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At the end of May it will be time to make my annual pilgrimage to Birmingham Pride. I attend every year and always have a fabulous time. Last year however, something different happened which made me completely reassess my thoughts on pride.
Usually I would rock up at midday for the parade, laugh at all the outrageous characters and princesses along the street, and then begin boozing. Then I would dance the day away, get very drunk and probably pull. So far, so standard. However, last year I took a different approach.
It began when I was invited to join in the pride parade with the Labour Party’s LGBT group. As a lifelong Labour supporter I thought it would be something fun to do. It was enjoyable, and handing out stickers that said ‘never kissed a Tory’ on them was amusing, even if it was a lie.
What struck me was the effort that goes into putting on a pride parade and the message that many of the participants had. Yes there were the usual clones in pants dancing on the back of a truck and other spectacles, but for the first time I noticed the many community groups and activists taking part in the event. I then realised that I was part of that activism and sense of community. As the parade progressed I began to think about how dismissive I had been in the past. I liked this alternative perspective.
Once the parade had finished I then went to help out a friend on the Home Office LGBT Network’s stall in the pride community area. I would normally be on my way to getting quite merry by this point, but I shunned all of that and spent the rest of the day talking to people about the equal marriage consultation and getting them to complete it. Do you know what? I really enjoyed myself. I didn’t get drunk, went home at a reasonable time, and felt satisfied that I had done something actually worthwhile.
Since then I have been thinking a lot about pride and the meaning behind it. I have come to the conclusion that they are now far too commercialised, more about having a party than about activism. I feel that many LGBT people have lost sight of, or simply don’t realise, what the idea behind pride originally was. I worry that not enough LGBT people care about rights and activism. Although I think it is great for people to let their hair down and party, I also think that there needs to be a step back to the times when there was more of an activist slant. I aim to do my bit for that.
This year I will be attending Birmingham Pride as usual, but will be building upon last year’s experience. I will be taking part in the parade with my LGBTQ charity Push Projects, and using it as an opportunity to protest against injustices people with gender and sexual diversities face, both at home and abroad. I will then continue to spread the message, and aim to engage with as many people as possible to talk about the issues that LGBTQ people face. I don’t drink alcohol anymore, so will not be getting drunk. I am in a relationship so will not be looking to pull.
As Bananarama are playing on the main stage I will be buying a wristband and dancing some of the day away, but this year and future years for me will be about rediscovering a bit of protesting and activism in the proceedings.