Co-authored by Anastasia Tropsha, Second Year Law with German Law student at Oxford University
The coinciding of Pride 2015 with the landmark equal marriage ruling by the US Supreme Court is a cause of celebration for many, and quite rightly too. However, the arguments used by radical liberationists to attack Pride, and equal marriage, betray both a deeply flawed understanding of the mindset of many LGBTQ* people in the West and - increasingly - an unhealthy self-obsession.
Dealing firstly with attacks on Pride, I fully appreciate that it is controversial to require fees to march in the main parade, which is why such a decision should only be taken in consultation with a wide range of LGBTQ* groups - of all persuasions - and why I fully support the right of RIP Pride to protest this year's event. However, it seems quite a logical leap to argue that this, and the positions of corporate floats in the Parade, automatically entails that Pride 2015 was nothing more than a corporatist sham. Firstly, it does not seem unreasonable to suppose that the organisers of Pride would want to keep the annual event sustainable through its breaking-even. Secondly, and more importantly, it must be remembered that the marchers are LGBTQ* first, and representatives of any corporation second - if at all; surely the whole point of the Parade is for LGBTQ* of various backgrounds to march together, regardless of where they come from, which is why Pride 2015 had very diverse representation from Barclays and Buzzfeed to Stonewall and Queer+ Friends of Chelsea Manning, and from LGBTory to the TUC.
The second point is what makes arguments as to why certain groups should be excluded very frustrating, with where the marchers have come from being more important than their identity as LGBTQ* which is being celebrated at Pride. It is difficult to deny the institutional racism of practices of the Metropolitan Police, for instance, with People of Colour far more likely to be stopped and searched than white people, but that should not create an atmosphere whereby LGBTQ* people are embarrassed to be police officers. Equally, the controversy surrounding LGBTQ* in UKIP appears self-defeating; there is surely no greater way to ensure that the party maintains homophobic tendencies on the national stage than to tell the LGBTQ* that they should not be members of the party at all, and membership of UKIP will entail exclusion from an event which celebrates the diversity of LGBTQ* identities in Britain today.
Perhaps the most frustrating point has been vitriol directed at straight allies (and white people in general) who celebrated alongside the parade by radical liberationists. Firstly, it is disingenuous to argue that straight people should not celebrate with the Parade just as it would be to argue that civilians should not celebrate VE Day. Moreover, we should surely be proud of the progress shown by the fact that Pride is a celebration rather than a protest, and that - rather than call for LGBTQ* people to be criminalised - the 'average' straight Briton is more likely to be watching and cheering the Parade and, increasingly, getting involved with the fight for LGBTQ* rights. It seems readily forgotten in radical politics that no struggle for civil rights - whether in Baltimore or Belfast - ever succeeded by excluding, on identity lines, those who sympathised with and believed in the cause of the oppressed.
The attacks on equal marriage in the US are perhaps even more disingenuous, exposing the radical Left mindset that sees the entire world through (in its view) unquestionable ideas of heteronormativity and post-colonial thinking, to name two tenets. On the former, we may legitimately ask whether the exclusionary nature of marriage historically is in fact the cause of its heteronormativity; would we view marriage in such a way if it had always been equal? The answer is probably not, and surely we should look forward to our children's future whereby there is no 'gay marriage' or 'straight marriage', but simply 'marriage'. On the latter, while we certainly cannot ignore the fact that more than half of the countries with anti-LGBTQ* laws were former British colonies, we also cannot ignore the fact that a significant minority weren't and, as Stephen Fry pointed out in Out There, it is into the latter that the 5 countries which actively put LGBTQ* people to death fall. More fundamentally, it is wrong to view what are humanitarian issues through such lenses and, increasingly, to erase the ethnic diversity of Western supporters of LGBTQ* rights by portraying it as symptomatic of a white saviour complex.
A more fundamental point missed by DarkMatter and others when they state that "Gay Rights are Wrong" (the title of one of their workshop series) and oppose the institution of marriage, is that vast numbers of LGBTQ* people in Britain and America are not willing to have their voices appropriated by Far-Left 'liberation' politics; many LGBTQ* people have waited decades for their relationships to be considered just as valid as heterosexual ones and, ultimately, see the value in marriage as an institution to be celebrated, agreeing with Kennedy that marriage is a profound institution. To tell these people that they are oppressing themselves by subscribing to a historically-heteronormative system, or are somehow deficient in their views is surely unforgivable.
However, the Radical response has certainly been right on two counts. Firstly, it is unquestionable that this is far from the end of the journey to true equality, but few people (if anyone) are saying that it is. All we are asking for is one day to celebrate both LGBTQ* identity - which can now be openly celebrated in the West rather than the subject of a protest - and the landmark SCOTUS ruling, and to reflect on how far we've come. Such reflection is surely important both as a point of historical reference and to remind us that if we've come this far, we can keep going - rather than spend every day relentlessly reminding ourselves that we are not at the end of our journey; such ceaseless self-pity can only instil a sense of powerlessness that will drive us even further from our goals.
More sadly, they are right that there is no LGBTQ* community anymore, which shouldn't be surprising when LGBTQ* people come in all races, genders, creeds and political persuasions. What is surprising, and saddening, is how radical politics insists that its vision of the future is the correct one and, through identity politics, often argues that radical Leftism, such as opposition to capitalism, is part and parcel of the identity, when in fact many simply want to be accepted and ultimately subscribe to the values of capitalism, and strive for equality of dignity through levelling up, rather than levelling down. Yet, according to some radical liberationists, none of what has been said above matters until we reach an anti-capitalist utopia, and no progress can be celebrated until it all comes at once.
Ironically, we who celebrated Pride this year, and who celebrate the SCOTUS ruling for its significance, are the ones then accused of making everything about ourselves. Such an epithet surely belongs to the radical left liberationists who create a strawman of complacency by putting words in our mouths, and attack Pride and SCOTUS by making it all about them.