Pride London has happened every summer since 1972, and has remained a popular event. Pride 2018 was no exception, with approximately 1,000,000 people attending. The Pride parade on July 7th, from 12-5, celebrated the LGBT community in the best way possible.
The message of Pride is to be accepting of others and proud of who you are, and proud is exactly what everyone at Pride was. However, some individuals were not set on spreading love. Around 8-10 members of the group, “Get the L Out” pushed to the front of the parade and stood on the symbol of Pride, the rainbow flag, despite not being registered to be a part of the parade. They argued that “Transacitivism erases lesbian [rights],” and spread hate via leaflets. At one point they lay on the ground to prevent the parade from starting, to the dismay of London Mayor Sadiq Khan and staff from the NHS, who were supposed to begin the parade. As the actions of the group were not deemed a criminal offence by organisers, they could not be forcibly removed. However, the cheers of love overcame those of hate to put on an action-packed parade.
Pride’s origins were very different to the Pride everyone knows today. Pride originated in New York in 1970, a year after the Stonewall Riots. The Stonewall Riots were a series of violent riots between police officers and activists from the LGBT community outside the bar, the Stonewall Inn, which started on the morning of June 28th 1969 and ended three days later. The Stonewall Inn was a sanctuary for many members of the LGBT community, who were unable to legally embark on homosexual relations in 1969. On June 28th, nine policemen entered the bar and arrested all employees for selling alcohol without a license. They then went onto harass many of the bar’s patrons, clear the bar and arrest anyone who was wearing gender-inappropriate clothing. Unlike in previous raids on gay bars in the area, those outside who heard the commotion began to attack police officers with verbal abuse and bottles. Police reinforcements had to be called in after the bar was set on fire. They extinguished the flames and dispersed the crowd. The legacy of the Riots have been paramount. The rights of the LGBT community were finally being addressed, and parades began to take place in America to highlight this. The global impact of the riots were central in the initiation of Pride annually around the world. By 1991, Pride became what we all recognise today: a celebration of the queer community.
There were over 500 groups walking through the parade, from the UK parliament to National Student Pride. The uniqueness of each of the groups in the parade was apparent for all to see. The Brazil Gay Map group paid homage to their homeland with infectious carnival dancing and flamboyant outfits. An adoption agency provided an emotional element to the parade. A few couples marched with pride with the children they adopted. The joy on all of their faces matched the beaming sunlight that shone throughout the parade. The Hidayah Muslim LGBT group put on a magnificent display. A drag queen wore a beautiful red dress and headdress, and the confidence on her face highlighted the importance of being confident with who you are, even if your community may not accept you.
After speaking with a few people who attended Pride, it was not hard to understand why Pride is so successful. Sinead Colly, a member of the crowd, said that “the parade and dancing were amazing.” She said that she would volunteer to actually take part in the parade next year. A young couple at the parade felt that Pride was “liberating,” and they certainly looked the part with their blue and pink striped shirts.
Music filled the streets as the parade moved from Portland Place to Trafalgar square. London Gay Symphonic Winds created a sultry atmosphere as they played a rendition of Britney Spear’s Toxic. It highlighted that the LGBT community refused to be brought down by the toxic actions witnessed at the start of the parade.
Although the day was a celebration of the LGBT+ community, it was tinged with an underlying sadness. Many of the posters highlighted that the rights of those in the LGBT society were being ignored. One of the most powerful messages was that same-sex relationships are still illegal in 72 countries. With Oxford Street bustling with the colours of the rainbow, it is hard to imagine living in a country where being who you are is a crime.
The journey to accepting the rights of the LGBT community is not yet over, but one thing is certain: Pride London 2018 will be remembered by millions around the globe.
Photo Credit: © Michael A. Kolarov