This year at London Pride it seemed that every shop, bank and confectionary had a float and banner. Corporations bought into the beneficial publicity of showing how progressive and okay they were about supporting LGBT workers and their rights.
By Gabrielle Kynoch
As a lesbian, I have usually chosen Brighton Pride to show my love and support for other gays. Brighton is gay mecca and the beers aren’t as over priced. However, this was my first year living in London so I wanted to experience the scene in historical Soho with the parade moving down the wide open roads of Central.
As we gathered around the barriers on Regent Street, we could see the variety of banners; transgender, bisexual and a very confusing brown and black flag with a paw print? I assumed it was for bears? (a section in male gay culture). Everyone fidgets with excitement, rattling against the metal bars in hope to see the first float coming towards them. Tins of G&T, glitter face paint and enough butt cheeks and bare chests to get me through to Brighton Pride, filled the pavements.
As the parade started, everyone screamed and cheered at the dancing people on floats. We all sang to the Spice Girls and Kylie Minogue, and we waved to anyone that looked in our direction, so much that I think I have carpal tunnel syndrome. About an hour in, however, the excitement had drifted away. By the time the 5th bank had passed by it suddenly triggered a dumb realisation; have these brands bought their way into a day of support, love and triumph to make them seem…woke?
Lloyds was there, Tesco was there and tactfully – or should I say tactically – Skittles gave their rainbow to Pride and they were all white. Honestly, a clever PR stunt but amongst the sludge of other faceless brands filling the streets it was lost amongst the crowds. Over two hours of watching companies gather their queer folk in a procession. Every now and then taking a break from the eye rolling to support the police and armed forces, a worthy cause for celebrating LGBT rights in fighting stigma. No one could deny that this year’s parade felt cheap, parts of it had been broken off and sold in a Progressiveness Auction to the highest bidder. Yet, the crowd still cheered.
My girlfriend and I were surrounded by girls wearing Pride flag as capes and enough glitter to throw a Lady Gaga concert. They were from a small mining town in Australia, Mount Isa. My girlfriend is also from Australia so it didn’t take long to strike up a conversation. These girls cheered at every float, high fived every parade member and sang every song. Even when the crowd fell silent as the meagre Conservative Party pride group swooned past – love is love, no judgment at pride. Whilst I was perplexed at how Pride had been pimped out to any franchise, these girls were in their element. They explained that, although they were not gay, in their small town of traditional views that they had a male gay friend who hated life there. They explained that as soon as he could he would escape to Melbourne or Sydney, not because he hated his home town but because of the notion of gay people held by the town. Australia hasn’t legalised gay marriage yet and these girls were stunned by the crowds gathered, the cheers engineered by two gay men kissing on a Harley Davidson.
Although the spirit of Pride had felt muddied by the corporate presence, these girls held on to the essence. They represented the reality – other countries, other LGBT people aren’t there yet. The point of Pride is to show the world that it is okay. It’s okay to want to be with the one you want, it’s okay to have your partner looked after if anything ever happens to you and it’s okay to feel safe. Although, the parade could’ve trimmed the fat, the message is that as a country we are moving in the right direction and the path is lit up by love, glitter and Kylie.