BY TYLER MCNALLYPro LGBT placard Photo: Tyler McNally
This year marks the 43rd anniversary of the Stonewall riots, a series of riots that went on in the early hours of June 28th 1969, which are regarded by many to be the major catalyst for what became the LGBT civil rights movement. In 1969 it was illegal to be LGBT in the United States and the Stonewall Club served as a place for the LGBT community to socialise. The venue was repeatedly raided by police and such oppression eventually led to the riots that became etched in history.
You’re probably wondering why I focus on an event in 1969 in an article that is about today, it’s because even with Pride and laws on discrimination, LGBT people still fall short of gaining true equality. The events in Stonewall were the spark that caused real change for LGBT in that period; victories people today celebrate during Pride, victories obtained because of the militant, political action taken to not ask but demand rights.
I believe that Pride needs to find its roots and be the political force it is meant to be. Belfast Pride attracted 25,000 people to march under the banner of equality and sexual freedom. Instead of a march pushing forward the aims of the LGBT community in a real way; we find ourselves in a march flanked by corporate investment. Does Belfast Pride need an ‘Official After Party?’ What is this doing for the struggle for liberation that LGBT face?
In contrast to what we see here in Dublin, Belfast and other cities across the Western world. There are examples of Pride showing its true meaning in many countries where being openly LGBT is viewed as a crime and a threat to that person’s life. Uganda this year held its first Pride, there was no glitz and certainly no glamour in this event, held in a country that openly imprisons, tortures and even kills people for being LGBT. It was a pride that lacked commercialisation and was purely political by making a statement so simple that many non LGBT don’t recognise its significance; the statement of “we exist and it is our right to exist.”
If the LGBT community in Northern Ireland and elsewhere is to make any headway on the issues ahead of them: their ban from giving blood or from adopting as well as the tokenistic ‘Civil Partnership.’ A piecemeal gesture in place of what the community really wants, equal marriage status. Then it has to shed its adopted apolitical nature, cast aside the commercialisation and return to its fighting roots.