Recently London hosted its annual LGBT Pride. Perhaps I should have seen the parade’s leading Smirnoff float (this year’s sponsors) as an omen.
In my opinion, the parade was pretty lacklustre compared to yesteryear and the levels of drunken disorder and aggression was astronomically higher and more palpable than before. The main stage in Trafalgar Square featured Z-list acts with many activist aspects deleted. Does this matter? Judging by the crowds I think politics would have fallen on deaf ears.
Let’s fast forward to Pizza Express near Soho Square. My friends and I are having lunch whilst the hordes of revellers cram the exterior. Suddenly there’s a cacophony and in front of our window a stud tussles with 3 police officers. Being quite lenient with the clearly intoxicated woman they tolerate a lot of insults and aggro. Then out of nowhere she leaps forward and takes a missed swipe at one. Cue handcuffs.
As we leave the restaurant, Carlisle Street is full to the tits with people. Our eyes make a beeline for a lamppost on which a girl is dangling horizontally wedged between the post and the nearby building. Impressive.
…big fish, little fish, cardboard box and the rest.
In the midst of this fracas a short haired blonde goes into hyperdrive-dancing-mode: big fish, little fish, cardboard box and the rest. She appears levitating above the shoulders of her contemporaries as they look upwards, worshipping their false idol.
Nearby Soho Square reverberates with heavy drums and bassline, smoke and body heat mist and mystify the air. The scene is truly Biblical.
…shouting and bitchiness…
This year’s theme was The Carnival of Love. It was hard to imagine much space for Love inbetween the shoving, shouting and bitchiness that stuffed Soho.
Having attended the last six Prides I can only compare it to the quality of the past and although these anecdotes seem comical, I can’t help but worry that there’s something missing. The respectable, civil and political face of Pride is fading away. Absent was the good natured fun and burlesque of a gay carnival. Instead it was replaced by a hard-drinking feisty persona. It made me wonder if Pride 2011 was an indication of things to come for the community; have LGBT issues metamorphosed into hedonism rather than celebration?
…we must not forget about the Harvey Milks and the Brandon Teenas of the past.
There was an unashamed use of drugs and drinking this year. Although the community was never shy of a sniff or gulp, I found the tension and aggression levels were worryingly high. I also noticed an influx of teens. This probably added to the chaos but overall outreach to young people is always beneficial. However most of the trouble did not stem from this group but from those a little older. People from my generation.
Living in an era where rights have developed and most people have been exposed to the queer community either through media or personal experience, I think that attitudes towards civil rights are beginning to slacken. I’m not calling for a militant revival but we must not forget about the Harvey Milks and the Brandon Teenas of the past. Without them, gay rights would be several steps behind where it is now.
So when Pride 2012 comes around and you and your mates find yourselves raising those Smirnoff bottles, raise it with some Pride in mind.
Images courtesy of Pride London