It’s been a very long time since I blogged. It hasn’t completely escaped my mind though. I actually wrote this post in the middle of August, so excuse me writing about an event that has already happened, but I really didn’t want to change a word. At the end of August, I fell into a black hole. I’m resurfacing now, my words getting louder. Grabbing my keyboard for buoyancy. This isn’t the last of me.
Brighton Pride is just around the corner, and with the weather getting hotter and hotter, it looks like it will be the weekend of the year. When I was stumbling out of the biggest, most notorious, and only gay club in Brighton, I drunkenly picked up the official pride guide, telling myself I’ll read it whilst I walked home. I took a taxi and knocked out as soon as I got in.
The next day, after my mouth stopped tasting like an ashtray, I read through the colourful magazine, as I realised I had been so busy this summer, I had totally neglected my local pride. After a few minutes I was already done. Was that it? Photos of intoxicated gay groups, lists and lists of LGBT services around, a few maps and detailed line-ups. So I know I can get pissed at Club Revenge on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. What a memorable pride it will be. What about day events? Any specialist events for black, Asian or trans people? Or is there just a themed parade? What is the theme this year anyway?
I assumed the bold writing on the tacky poster “United Colours of Pride” was the chosen theme. But I had to do an internet search to find all information about the theme and what exactly it meant; one paragraph. It was voted for by readers of the local paper, with 44% more votes over the runner-up theme of “Triumphs and Tragedies”, which implies a heavy interest in the politics and history of LGBT rights around the world. There is nothing apart from the description given with the winning theme, that suggests anyone is interested at all.
I look at the tacky poster once again, and see twenty flags or so across the top, a drag queen in a swimsuit, four bored lesbians who all look related, and two topless men holding each other, one white, and the other brown. And in the middle of them all, a big, buff, naked black guy, smiling, with ‘United Colours of Pride’ underneath him. Yes, it truly is, buff black guy.
The winning theme was actually submitted by the charity director of a well-known local LGBT project, Mind-Out, run by LGBT, for LGBT. In the submission, she says, “The inclusion of issues such as identifying the countries where LGBT community members are still discriminated against will give the event a political edge and relevance in 2012 while not detracting from the carnival atmosphere and colour of the parade.”
So that’s what it means. Well at least the black guy is smiling.
I pick up the magazine once again, and go to a double spread that caught my attention between the proud drunken photos and pages of sponsors. It was a political map of the world, showing lesbian and gay rights in each country, see below.
So they are paying attention to politics. That must be why there’s a special feature talking about LGBT rights, how we should understand it’s not easy for everyone in the world to be LGBT, some information about what people are doing to fight for LGBT rights around the world. Oh wait, THERE IS NONE.
Maybe a little paragraph or two about how this year’s theme relates to the map? No I can’t see any.
Well there must be a caption to at least explain the map?! No, it’s just the image taken unedited from the ILGA association website. Exactly like the one above.
Not even a little bit explaining who ILGA are and what they do and how great they are at it? No.
I know what must have happened; The politically driven editors of this magazine must have gotten together with the motivated LGBT activists who put pride together this year, and figured out the only way to draw attention to the struggle of gay rights around the world would be to put this map in across two pages, and nothing more – let it speak for itself.
Personally, I thought the buff black guy said it all.
That is fucking offensive. How dare they even try to act like they give a damn about politics, what is happening to LGBT people across the world, by including this image.
This image which says a thousand words, but which is so easy to say a million more about. It would have been so effortless for them to get a speaker from any well-known world-wide LGBT organisation, or even a national group, or even local! Brighton Pride receives so much coverage, as one of the England’s gay capitals – I’m not sure why, considering the entire scene revolves around one (and the only one) gay club, eager to get their name on everything pride and everything gay. With so many eyes on you, it would have been so simple to show your concerns, and acknowledge that Brighton Pride is not just an excuse to get wasted for the whole weekend.
But everything about pride I’ve seen has screamed just that. Drink deals, club nights, fancy dress, and line-ups. Where are the people who really make pride happen? And I’m not talking about the two day piss-up, I’m talking about helping us to feel proud of ourselves for being gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, trans, unsure, curious, intersex or whatever you are. The support groups I’ve been to, the societies on campus I’ve been a part of, and the telephones they’ve been on the other end of.
With the heading “Pride is pleased to profile the groups that make our LGBT community strong,” I find the community listings, at the very back of the pride guide. Here, is where our pride is, not even worth mentioning at the front. Putting a full colour easyJet poster on page three was more important than FTM Brighton and Sussex University LGBTQ, hidden amongst dull entries at the back, they might as well have ripped out of a Yellow Pages.
Is it worth mentioning here that due to financial problems, this year’s pride has been completely revaluated by a new company, and the whole event will be underwritten by the owners of none other than Club Revenge. I guess it’s not surprising to see Brighton Pride turn into a huge alcohol infused weekend, and to feel disappointment, almost shame.
Because when I think about it, I don’t feel proud, I don’t feel proud to be LGBT, and I don’t feel proud to be ‘coloured’ either. And looking at this show that Brighton is putting on to fill me with a sense of worth has truly disappointed me. It feels like we’ve already reached where we want to be – throwing a giant party in public – and given up a fight – ignoring the on-going issues the rest of the world is still facing. It’s not even about the rest of the world, it’s not hard to see that what happens abroad affects us here, we are talking about ‘colour’ after all.
I went to Amsterdam in August and made sure I stuck around for Amsterdam Pride. Even though I was out all day and night on the big one, Saturday 4th August, I wished I was there for a whole month. There was a programme full of events, running for weeks. There were specialist fetish nights, political talks, public speakers, and general mixers, for pretty much everyone. It seemed like they had thought of everyone. Even the naked men parties explicitly said transmen were included. And judging from the hundreds of rainbow flags up and down every street, outside every store, it seems the whole city was thinking of everyone too. The atmosphere was just so much more united, families and heterosexual couples stood alongside the canals watching and cheering the boat parade go past.
Returning to ‘the big gay capital’ in the UK was a huge disappointment. I can already tell this pride is going to be just another messy weekend. Brighton’s legacy of pride has been long forgotten. Trevor Edwards, Pride Director, is blind to see this, and suggests this year the theme “looks forward to what we can achieve in the future, and asserts our joint wish to return the movement to its community roots”. What do we want to achieve in the future exactly Trevor? Can you tell me that? Or is everything so wonderful and gay right now for you that things couldn’t get any better? Please don’t rope me into your “joint wish”; I’m very certain our wishes for the LGBT community are vastly different. Expect to see “a blaze of colour representing every element of our community, both here in Brighton & Hove and from around the world”. I highly doubt anyone would travel far to get to Brighton Pride 2012. I’m still trying to understand what Trevor meant by colour… Rainbows, flags and glitter seem more realistic.
I’m afraid I won’t be wishing anyone a ‘happy pride’ this year, I hope you prepared for a cynical note to end on. What can I suggest? Get drunk early, appreciate a blurry, compliant fag on a float, and shag someone Northern.