Pride is still a Protest

09 Oct 2019

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Traditionally June is Pride month, but there are many such parades and festivals right up until the end of September.  Over the summer I attended several Pride events up and down the country, where GMB had a presence.

Although Pride is a time to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community, we should however never forget its roots.

The first Pride was held on the first anniversary of the Stonewall riots.  On June 28th, 1970, many people marched through the streets of New York City to commemorate the same date in 1969, when the city’s police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay club located in Greenwich Village.  

The raid on Stonewall led to several days of protests and violent clashes with the police outside the bar and on surrounding streets. 

Nearly 50 years on, much has changed and been achieved, but the central message of Pride, the opportunity to stand together to fight for true equality and the safety of the LGBTQ+ community, remains the same.  

Some people do question whether Pride is still necessary, and the answer must be most definitely yes. Homophobic hate crimes, including stalking, harassment and violent assault, have more than doubled in England and Wales over the past five years, and trebled against trans people.  

The rise could partly be down to better reporting, but we have also seen the growing hatred on British streets due to the rise of right-wing populism.

Pride must also maintain its link with the trade union movement and not be taken over by big corporations. For those who don’t know what that link is, the film Pride portrays exactly how that link was formed.

Barbara at Leeds Pride with GMB Regional Secretary Neil Derrick

It is truly one of favourite films, as it’s the perfect example of what solidarity means.  Based on true events, the film shows the time in the summer of 1984, when gay and lesbian activists supported the miners during the long strike by the National Union of Mineworkers.  Both communities were under threat from the then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher.  The miners faced losing their jobs from her pit closure programme and the gay and lesbian community faced increasing hostility from her Conservative government which culminated in the introduction of Clause 28, stopping teachers from even talking about the possibility of same sex relationships.  

Facing a common enemy, a group of gay and lesbian activists agreed to raise money to support the striking miners and their families. Despite initial caution by the Welsh village community they chose to receive the money, they were able to persuade them that they were on the same side. 

As we know, the miners eventually ended their strike after a year long bitter battle, but at the London Pride parade in 1985, a large contingent of miners turned up, with their union banners, to repay the support and solidarity that they had been shown by the gay and lesbian community.

This solidarity between the LGBTQ+ community and the unions is exactly why we must challenge and stop Pride events becoming a showcase for big business and multinational companies.

Ironically for example, among the companies currently sponsoring Pride, some don’t even allow unions to organise within them.  

Pride is still a protest because there is still homophobic, biphobic and transphobic (HBT) bullying in our society and it is our trade union reps and members that fight daily to rid their workplaces of this prejudice and discrimination.

“No pride for some of us without liberation for all of us”

Not only must we challenge discrimination and abuse in the workplace, but anywhere we see it in society.  Shortly after GMB Congress this year, I was honoured and proud to become a Patron of the organisation Just a Ball Game?  Their mascots, Castro and Milk, have been seen at many Pride events in the North West much to children’s delight.  One of JBG?’s main aims is to educate and raise awareness about equality, inclusion and diversity and combat HBT bullying and abuse in football/sport, as well as promoting LGBTQ+ history and achievements.  

Part of that history must be to remember and honour the contributions of those from the BAME community who have been at the very heart of the struggle for rights and inclusion, such as, for example, Marsha P. Johnson, a African-American transgender woman and LGBTQ+ rights activist, one of the prominent figures in the 1969 Stonewall uprising.

In Solidarity,
Barbara Plant
GMB National President   

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