we had a couple more speeches to get through. The first was from Wallasey MP Angela Eagle, who was the openly lesbian UK member of parliament. But perhaps more importantly for her credibility, she was a minister in the last Labour government, and appropriately for the event's 'patron', she patronised the assembled crowd by essentially claiming much of the credit for advances made in LGBT liberation in recent decades. She launched a pathetic attack on the Conservatives - not for their cuts or wars of course - but for not being sufficiently pro-LGBT. While this would be great from someone who wasn't complicit in the last government's policies, Eagle came across as desperate for votes and LGBT credibility, and there was some booing. After all, the Coalition are currently consulting on marriage equality. Her government did no such thing.

We then paraded through the centre of town in high spirits, and on to the Pier Head. Many bystanders clapped and cheered, others laughed, a majority almost completely ignored us. The only abuse came from a miserable-looking group of Christians preaching hate and bigotry by the Victoria monument, protected by a circle of cops. They got a good heckling from some of us, while a couple of women decided to kiss in front of them, at which point one whipped out his camera!

The miserable bigots and their bodyguards
The celebrations went on all day at various places in the city, and particularly in the 'gay quarter' centred on Dale Street and Stanley Street. The atmosphere was generally excellent, and many people were clearly having a great time. That such a big party can go on in Liverpool almost entirely unharassed is testament to the positive changes which have taken place in attitudes to LGBT people in the wider public. And although political issues relating to LGBT oppression were only given a decent airing at our smaller feeder demo, Pride could be considered an act of mass direct action against heteronormativity.

But while this is all well and good in the city centre - and even more particularly in the haven of the 'gay quarter' - Pride seems special for many precisely because it is the one day in which they are encouraged to be publicly proud of their orientation. While state-level discrimination against LGBT people is slowly being chipped away in the UK, personal oppression remains horribly high, and there are large areas of the city where individuals or couples open about their sexuality face very real danger. Until this is no longer the case, Pride cannot be considered a victory march.
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