Here follows a brief piece I wrote for UK gay magazine ‘attitude’.
I’m not very good at Pride. I went on a date the other night with one of the youth organisers of Pride London, and in a way I found his naive faith in the power of hand-holding, wishing and smiling to cure all social ills quite touching. He did not take it well when I advocated a Frantz Fanon style of direct intervention. He’s a Liberal Democrat, of course, which means he actually possesses no political inclination at all. To me, there’s something really putrid and offensive about the etiolated, anaemic politics of most gay activists operative inside the mainstream; a sort of myopic activism ready to compromise across the board for the interests of a single group.
There’s a lot to hate about Pride. I loathe the insincere corporate presences, particularly the presence of the police and other authorities as some sort of placatory talisman; they’re sort of madly grinning, dancing precipitously on a knife edge over a vast abyss of prejudice, pretending it doesn’t exist. I hate how easily Pride went running after corporate sponsorship, how affably it integrated itself into the corporate model of overpriced alcoholic hedonism, how any sense of injustice and anger has been gradually effaced by fake tan and peroxide. Most of all – overwhelmingly – I hate the witless, grinning parade of dancing boys and drag queens, the sense of being performing monkeys penned in for the ungracious gawping of heterosexual masses.
But those arguments are easy to rehearse, and hating from the sidelines, while fun, is kind of an easy way out. And there is, of course, a counter-movement too, the Vauxhall Gay Shame, which presents its own ridiculous problems, and the wider anarchist organisation Gay Shame, which I think is much more interesting. But no, I want to say that Pride itself matters.
It matters because visibility is a good thing. The more you see queer people, the more you are forced to deal with them as human beings who live in the street next to you, are subject to the same venalities and troubles as you, the more you are forced to concede that they are human. And the fear of the other, painting the queer as some monstrous abomination, is what makes the rampant and spectacular homophobia of the Bishop of Rochester and others so easy – although I can’t help thinking that the gradual implosion of the Anglican communion, and its slow decline into echo-chamber schizophrenia is no bad thing. Nevertheless, the second ‘the queer’ becomes humanised is the second prejudice starts to clear. (Though for those of us who wish to embrace alterity, who revel in otherness, who find the images of the monstrous queer, the infectious faggot, the vampiric lesbian fun to play with, there’s plenty of juice to be found in surfing the waves of prejudice.)
Why should I care? I, after all, live a relatively free life. Do you see the problem with that sentence? My freedom to love whoever I choose shouldn’t be predicated on permission given by others, why should I ever settle on being relatively free in comparison to the heterosexual majority? I want to be able to walk down the street hand-in-hand and not provoke laughter, violence, or even a second look. But really, it’s easy for me to settle for my relatively comfortable rights: our second-rate, heteronormative legislation which allows me to be a relatively unimpeded vector of capitalist profitability. I don’t really have to care in the way I did even five years ago. Why should I?
Because I live on a small, liberal island in a sea of prejudice, hatred and oppression. That’s not overstated: the bodies of young queers are regularly abused, ripped open and cut to pieces all over the world simply for falling in love. That alone should provoke outrage. And it happens in your own back yard. The Home Secretary of the UK recently came out with the vile idea that it’s OK to deport homosexuals back to Iran, because they’re safe if they live their lives discreetly. That word. ‘Discreetly’. That word. That word makes me spit acid. That self-secure, proper, upright word. That ridiculous, frantic, desperate denial of difference. Linguistic blinkers. No, Jacqui, living ‘discreetly’ isn’t enough, certainly not in a country where they’ll cut you up and change your gender or execute you for being queer. It’s not enough. It’s another halfwit mealy-mouthed sop to the red-faced colonels and businessmen and pinched housewives of middle England. God, fuck off, you rank hypocrite! Spending every day fellating the Daily Mail to cling on to power at any cost. Putrid.
That’s why Pride matters. It matters as a sign of visibility. It says that forty years ago, you would have told us to be discreet, marry ourselves off, mortgage away our capacity to love under a veil of shame. Fuck you. We’re here, we’re queer. That’s the fundamental affirmation that needs to be made. It’s not enough to hide us away. We will dance down the street in our tacky, tasteless grandeur, because it’s an inescapable assertion of our simple *presence*. It doesn’t matter if it’s hollow or makes me roll my eyes. We’re here and we demand our rights, and we’re going to keep wearing the sequins and the ridiculous outfits until you realise that there’s a massive well of prejudice, of centuries and centuries of hatred, underneath our feet and it’s up to you to change it and it’s up to me to change it. So I’ll bite my tongue and join the marches, because to do otherwise would be an abdication of my community, of what, for all its toering follies and dripping narcissism, is my family.