Sunday, 8 August 2010

Reflections on the first ever Liverpool Pride

Today turned out to be a much longer day than expected. At 11.30 this morning, I was headed into town with my other half for lunch. Thirteen hours later, we got back home after ending up at Liverpool's first Pride Festival.

The day was vibrant and lively, with an uncompromisingly friendly and fun-filled atmosphere. It has also, undoubtedly, been a stunning commercial success for the city, with a volume of people traffic not seen since Liverpool FC brought home the Champions League trophy. And consistently, through the day.

However, it was also a day of immense contradictions.

It wasn't unusual or unexpected to see the banners of various trade unions and left wing parties alongside the rainbow flags, drag queens, and babies dressed as fairies. Indeed, given the emphasis left-wing politics places on equality, you would expect nothing less. 

However, the "LGBTory" banners caught me off guard. As did Adam Rickitt's headline spot on the main stage, more for his Conservative politics than for his utter obscurity.

The only thing more absurd would have been the presence of "LGBNP" banners, with BNP Crusaders "heart-throb" Joey Smith on the main stage. Nick Griffin's description of gay men kissing as "creepy" will haunt the party for years to come, but "Section 28" has been forgiven and forgotten.

But this was the problem with Liverpool Pride - indeed with Pride events more generally. They represent liberal, rather than radical, queer politics. Which is Johann Hari's point when he says that "irony and narcissism have captured and crippled gay politics."

I have also explored this in more depth previously. My conclusion is the same now as then;
Genuine equality is a prerequisite to genuine liberty. A society in which inherent privilege exists, or in which people's worth is determined by identity rather than ability, is one in which freedom cannot be universal. ... However, something doesn't sit right with the idea that - once civil partnership is called marriage, homosexuals can give blood, and schools have anti-homophobia policies - Britain will be "genuinely equal."

...

Compare, as a case in point, New Labour's supposedly "stunning sweep of progress for gay people" with their appalling record on gay asylum seekers [1, 2, 3, 4]. The number of gay Muslims rendered homeless by family prejudice and the number of gay teenagers rendered homeless through prejudice and domestic violence, speak of societal problems untouched by those concerned only with marriage, adoption, and potentially "offensive" rap lyrics.

...

Reforms are, of course, vital to improving the situation that people face in the present, but we should be under no illusions that the problems of this world can be legislated away. As direct-action group the Radical Homosexual Agenda point out, "the queer liberation groups of the 60s and 70s ... were anti-war, they fought for economic rights and agitated for free speech and a greater vision of democracy." By "downsizing" their dreams, "mainstream LGBTQ groups have forgotten these connections" and have allowed themselves to be contained and neutralised under the auspices of tolerance.

It is time that queer people realised this and started agitating once more.
Pride is a fantastic celebration, and offered me a great excuse to build towards a hangover on Sunday.
 
But this is the point: it is a celebration of how far the LGBTQ movement has come, it is not the movement itself.