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re-politicise pride

Why we need to reconsider how we view Gay Pride Festivals

LGBT does not stand for Linkedin, Google, Buzzfeed, Twitter.

This article was originally published on on 20 June but is being republished following the author’s appearance on the RTÉ Radio One show Drivetime.

Pride events take place this weekend across Ireland.

NY: Orlando Gun Violence Victims Memorial SIPA USA / PA Images SIPA USA / PA Images / PA Images

IN THE UNITED States, Gay Pride marches were triggered by the Stonewall Riots in 1969, which were a huge turning point for LGBTQ history.

After ongoing harassment by police, a group of LGBTQ people (who were predominantly transgender women of colour) took a stand at the Stonewall Inn in New York’s Greenwich Village.

Word spread throughout New York and the rioting patrons were soon joined in protest by over a thousand LGBTQ people.

Gay Day in London PA Archive / PA Images PA Archive / PA Images / PA Images

Over the next two years, gay rights groups assembled and began to hold marches across America.

It wasn’t until over a decade later that in Ireland, on the morning of September 10th, 1982, the body of 31-year-old Declan Flynn was found in Fairview Park.

Declan was a gay man who had been beaten to death by a group of teenagers who had admitted to previously attacking at least twenty other gay men in the park in the six weeks prior.

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The young men who murdered Declan Flynn believed that they had been vigilantes and that there was justification for the regular “queer bashing” sessions that they partook in for entertainment purposes in the park.

The Irish courts did not see the young men at fault.

The judge who dealt with the case said (at 31:00) that there was “no element of correction required” in the young men’s behaviour. They were handed suspended sentences and allowed to walk free. The very same year, someone received a one-year sentence for stealing a purse containing £20.36.

At the time, David Norris described this as giving people “a license to kill” members of the LGBTQ community.

The following year, Ireland’s first Gay Pride march was held in protest of the levels of violence against gay men and women in Ireland. 400 people marched  from Liberty Hall to Fairview Park.

Today, Pride has drifted away from its meaningful political beginnings.

Gay Pride marches are now massively sponsored events with a huge corporate presence.

Hate crime stock PA Wire / PA Images PA Wire / PA Images / PA Images

So much so that there was outrage last month when it emerged that there was no space left in London Pride for a Bisexual bloc. That’s right. No bisexuals at Pride. A day later it was rectified, but not until after London Pride had placed the blame on bisexual groups for not being organised enough.

Surely bisexual groups (50 of which were on the waiting list) should have space held for them and be prioritised over groups like ‘LGBTQ Supernatural Fans’. (Does anyone even watch Supernatural anymore?)

This is where the problems with today’s Gay Pride become particularly evident.

BRAZIL-SAO PAULO-PARADE-GAY PRIDE Xinhua News Agency / PA Images Xinhua News Agency / PA Images / PA Images

The presence of companies like Google, Facebook, Dropbox, Smirnoff and a serious handful of banks is overwhelming.

Pride events are seen simply as advertisement campaigns for these companies. Perhaps this wouldn’t be such an issue if they were doing anything at all in order to help LGBTQ people. In New York, sponsored events are charging up to $50 for admission. That’s simply just not what Pride is about.

A lot of people believe that companies openly associating themselves with the LGBTQ community are brave and radical. In this Burger King advertisement, young girls are moved to tears after Burger King presents them with a ‘Proud Whopper’.

BurgerKing-e1435067857420 Pink News Pink News

What’s a ‘Proud Whopper’, you ask? It’s a normal Whopper, in a rainbow wrapper. It’s supposed to be a heartwarming way of saying that we’re all the same on the inside. People are literally crying over a hamburger because they find its wrapper inspiring.

What would be more empowering and inspiring would be for Burger King to have gender neutral bathrooms, donate money to homeless charities (homelessness disproportionately affects young LGBTQ people in America) or maybe campaign against the immense violence that transgender people face.

Wrapping a Whopper in some rainbow paper and selling it to gay people is neither radical nor beneficial to anyone (except Burger King’s revenue).

Dublin LGBTQ Parade Niall Carson Niall Carson

In Iceland, sponsors are not allowed to display logos at the country’s Pride march.

A third of the country’s population of 300,000 attend Reykjavik Pride annually. Advertisements are only displayed on the event’s website and in magazines to prevent commercialisation of Pride.

The event’s treasurer, Gunnlaugur Bragi Bjornsson said the goal is:

“to keep the focus on the cause, what we have achieved and what is yet to be won. [They do not want to] lose sight of their main goals; we believe it’s likely that corporate floats would outshine our important message”.

That’s one way of keeping space for bisexual people.

LGBTQ people in Ireland may have won same-sex marriage, but it’s only the beginning of solving the issues that our community faces.

Same-sex marriage referendum Brian Lawless Brian Lawless

Last month, days before the anniversary of the marriage referendum, The George was vandalised with homophobic graffiti. To straight people, this might seem like a bit of chalk and not a huge deal.

To LGBTQ people, it’s a reminder that there will always be people trying to undermine and attack spaces that are welcoming and safe. People still beat up LGBTQ people in Ireland regularly. I have little doubt that it doesn’t go on in every school in the country to some degree.

NY: Orlando Gun Violence Victims Memorial A memorial for the victims of the Orlando shooting. SIPA USA / PA Images SIPA USA / PA Images / PA Images

Last year in Orlando, Florida we saw 49 people get murdered for being LGBTQ. Pride needs to be more about standing up against violence to the LGBTQ community and less about LinkedIn handing out business cards to teenagers in the parade.

The presence of TERFs (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists) and SWERFs (Sex Worker Exclusionary Radical Feminists) is a huge issue for LGBTQ people and something that needs to be addressed.

You can’t be a feminist if you do not support the rights of all women. This includes sex workers and trans women.

CA: LA Pride Resist March SIPA USA / PA Images SIPA USA / PA Images / PA Images

Yet, there are plenty of lesbians and gay men who are openly transphobic and not supportive of sex workers’ rights. This is an issue that Pride should focus on before worrying about giving space to DropBox to hand out discount codes.

Gay Pride in Dublin should be in solidarity with Gay Pride in all of the countries where homosexuality is still illegal. It should be in solidarity with all of the countries where people put their lives on the line simply to march through a city openly identifying as LGBT.

France: Gay Pride parade in Toulouse SIPA USA / PA Images SIPA USA / PA Images / PA Images

Pride should raise awareness about HIV/AIDs (and how nearly 500 people a year are diagnosed with HIV in Ireland), and how to prevent the contraction of the disease with drugs like PrEP.

PA-29313518 Niall Carson Niall Carson

Gay Pride in Dublin should focus more on helping working class LGBTQ people who are still suffering because of austerity in Ireland.

We have a gay Taoiseach, we have a Pride festival full of corporate sponsors, but this country cares very little about LGBTQ people who are not good for the economy.

It’s time to change that.

Working Class Queeroes are a group that have set up a bloc at this year’s Pride in Dublin. They aim to mobilise a radical presence and re-politicise an otherwise commercial and politically sanitised event.

In other words, they want to strip Pride back to its roots. They are meeting at 1:15pm this Saturday for the parade for anyone who is sick of Pride being about Microsoft instead of real people.

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Written by Kelly Earley and posted on

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