Paris Lees on why we should all see 'Pride'

2014-09-12
Pride_Movie_2014_Poster-e1410111866645 Sorry to add to your list of things you must see, but you must see Pride. As soon as possible. It’s out in cinemas today (September 12). It’s brilliant. I’m a heartless bitch, but it managed to get me blubbing away with everyone else at the premiere last week. If you’re fond of the great British feel-good flick – everything from Brassed Off to Made in Dagenham – you’ll love it. And it’s gay! And mainstream! And teaches you stuff! Did you know that gay and lesbian activists supported the miners during the strikes in the 80s? That miners supported gay pride in return? That the National Union of Miners actually helped to put gay rights on Labour’s election manifesto? I write about class and sexuality all the time and, to my shame, I was only vaguely aware. As gay people take their rightful place as equal members of society we need to look at the collective trauma the queer community faced in the 1980s. Picked on by the police, lied about by the tabloids, beaten in the street and plagued with a newfound disease called AIDS, attack came from all sides. I’m the worst when it comes to glamorisng an era I didn’t have to endure, and the fabulous fashion and soundtrack in Pride only add to the decade’s mythology, but everyday life must have been hell. For many people it still is. For our queer cousins around the world, for gay and lesbian people from religious backgrounds, for trans people from all walks of life, it’s still very much the dark old days. As a working class queer, Pride pressed just about every emotional button I’ve got. It reminded me of what it felt like to be so powerless – socially, politically and financially – and to not even have the support of those around you. The working classes get shat on by the state, and in turn they sometimes shit on their own. To be doubly shat upon is what we, in rather more fancy language, would call ‘intersectionality’. It acknowledges that people don’t just get shat on; they get shat on from various heights and from various arseholes. Sadly, people who have experienced prejudice often turn it back on others who are discriminated against too – take, for example, the homophobic remarks from Kellie Maloney, which many people don’t understand coming from a trans woman. To add to the irony, she experienced transphobia inside the Celebrity Big Brother house when Audley Harrison, a black man and presumably no stranger to prejudice himself, said he felt “uncomfortable” around her. They’ve since hugged and made up, but it’s clear that as a society we still have a long way to go. In Pride we see how two groups break through their respective oppression and work together. pride paris There’s a lot of talk in activism these days about not speaking ‘on behalf’ of anyone else, of always being mindful that other people’s struggles are not our own. It can sometimes be a problem when people with good intentions say the wrong thing in someone else’s name, because no one knows how anyone else’s struggle feels. The push for equality and diversity isn’t about a hierarchy of victimhood or competition for rights, though; it’s about each of us holding out our hand to the person next to us, whoever that may be, and grasping hold of it as though it were our own flesh. Look at what happens when the mainstream starts to speak out for the vulnerable. Or when the vulnerable band together and become the mainstream. Pride reminds us that, if we truly want social justice and to live in that world we’ve all been dreaming of, solidarity is how we get there. To set up, as some people are currently trying to do, a conflict, or “debate” between “women’s rights” and “trans rights”, as though the two are in competition, completely disgusts me. Trans rights are included within women’s rights. And women’s rights are included within human rights. We all deserve to feel safe and respected. It’s one big struggle. I’ve been thinking a lot about solidarity lately, whether it’s my dismay at the thought of Scotland leaving the Union (perhaps selfishly, I don’t want them to go and leave us with the Tories) or the possibility of Stonewall becoming an LGB and T organisation, as now looks likely. I met with Stonewall and various trans activists recently and the general consensus seemed to be one of cautious optimism and the realisation that yes, it would be very good, actually, if Stonewall started to “trans up” some of its campaigns and do for trans kids and young people what no other trans charity has been able to achieve yet – though not through lack of trying, of course. Just imagine the difference an organisation like Stonewall could make to transgender equality. We need solidarity now more than ever. Owen Jones (read my interview with him in Attitude’s latest digital edition!) has written a blistering polemic about the establishment and how they get away with it – because they do always get away with it, don’t they? We find out the truth about Jimmy Saville and Hillsborough and all the rest of it 30 years later, long after the abusers, liars and cheats have moved on or passed on. The elite know where their power lies. We must remind ourselves where our strength comes from. Each other. We need to pull together, and by “we” I mean all of us. Gay people. Trans people. Bisexual people. People with disabilities. Women. People of colour. Religious minorities. The elderly. Those of us struggling with mental health issues. Men. Straight, white men. Anyone and everyone who is on the side of justice and equality. Together we are the majority. This isn’t about feminism or gay liberation, or any of that – it’s about human rights for everyone. That’s the message people like Peter Tatchell have been pushing for 40 years and it’s as good today as it was in the 80s. Solidarity! Follow Paris Lees on Twitter @ParisLees. More from Paris Lees on attitude.co.uk: ‘Attitude’s Editor at Large Paris Lees thanks Laverne Cox Why do we humiliate and murder boys who won’t be boys?