It was London pride 2016 on Saturday 25, June 2016. As usual, the annual LGBT Pride celebration meant the streets of central London felt the colourful presence of LGBT Londoners and their allies. Marching from Baker street, Regent street, Oxford street and well, Cockspurs street, all the way to Trafalgar square, the colourful parade brightened up the streets of London. Rainbow flags, beautiful floats, creative costumes, the energetic marchers and the large appreciative supporters who turned out en masse to cheer the parade along, all made for one very beautiful London Pride, 2016. And of course what would London Pride be without the very creative and beautiful drag queens? They were fabulous as always! They slayed in their beautiful costumes and creative makeups. The crowd were eager to take pictures with those divas. And oh, there was even a sweet moment when a police man in the parade went on his knees to propose to his boyfriend!
This year’s Pride theme was NO FILTER. It encourages LGBTs to live life without filters. Just be you. There was a huge turnout. According to London Pride, an estimated 1 million people took part in the Pride and about 40,000 people marched in the parade, the largest so far in London Pride history.
The homophobic killings in Orlando was a rude and appalling reminder that homophobia is still very much alive even within the so called civilised and free countries. London LGBT and allies decided to turn out en masse to not only celebrate Pride but to show support for the Orlando victims.
The homophobic attack in Orlando had somehow jolted the lgbt community to appreciate more the reasons why we have to be out, proud and still be very political. We are not free until we are all truly free from homopobic, biphobic and transphobic fuelled hate and prejudice and their deadly consequences.
A straight friend asked me why we still need to celebrate Pride, after all it is not as if anyone is bothering gays on the streets of London. Considering that this wasn’t the first time I have been asked “Why still celebrate Pride?” and this question always comes from heterosexuals, it is often necessary to remind them and myself of the very reasons we celebrate LGBT Month and Pride.
As a bisexual Nigerian woman living in London, these are the 5 reasons I celebrate and march at Pride.
1- International Solidarity
Pride parade serves as a great opportunity to extend international solidarity to the many LGBTs who still live under draconian laws. As a Nigerian bisexual woman living in London, marching at London Pride and other Prides, gives me an opportunity to celebrate the freedom I am denied in Nigeria because of my sexual orientation. Coming from a country where being Gay, lesbian, bisexual or transsexual means I face 14 years’ jail term under the Antigay law, it is no wonder that I appreciate and celebrate my freedom and sexual orientation whenever and wherever I have the great opportunity to do so.
By joining the Pride parade, I not only celebrate my freedom to be me, I also see it as giving a voice to the many voiceless Nigerian LGBTs who currently face 14 years’ imprisonment for their sexual orientation. When Nigerian lgbts in diaspora come to pride to march and fly our banners, we are bringing attention to the plight of our fellow Nigerians, Ugandans, Cameroonians and many others where same sex relationships are criminalised.
We recognise that unlike those of us living in diaspora, our persecuted LGBT brothers, sisters and queers back home live in fear and do not have the luxury of being free to enjoy and celebrate their sexual orientation.
LGBT Month provides an opportunity to bring these issue to the fore. We can’t be truly free until we are all free. In celebrating Pride, we celebrate our small and big victories while also remembering and empowering our LGBT brothers, sisters and queers who do not have such privilege.
We recognise that our LGBT brothers, sisters and queers could be put in prison for years, thrown from a tall building, lynched by homophobic, biphobic and transphobic mob just because of their sexual orientation. We celebrate the tenacity of our persecuted LGBT families whose lives are in danger because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
When I march at Pride, I think of all the hate mails I get just for being bisexual and for speaking out for lgbt rights, and I stand tall with my head high and celebrate all that I am and hope that one day, we all will be truly free from such hate, prejudice and deadly bigotry.
2- Not everyone has Heterosexual Privilege
Do not assume all is well with the world just because you are not facing the same problems as others different than you. Your privilege, in this case, your sexual orientation privilege, could be protecting you from experiencing the discrimination Lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals still have to contend with, even in “tolerant” London.
