I remember my first pride event – it was 1998 in London and we all gathered at Speakers’ Corner, Hyde Park. I was fifteen and bouncing around in black leggings and hi-tops, rocking a pink hoodie and matching lipstick with a little too much schnapps in my system than was advisable, and we marched together, proud of who we were, facing down anyone from the sidelines who would turn their noses up at us.
This was a different Britain. We had just come out of eighteen years of Tory rule – of government led fearmongering over HIV/AIDS and section 28. The media were still utterly hostile towards anything LGBT and the main issues of the day were an end to Section 28 and equalising the age of consent. As it stood, it was 18 for gay men, 16 for heterosexual couples and for lesbians… well, the law didn’t even recognise that they were capable of even having sex, let alone forming a legitimate relationship.
It is hard to admit to myself how long ago this was; over half a lifetime for me now, and yet each new challenge to the regressive status-quo that is victorious gives way to another challenge… another equality we must fight and campaign for, be it Civil Partnerships, Adoption rights, Same-Sex Marriage, Pressuring foreign countries to end their persecution of LGBT people… Pride Marches say ‘Look how far we have come, but look how far we have to go’.
The LGBT wing of UKIP wish to participate in London Pride this year. They want to join the parade, waving their great big UKIP banner and stand beside us as we march to remember those who fought for our rights, and those who continue to do so, and I would welcome them as individuals to stand against discrimination and second-class citizenship for LGBT people in this country and around the world.
But there is a problem, and the problem is UKIP.
This is a party that published more than one manifesto at the last general election, and that says something about the party as a whole; that it will commit to any course of action that would engender it to a specific group. In this case, it released its ‘Christian Manifesto’ which it was freely distributing at the UKIP Party conference this year. This manifesto described LGBT people and the LGBT rights movement as a danger to children… that LGBT rights was a way of pushing an agenda into schools that would see us grooming and recruiting children.
I am old enough to remember the days when being gay and being a sex offender were regarded, in public consciousness, as one and the same. When I got back to school the Monday after my Pride March, that attitude was behind every kicking I got for being ‘so digusting’ just because of my attendance at the event… I don’t know to this day who told them about it.
UKIP have also stated that they wish to introduce a conscience clause into the equality act which would allow people with certain religious beliefs to refuse goods or services to members of the public based upon their sexuality… An action that would ultimately make the equality act a joke, as it would enshrine inequality into British law.
We are living in a time where, although there are still legal battles for the LGBT community to fight in Britain, it is now more based on changing social attitudes. UKIP’s policies actively seek to curtail and even reverse this. Even ignoring the daft homophobic things their candidates say or do on a seemingly daily basis, these actions, in black and white and from the mouths of their policy makers ensure that UKIP is absolutely NOT a party that believes in LGBT equality.
Now, UKIP, for some reason I find hard to fathom given the party’s record, has a small but loyal LGBT contingent, who wish to be part of London Pride. I would not condone any action that leads to any LGBT person or ally being banned from the event, but the UKIP banner is just not welcome.
To all LGBT UKIPPERS… petition your party leadership. Make sure they commit to supporting LGBT rights and full equality for LGBT people in the law. Push them to recognise LGBT people as worthy of the same dignity and respect from everyone as any non-LGBT member of the public, and when you have done that… when you have a party that will renounce its policies to enshrine the religious choices of some over the fair and equal treatment of the LGBT community… when you have a party that sheds its utterly disgusting rhetoric about LGBT people trying to recruit school children in to what I can only imagine they believe to be some kind of pit of perpetual abuse and sexual degradation, then… THEN you will have a party whose banner has a place in the parade.
The organisations who march do so because they stand for equality. UKIP, as it stands right now, does not.
March with us, but march in the name of equality, not in the name of UKIP.