Opinion: Pride Is Not a Corporate Or Political Billboard

We should not be diluting the meaning of Pride and other LGBT+ spaces by flooding them with corporate and party-political interests.

Pride-Is-Not-A-Billboard

“By and large, the ‘how’ and the ‘who’ of attainment of LGBT+ rights have not featured corporate interests or political parties.”

Dublin Pride 2018 marked 25 years since the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Ireland and saw double the number of attendees as last year. At 60,000, this dwarfed even the London parade. This is without a doubt something to be proud of. It is a sign of how far we have come in achieving, not just tolerance, but acceptance.

However, many issues with Pride events and the LGBT+ movement in general have been raised recently. The need for greater inclusion of ethnic minority members of the community has been stressed. Russian migrant, Evgeny Shtorn highlighted how, in Dublin’s parade, corporate sponsors appeared to be given preference over LGBT+ groups campaigning for, among other things, the rights of asylum seekers. Longtime activist, Tonie Walsh criticised the move of the parade route from the city’s main streets to the side streets. Trans rights, also, have been pushed up the agenda, with anti-trans activists hijacking London’s parade, and activists in Dublin organising the city’s first ever, separate Trans Pride march last weekend.

 

A common theme in all of this is a need for higher standards and more inclusivity in the LGBT+ movement. This family is not just for cis white gay people. It is for the whole spectrum of marginalised identities, and this requires us to not marginalise members of our own community in queer spaces. Equally, this means not diluting the meaning and jeopardising the safety of such spaces by flooding them with corporate and party-political interests.

 

Remembering The Past

For Pride as a celebration, we must remember our past and embrace our present. As activism, we must understand how we have got to where we are, and we must learn from that what we can to advance our future. By and large, the ‘how’ and the ‘who’ of attainment of LGBT+ rights have not featured corporate interests or political parties. They have trailed behind at best, often actively opposing our rights. A perfect example of this is Fianna Fáil wishing everyone a happy Pride month while their Dublin South Central branch tweeted an image of ‘An Ireland For All’ banners celebrating their inclusion in the Dublin Pride Parade. Perhaps they forgot the criticism and resignations they faced in the wake of their lacklustre contribution to the marriage referendum only three years ago.

Businesses, too, have increasingly shown an interest in our festivities. Many a clothing line brings out a Pride range for June each year, profiting off a festival we have fought for the right to hold. Yet, how much of such revenue do they donate to LGBT+ causes? The cash they fork out for a prime spot in parades doesn’t count. There’s a difference between a marketing investment and philanthropy. This is our sacrifice, our history and our celebration. Pride is many things to many people. One thing it absolutely is not is a billboard for corporate enterprises who have given no helping hand until it is commercially expedient. Pride is for floats filled with banner-carrying queers and our flag waving allies, not bandwagons on which to lay dead weight.

 

Pink News and Arlene Foster

Let’s not pretend that it is just the indifferent ‘other’ we must suffer. A bad ally is bearable. At least they have shown up to the party, even if it is fashionably late and with their own agenda. What I refuse to tolerate is the sharing of LGBT+ spaces and platforms with those who actively seek to oppress us. It is one thing to have enforced an anti-LGBT+ agenda in the past or to have failed to have come out in our support in recent years. It is another, entirely, to oppose our rights in the present.

What Pink News believe they achieved, other than a self-serving photo op, by inviting the DUP’s Arlene Foster to speak to at an LGBT+ event in Belfast in June, I do not know. It was heralded as a victory that Foster was the first DUP leader to attend an LGBT+ event. That the leader of the ‘Save Ulster from Sodomy’ party, which vetoed a democratic decision to legalise same-sex marriage, showed their face in such a setting would be truly momentous if it signalled a change of heart. Oh no. Foster used the platform to reaffirm her opposition to equal rights in Northern Ireland while requesting that we give her the respect she refuses us.

Where was the meaningful dialogue intended to bridge the gap between oppression and equality? I recognise that all leaders of political parties in Northern Ireland were invited to speak, by why should their position entitle them to such a platform? This was not an opportunity earned by Foster, and there was never any indication it would be used positively to advance our goals. If we as a community and as a movement are to continue progressing further than we have, and there is much yet to be achieved, we must ensure we maintain standards. Access, for politicians and corporations of every creed and colour, to our spaces, our platforms and our events should be a privilege, not a right.

Danny Rigg is an Irish student of Modern History and Politics at the University of Liverpool, and the Deputy Opinion Editor of ‘The Sphinx’ student newspaper

 

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