It’s hard to believe it’s nearly a year since we took to the streets for our Pride in London 2019 parade, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots. 2019 was a big year for me, personally. I got married in May, lost my lovely Mum in August, and my wife Abby gave birth to our baby son just before Christmas. Truly the best and worst of times. We had big plans for 2020 too, but then the Coronavirus pandemic hit and everything was put on ice.
As you’re no doubt aware, earlier this year we made the difficult decision to postpone this year’s Pride in London parade until 2021, which was genuinely one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make - not least for our fantastic team of over 200 volunteers who work all year to put on the event - but the right thing to do, given the situation.
As I write, we are now less than a week away from what would have been Pride in London 2020. We would be marching to mark the 50th anniversary of the Gay Liberation Front, the founders of the Pride movement in the UK. We would once again be lifting up our trans family, protesting the un-ending attacks on their simple human rights to exist peacefully. And – no doubt – we would be standing with our Black LGBT+ family, joining our voices to the cry that All Black Lives Matter.
But parade or no parade, it’s important to remind ourselves that Pride is so much more than one day. June is still our LGBT+ Pride month and we need each other now more than ever. We should still celebrate the great strides in equality that some (but not all of us) enjoy, but even more importantly we must still continue our protest - because we still have serious issues to address, both within and beyond our community. Our work is far from done.
The trailblazing trans activist Marsha P. Johnson said “No pride for some of us without liberation for all of us”. I’m extremely conscious of my own privilege and platform in quoting this, but the events of recent weeks have made me all the more determined to learn what it means to live up to her challenge. Her words feel particularly poignant at this time, following the brutal and senseless murder of George Floyd, as well as the killing - also by police - of Breonna Taylor, who was shot at least eight times in her own home in March; of Black trans man, Tony McDade, in May; and of Rayshard Brooks, who had been asleep in his car, in June. Sadly, this is but the tip of an iceberg...
However, we must not kid ourselves that we are immune from racism in the UK, including within our LGBT+ communities. It’s a problem that we all must take responsibility for addressing, honestly and with humility. To mark Pride this year we must rise up together against bigotry and hatred in all its forms, but especially against racism.
On a connected note, in the last few weeks there have been hugely worrying murmurs of Government plans to roll back trans rights and shelve the Gender Recognition Act. Trans rights are human rights, and Pride in London has called for urgent clarification around the long overdue reforms that would make it more simple for trans people to gain legal recognition of their gender. As a wider community, we must defend and protect our trans siblings and make sure their voices are heard, never forgetting that the roots of our movement are in the black trans community.
So whilst we might miss the solidarity and symbolism of marching together this year, the pandemic gives us an opportunity to re-engage with our activism, to learn about our history, and the contributions and sacrifices made by so many to get us to where we are today.
We live in an age when physical distancing is not enough to stop us from connecting with each other, looking out for each other and standing up for one another and that’s what our Pride in London campaign this year is all about.
‘You! Me! Us! We!’ is a rallying cry to all LGBT+ people to support one another and stand in solidarity. With many in our communities still facing homophobia, sexism, misogyny, biphobia, transphobia, racism, Islamophobia and more, it’s critical we remain united whilst separated. As part of #YouMeUsWe we’re aiming to mobilise our wider community to take 30,000 acts of allyship; one for every person who would have marched on the streets of London on 27 June. And we need you.
If that isn’t for you, then having launched it on 1 June, I’d like to bring your attention to our new Unity Fund. The realisation of a six-year dream, every donation - big or small - will contribute to one-off grants to grassroots organisations that are advocating for, addressing the needs of and providing support for LGBT+ people in the UK, and also support Pride in London’s vital work. And that’s not your only option. Whether you make a donation, take on a fundraising challenge or buy some Pride in London merchandise (who wouldn’t want a Pride in London Lockdown t-shirt?) your support is vital and you’ll be helping us to improve the lives of marginalised and disadvantaged members of our LGBT+ communities.
Together, we’re stronger - and bringing LGBT+ people together is and will always be one of the most important and powerful things we can do at Pride in London. If you haven’t already, I’d encourage you to check out our virtual series of Coming Out events. There really is something for everyone - and by getting involved you’ll be giving much-needed support to queer artists and performers.
Enough from me. On behalf of everyone at Pride in London, I’d like to send you our best wishes for a united Pride. Let’s all continue to be kind, loving and generous to one another. Let’s check in with our friends and loved ones, and keep lifting one another up and be the allies that we need each other to be. Let’s make new connections, perhaps with people who are different from us. And let’s awaken the spirit of activism and uprising in each other again.
Yours in unity,
Co-Chair of Pride in London