LGBT People Can’t Ask for Acceptance, then Not Give it Back

The news over the past few days about the East End Gay Pride (EEGP) which was scheduled to take place in London on 2 April has caused me some unease. There had been calls for it to be cancelled by LGBT organisations, support for it by other LGBT organisations and individuals, support then being withdrawn, then calls for it to be postponed and culminating today in it being pulled altogether.

It was in August last year that I wrote an article for Pink News about Black Pride and Prejudice that was also reprinted in 10thousandCouples, after reading negative comments about the UK Black Pride event from a fraction of the white gay community. My own comment as a mixed-race gay man married to Alex who is white generated many similar views, some personally targeted at me and I’m not even a member of UKBP or been to one of its events.

Reading about the East End Gay Pride in the press started with an open letter to the organisers of the event, from Out East, a voluntary community group in Hackney asking for it to be cancelled. The reasoning Out East gave the East End Gay Pride was that the event might cause community tensions in this diverse part of London, citing several reasons like the apparent involvement of the English Defence League (EDL). I then read the comment by Paul Birrell, Chair of Pride London and it was this which prompted me to write.

My article last year in Pink News was about black and Asian LGBT people wanting to hold a pride event, as many felt excluded from the main UK Prides. What struck me today is that, I’m not aware of any comment last year from Mr Birrell, supporting the need for UKBP. It took me, an ordinary member of the LGBT community to speak up for its need and defend it, but shouldn’t London Pride have done this like it did for the EEGP?

Some commentators on Pink News stated that the East End Gay Pride was taking place as a reaction to homophobia by Muslims in the area, in particular the distribution of anti-gay stickers. I don’t believe in an eye for an eye, even if the allegations are true. Any anti-Muslim parade should have been condemned by all. As LGBT people, we should be playing our part in fighting discrimination of all forms wherever it may exist. If we don’t, it devalues our own integrity and cause.

The gay community should be working with others, to better integrate. I remember a few years ago in my public job, I was dealing with a middle-aged white man who called me a Muslim, trying to offend me. It didn’t matter to him that I was raised a Catholic, not that it should have made a difference. It was just easy for the ignoramus to call me that, as since September 11th Muslims have sadly become the new enemy.

As I have previously publicly stated, discrimination is as prevalent in the gay community as it is in the straight and I stand by this. You only have to read the comments and undertones of some readers about the East End Gay Pride on Pink News’ articles. Not all Asians are Muslims and the last time I looked, Asia was still a continent and not a country. As I said in my article for Outnorthwest Magazine of the Lesbian and Gay Foundation in October last year, it’s the same as not all gay people listen to Kylie and drink cocktails as it was suggested by a judge!

Gay people, white, black and in between should be able to hold a pride when they want to, but not with the intended detriment of others. If the East End Gay Pride ended up causing tensions, then nothing will have been achieved. Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that London is the world’s most diverse capital and this is something to be proud of in the UK. Any celebration of all things gay is a good thing and equally is something all other communities will have to get used to.

One particular commentator on Pink News made his discriminatory views clear on the various East End Gay Pride threads. He should remember that Britain is only ‘Great’ because of the input of many races and religions. This includes my White English mother, who was born in the 1930s, probably long before he was. His comment on one thread that this is ‘our’ country, suggests others shouldn’t be here. This may be his country and he should be proud of it, however he’s sharing it with another 60 million people which include ‘British’ Muslims.

Yesterday, it was revealed when he resigned that one of the organisers of the East End Gay Pride was a member of the English Defence League. Tolerance not ignorance is the key to a successful society. LGBT people can’t ask for acceptance, but not give it back.

Published by 10,000 Couples magazine on 17 March 2011.

© 2011 Kevin Maxwell Film, Media & Performance