opinion

Straight and heading to Pride? Here are five things to remember

Joe Bobowicz shares his dos and don'ts for straight (and some LGBT) people attending Pride.

2018-07-07

With Pride on London’s horizon the capital is ablaze with righteous excitement.

However, amidst due celebration it is all too facile to ignore the residual and albeit, major issues LGBTQ Londoners face daily.

In my remedial efforts I have drawn up a list of tasks for the community and its allies to pursue.

DON'T make irritating assumptions

This one concerns for the most part our older generation but is applicable to all. Doctors, parents, friends’ parents, aunties, cashiers, everyone, please do not assume we are all heterosexual.

Every time someone asks me [a gay man] if I am buying a present for my girlfriend, my gleeful shopping pursuit is turned into a bleak reminder that society has yet to wholeheartedly accept us.

In a soup of rainbowed restaurants and ROYGBIV Tube signs, pink capitalism engulfs us into a blissful ignorance. The quotidian activities of LGBTQ bodies are still littered with micro-aggressions and it is your prerogative to admonish these if we are to have the liberal London we want.

DON'T stare

This act, whilst not the most heinous, is piercingly othering. I still can’t hold hands with my partner in certain places due to experience-induced fears of violence.

In those places where I know I will not be harassed please don’t fixate on us and make what is a rather banal gesture feel like a deviation of the norm.

DON'T use the phrase 'That’s so gay'

I thought we had relinquished this odious phrase from our youth’s dictionary but tram journeys through suburban South London tell me otherwise.

As a parent and teacher it is your duty to educate the youth as to why this is an inadmissible bastardisation of the term gay.

Dismissing this only serves to perpetuate the unpalatable, outright homophobic bullying. Given that schools still aren’t teaching LGBTQ inclusive sex education these youth already face an institutional homophobia that seemingly negates their existence.

With ‘that’s so gay’ adding insult to injury, it is incumbent the authoritative figures of today’s adolescence step up.

DON'T espouse colonialist views

This one is for both LGBTQ people and allies. It is oft assumed that the Western World is the vanguard of tolerance and inclusivity, with places such as Africa, the Caribbean and Asia portrayed as the socially conservative counterparts.

This assumption is utter fallacy. Prior to colonization, these nations donned a markedly laissez-fair attitude to same-sex relations. The fact that our nation is still rejecting LGBTQ asylum seekers fleeing their countries, tarnishing them bogus liars is abhorrent.

So next time you feel like berating Sudan’s grotesque death penalty for homosexual relations, remind yourself that we are holding the LGBTQ people there hostage to the hostility British colonialism instilled in the 19th & 20th Century.

DO respect the culture

 

It is one thing to come to pride as a non-LGBTQ person to celebrate the progress made and our culture, it is another thing to come because you think it will be a fun day out.

I am not suggesting you scrutinize every thing you do or say on the day, rather I am asking you make sure your motives emanate from a desire to engage with all aspects of our increasingly embellished chronology, both the lows and highs.

DO educate yourself

A token visit to Pride does not entail an exhaustive immersion into our world. LGBTQ pride should transcend London Pride as an event.

Delegate time to assimilate LGBTQ people's cultural output: Keith Haring’s work is mistakably jovial upon first glance but the pieces are inherently political. Bedecked in commentary on the AIDs crisis and gay rights movements, the works ubiquitous presence brought light to issues pop-culture had long ignored.

Photographer Zanele Muholi is a pioneer of showcasing the underpinnings of identity with relation to the convoluted political and cultural spheres we inhabit. With a focus on black, lesbian, trans and intersex bodies, her work sets the president for what she dubs ‘queer visual activism’.

This list is far from exhaustive, rather it seeks to act as an initiation or continued support in today’s labyrinth of progress and education.

Do not feel disparaged or condescended by this, instead take from it an invigorated strife to aid an ongoing fight. Faced with a mosaic of progress and steps back, Pride is a ceremonial cornerstone we should cherish.

Equally we should be cautious the festivities do not belie the problems that still linger.

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