Pride In London 2018 Was Marred By Protests, But The Reaction Showed How Love Conquers Hate
On July 7, thousands descended on the capital to champion the diversity, resilience, and love of the LGBTQIA+ community in the UK, as part of 2018's Pride in London march. Almost 500 groups participated in the official parade — the Guardian reports 30,000 people marched — while almost a million congregated behind the barriers to watch, support, and celebrate. Thousands held the LGBTQIA+ rainbow flag aloft; others, the blue, pink, and white flag of the trans community. Some came dressed up for the occasion, while others came in their day-to-day wardrobe; all came, however, in support of a society where LGBTQIA+ people can be radically and unapologetically themselves.
Or the majority did, at least: to the hurt and disappointment of many involved, the beginning of the event was marred by anti-trans protestors blocking the front of the march. Though the parade was supposed to be led by London Mayor Sadiq Khan, as well as staff from the NHS, which is currently celebrating its 70th anniversary, PinkNews reports that approximately ten women hijacked the march, at one point lying on the ground to block its progress. Organising under the hashtag #GetTheLOut, the protestors, who argue the trans movement poses a threat to lesbian rights, held banners with slogans such as "Transactivism erases lesbians", and distributed leaflets containing anti-trans messaging, as the Independent reports.
The organisers of the march, Pride in London, faced criticism for their response, as the group were not removed from the front of the march. In a statement reported by PinkNews, Pride in London suggested that they allowed the group to lead the march in the name of safety. They said, "Given the hot weather and in the interest of the safety for everyone attending today’s event, the parade group was allowed to move ahead," continuing, “We do not condone their approach and message and hope the actions of a very small number people does not overshadow the messages of the 30,000 people marching today."
A further lengthy statement issued on Sunday said "we are sorry", adding that the protestors were "not a registered parade group." The statement said protesters' "behaviour was shocking and disgusting, and we condemn it completely." It advised that protestors had been moved "to an area far in front of the official parade start to separate them. We are looking at what we could do differently if something like this happens again."
In a statement reported by the BBC, a Get The L Out spokesperson said: "We protested to protect our rights and on behalf of all the lesbians intimidated, threatened and silenced by the GBT community everywhere."
Many expressed their dismay at the anti-trans protestors by recalling the history of Pride, and the centrality of trans women — particularly trans women of colour — to the movement. The first Pride march followed the Stonewall riots of 1969, as a protest against police brutality directed towards queer and trans people of colour. As PinkNews recaps, the uprising was led by trans women of colour Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, as well as Stormé DeLarverie, a lesbian woman of colour, all of whom faced constant police intimidation and violence.
London mayor Sadiq Khan issued a statement to PinkNews in wake of the protest, condemning the actions of the protestors.
“Pride is about celebrating difference and London’s amazing LGBT+ community. It’s about showing those round the world that in our great city you can be free to be whoever you want to be and love whoever you want to love. The vast majority of those present at today’s march respected and embraced that and the Mayor condemns the tiny minority who did not. Transphobia is never acceptable.”
In the aftermath of the march, however, a new hashtag has emerged: #LWithTheT. Cis lesbians are sharing their support for the trans community and defying the messaging of the transphobic protestors, using the slogan, "I’m a cis female lesbian and I support trans rights. Trans women do not erase me. Keep the L with the T."
Though the protestors cast an undeniable pall over the event, other participants offered a powerful and celebratory presence. So here's just a snippet of the groups who joined the march.
Hidayah, an organisation "created to increase the representation, acceptance and equality of the Muslim LGBT+ community" attended, as did Imaan, a charity supporting LGBTQIA+ Muslims.
100 members from the King's Cross Steelers, the first rugby club comprised solely of gay men, attended the march:
The British Veterinary Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender + group looked like they had a blast:
Out and Proud African LGBTI came to the march in vast numbers:
Mental Health First Aid brought a bus!
And the ASOS team, unsurprisingly, brought the outfits:
For good measure, let's bask in a few more photos from the event, shall we? Take a look at this rainbow repurposing of the iconic London phonebox:
This killer makeup look:
This unapologetic sign:
And these ones:
And this one!
This stirring message of community:
...which turned into this perfect moment:
Pride's not over yet, however (and hopefully the proposals aren't either). July 8 is the day of UK Black Pride, an event held at Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, London. Co-founded by Phyll Opoku-Gyimah — often known as Lady Phyll — the event aims to create a space for BAME members of the LGBTQIA+ community. Opoku-Gyimah told indy100, "The essence of UK Black Pride is about celebration, protest, unity – a safe space."
She added, "It’s about making sure that our brothers and sisters and siblings across the waters and here, whether you’re from Bangladesh, Pakistan, whether you’re Afghanistan, Iraqi, whether you’re Nigerian, Ghanaian, Zimbabwe, Uganda, you know that this is a place for you that’s safe, where you belong, where you feel supported, where you can just celebrate who you are and see other people that look like you, feel like you."
This year, panels will include "Being a good trans ally", "White Privilege: how we should dismantle it", "Let’s talk about mental health in the black community", and "LGBTI Refugees – rights and realities", according to the event's official website. The main stage will host DJs, musicians, and dancers, including Jessabelle Thunder, Nawi Collective, FKA, Alicai Harley, and DJ Traxx.
Twitter was more than ready for it:
Happy Pride, everyone, and may the spirit remain long after the celebration ends!