Come on in. All are welcome. It is great to see how all things LGBTTTQQIAA are so much more recognised, varied and included (these days). But it takes a whole lot more than a rainbow lanyard to fully appreciate what is happening here.
I never in my wildest dreams thought the world would catch up as much as it has in my lifetime. Thank goodness it has, in part. Thank you to everyone who played a part in making that happen for me and for everyone else. The pioneers, the campaigners, the advocates, the politicians and the lawmakers, too many to mention all of them. I have special regard for the ones that stand out for me: Sir Ian McKellen, Peter Tatchell, and Boy George. And for the other real people who have lived their lives, died for basic human rights, put themselves at risk, and helped society to leave fear and prejudice at the door, and recognise, value and protect individual liberty and love.
The fearless, courageous, direct-acting, visionary and politically astute, and confrontational Peter Tatchell, deserves an extended mention. He has been countering head-on the constructed narrative, hypocrisy and collusion of general society and of those in power. He is someone who has literally diced with serious injury and death. A man clearly ahead of his time. He is a “performance artist”, said Stephen Fry. Which for me are perfect accolades. I would dream of such epitaphs. Aren’t all great people ahead of their time? It’s those that follow convention that disappear into history. Tatchell has challenged my thinking very many times. Sometimes I have been shocked by his actions and I haven’t always approved and appreciated them. I do now, on reflection. In ‘Hating Peter Tatchell’, his life story of controversial human rights campaigning was told – his provocative acts of civil disobedience had rocked the establishment, revolutionised attitudes to homosexuality and exposed tyrants in the fight for equality. The Executive Producers were Elton John and David Furnish. Crikey, in that film, even the Archbishop of Canterbury (George Carey) conceded his “assessment of Peter, now, is that he has been a figure for good, and for equality, here is a man with deep conviction, he’s rocked the boat, and there is a sense in which there is a parallel to Jesus Christ. Jesus was prepared to stand up against the powerful people in society and represent the smaller people [dreadful phrase] where some of us might question his tactics, no one can doubt he’s on the right side of history”. An appraisal coming from the recent establishment like that, was truly mind blowing to me. Late, but welcome, nonetheless. Especially when I remember Carey frozen to the spot, confused about what to do, allowing his security guards to tackle Tatchell when he stormed his pulpit at Easter 1998. Something for which Tatchell was fined a measly £18.60.
“Don’t accept the world as it is. Dream of what the world could be – and then help make it happen.” said Tatchell. I happily and willingly accept that mission. But to do so, one must have bravery and courage.
Pride means different things to different people. Do enjoy the party. But don’t forget the battle scars collected along the way, nor the wars still raging, and those yet to come. The liberties we enjoy here today still feel fragile and vulnerable and they are certainly not universal. Things are changing politically and socially here and across the world, but people live under oppression even in countries where homosexuality is permissible. Then there are over 70 countries of the world where it remains illegal, in some places it is punishable by death. For me that all adds up to make PRIDE a bittersweet experience. One not reconciled by shrink-wrapping corporate headquarters in rainbow flags, or by department store window-dressing, as well-meaning as that is. None of it should be allowed to drown out the voices of those who know, who experience and feel the lived realities of identifying as LGBTTTQQIAA.