Pride and Politics

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In this month’s blog we’ll explore why Pride needs to remain political. In recent years Pride has become more celebratory and commercial than ever. My issue isn’t with commercialism but, if Pride is only about that we loose site of its purpose.

Our fight is far from over. Almost on the heels of marriage equality Americans voted in one of the most homophobic governments in recent history. We must stand up and continue to fight if we are to keep our rights. Evan Wolfson one of the architects of marriage equality in the US says “… protesting is a way of raising your voice and encouraging others to believe and take action.”

There are forces within the current American administration trying to dismantle those hard-won rights. Some headlines are sounding like the 1980’s: Mormons claiming that there are no gay people among them; Scientologists creating “Jails for Gays”; a Tennessee school board firing a teacher for starting a gay straight alliance at his school are a few examples.

Internationally things are much worse. We had the 2015 stabbing at Jerusalem Pride. Our voices have bee silenced in Russia reflected by the recent Chechnya “cleansing”. Malaysia Lebanon, Syria, Pakistan, and Iran are among the many oppressive regimes where we are demonized, jailed and even killed. So many African LGBT people live in fear with countries like Uganda at the head of the hate parade. We cannot afford to remain complacent while homophobia spreads like cancer through the rest of the world.

Shawn Ahmed a gay Bangladeshi Muslim living in the US says “My family emigrated from a country where homosexuality is a criminal act. My family follows a faith where many believe the punishment for being gay is death.”

The fight will not be over until every human being is free to openly express their sexual, and gender, orientation. Pride needs to be part of our ongoing efforts to make that happen.

Many men in my generation remember a time before Pride. We came together to protest and to demand our rights. Our efforts paid off. Integrating that radical spirit into modern day Pride may prove challenging but is our best way forward. We should come together to celebrate. Rejoicing in our wins is powerful. But let’s not forget the people, even in our own countries, who don’t get to enjoy those rights.

Martin Duberman, a gay historian, recently stated “Too many young gays, it seems to me, have become apolitical. They seem to think that VICTORY (to use one recent book title) has allowed us to forget about protest and politics and focus on simply leading our own lives. Yes, there have been considerable advances in our general acceptance, but mostly for those who fit in neatly with the assumptions and outlook of middle class white culture.” That is far too narrow a demographic for our freedoms to have security or any real meaning. Its time to stand up, rejoice, and demand equality or everyone, everywhere.