In the workplace, on the streets, within the family, in schools and closed community groups, Lesbian, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals still face subtle and sometimes, not so subtle discrimination, bullying, hate and prejudice on a daily basis.
When straight people who never have to face this type of discrimination ask, “Why do gays still celebrate Pride, after all no one is disturbing them?”, what I hear and see is their privilege status as heterosexuals coming to the fore. The fact that you have not personally experienced such discrimination or witness it does not mean it is not happening. Your heterosexual privilege could be shielding you from the experiences of sexual and gender minorities. Such discrimination might even be happening right under your nose and you don’t recognise it as discrimination because you are so used to this being the status quo.
In some so called civilised, lgbt friendly societies-
- Gays still cannot donate blood.
- Same sex couple still can’t have their marriage legally recognised.
- Trans murder rate is still very high.
- Subtle discrimination against LGBT still goes on in workplaces.
- LGBT youth still have to face coming out to their parents, friends and society, a very daunting task for many as acceptance by family members and friends is not always guaranteed. This has also led to a rise of homeless lgbt youths in need of shelter because they were kicked out by homophobic, biphobic, transphobic family members.
- Adoption is not always smooth sailing for same sex couples. Societal perception as marriage being between opposite sex is still prevalent. The so called traditional marriage and its values still means same sex couples have to fight to have the equality act recognised in many aspects of their marriage, in their dealings with establishments, institutions and their interactions with the general public.
When we are faced with navigating these discriminations every day, it’s not surprising that we just want to come out and celebrate what makes us unique as well as human. The LGBT Pride provides the opportunity to party and for us to make a political statement under the rainbow umbrella.
3- Celebration of hard-earned victories
London wasn’t always tolerant of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transsexuals or queers. It wasn’t long ago that LGBT people were stoned on the streets of London. This year the LGBT community celebrates 47 years of the Stonewall protests of 1969. Following the first LGBT pride in America in 1970, a year after the stonewall riots, London had its own very first pride in 1972. Lesbians gays, bisexuals and transsexuals living in UK and America did not always have it so easy. People, especially our heroes, have had to fight hard to get us to where we are today.
Enjoying police security and the support of allies to celebrate Pride on the streets of London wasn’t handed to Londoners and the entire British people on a platform of gold. It was fought for, it is a hard-earned victory and we should enjoy it.
4-Education and changing attitudes
The British people have come far in accepting LGBT rights as human rights. They have enacted equality laws to protect these fundamental rights. However, they can still do more. Laws are one thing, implementation, creating social awareness, changing attitudes and achieving true equality, are another.
Pride not only gives room for lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transsexuals and queers to celebrate, it also creates opportunity to continue the education on why LGBT Rights Are Human rights. Remember, same sex couples in England, Wales and Scotland only just got the right to marry. Northern Ireland is yet to legally allow same sex marriage.
There are still establishments, workplaces and private business owners who feel that based on their religion or personal opinion, they can discriminate against lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transsexuals and queers. LGBT month and Pride parade affords us the opportunity to be visible, out and proud. It also sets the mood for educated discussion and enlightening people on sexual orientation and gender identity.
5-Why still celebrate pride? Well, why not!
Diversity is something that should be celebrated especially when the right to celebrate was hard-earned. Taking to the street once a year to celebrate how far we have come and celebrate love and gender in all its diversity is not too much to ask. It is not the place of a straight person to inform Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transsexuals and Queers, “We now accept you, get over it.”
- We will celebrate our struggles.
- We will celebrate our victories
- We will celebrate our diversity.
- We will celebrate our same sex love and queer identities.
- We will celebrate because we are fabulous like that and we know how to throw a colourful and magnificent street party!
We will continue to celebrate because we can. Don’t ask us why, just join us and be happy with us. Together we can continue to build a more tolerant, diverse and equal society.