on Lesbian and Gay Pride, circulated at the Pride march and Winter Pride,
June & December 1990
28 May 1990 Wages Due Lesbians (WDL) wrote to the Lesbian and Gay Pride
Organizing Committee (LGPOC) asking for a concessionary rate or sliding
scale of fees for stalls at this year's Pride (they cost £35 for
commercial and unfunded groups alike, not including food stalls). We said
that as a Black and white lesbian women's campaigning group which is
unfunded, we could not afford the full rate and a sliding scale would
ensure that grassroots groups like WDL can also have stalls.
received an abusive reply from the Pride Workers Caucus, accusing us of
"diverting the LGPOC's attentions from organizing the Lesbian and Gay
Pride Carnival Parade" and complaining that they had to clear up
litter" caused, no doubt, by grassroots campaigning groups who give
out leaflets which end up on the ground." Someone from the LGPOC rang
us to apologize for the letter and to clarify that it had not been seen or
endorsed by the majority of people in the LGPOC.
11 June we went to the LGPOC weekly meeting where the abusive letter was
discussed. The atmosphere was hostile and cut throat one of their members
later described it as "a reign of terror". A skinhead said we
were sitting too close to him and threateningly asked us to move. The man
who had written the letter made a witch-hunting speech against WDL and was
supported by several others. A motion put forward by someone from the
LGPOC calling for the expulsion of the author of the letter was defeated.
We were told that after we left, a man who defended WDL and spoke out for
a sliding scale for groups who couldn't afford the £35 fee, was silenced.
least two other grassroots lesbian/gay groups have told us that they
couldn't afford to have a stall. We wonder how many other groups have been
similarly excluded from full participation in Pride? We
were not sent the application form for a Winter Pride stall. By the time
we found out who was responsible for stalls, we were told there were none
left. We know of one group who couldn't afford a stall at Winter Pride
either. (We only got a stall because of a cancellation on the day due to
people seem to want Pride to be another gay profit making business, while
others want it to be a celebration of struggle, where people can get
together and exchange information and experiences while we have a good
time. Pride began with the Stonewall riots in 1969, and Edmund White's
eyewitness account of what happened makes clear how it was a coming
together of the Black movement of the 60s and the gay movement. In Britain
it has taken many years of hard work by Black and white lesbian women and
gay men, and by other people in struggle, to win the right to march
through central London. We don't want that victory compromised or
commercialized. The movement for lesbian and gay liberation is still going
on - Pride should be a place to renew our energy to continue, not pretend
we've already arrived.
are Pride's financial and other priorities?
Whose values shape the priorities for Pride? Priorities determine how much the event is going to cost - big-time bands and several beer tents cost a lot of money. If LGPOC is not accountable to the movement in deciding the priorities of Pride, how can it be accountable in making decisions on how to spend the money that is raised? What are Pride's expenses? What happens to any profit? If we all pay the same rate, unfunded groups are subsidizing commercial, profit-making stalls while our work and contribution to Pride are being devalued. As a grassroots lesbian group we are made invisible because we cannot afford to have a stall - this amounts to censorship of issues we want to publicize, for example, our fundraising appeal for a lesbian woman teacher witch-hunted out of her job through implementation of Section 28. Refusing invisibility and censorship in Pride is part of the ongoing battle to get white gay men to take lesbian women's priorities seriously, particularly if we are also Black/working class/mothers/with disabilities/older . . .
Over the past few years Pride has become less and less political: in 1988 Willie Molton, a long-standing member of the LGPOC, said they didn't want an anti-Section 28 slogan for the Pride march because they wanted Pride to have a broad appeal and a lot of people just wanted to have a fun day out. But what is "broad" and "fun" for some excludes others. Many lesbian women don't want and cannot afford to disconnect Pride from our daily lives where we are up against racism, poverty, overwork, verbal and physical attacks, repression and exploitation. Pride has often been used as a way of publicizing issues that are important to lesbian/gay people as well as making visible our connections with other working class people, e.g. the miners joining the Pride march during the strike in 1984. Pride doesn't have to be a carnival at the expense of politics - it can be both.
Fascism in the lesbian and gay movement
years of Thatcherism have reinforced the pressures to stay in your own
ghetto, get what you can for yourself and disregard the needs of others,
thereby encouraging the acceptability of racism, sexism and fascism,
including in the lesbian and gay movement.
When Pride is just "a good time for all", anyone can join the
march: well-known gay NF organizer Nicky Crane was allowed to steward the
Pride march in 1986 (Searchlight Sept 1986). Likewise Chris Payne,
"ex-NF" recruiter who was press officer for the North West
Campaign for Lesbian and Gay Equality, and Action, the gay men's newspaper
which publishes racist, sexist, anti-lesbian material, are acceptable and
even defended by some because they are gay. Only recently a policeman who
is "out" in the police force joined the LGPOC.
gay racists are on the Lesbian and Gay Pride march and policemen help to
organize it, and are accepted as part of the lesbian and gay movement,
Black and immigrant people, some of whom are lesbian and gay, and everyone
committed to anti-racism, anti-sexism, and anti-fascism, are threatened
and excluded by their presence.
do we go from here?
lesbian and gay movement must decide whether Pride is for celebrating how
far we've come as we further our struggle for liberation, or whether it is
going to be just another profit making industry, supporting lesbian and
gay careerism and becoming part of the Establishment - albeit a pink one!
get in touch with WDL if you have any comments or would like to have any
to the sisters,