Pride March, London, 1999 , 3-July-1999
©1999 John Hunt/OutRage! London
This picture may be copied in the cause of furthering our aims, provided that the source is acknowledged.
“The Labour Party is concerned with grave realities, not with picturesque fairy tales. … Practical men and women will consider, not fables regarding tomorrow, but the facts of today. … They will judge the present Government, as governments should be judged, not by its words, but by its deeds — by its achievements, its actions and its omissions.”
Labour Manifesto, ‘Labour and the Nation’, 1929
Reprinted in ‘The Penguin Book of Twentieth Century Protest’, pp.98-102
A giant photo of Tony Blair with a long Pinocchio nose will be carried by OutRage! on this Saturday’s 28th annual Lesbian & Gay Pride March.
OutRage! is portraying Tony Blair as Pinocchio to highlight Labour’s broken promises on lesbian and gay human rights. The blown-up, digitally-enhanced photo of Pinocchio Blair is captioned with the words “LIAR!” and “BROKEN PROMISES”.
On 12 occasions since May 1997, the Labour Government has blocked homosexual equality and endorsed the discriminatory status quo. This directly contradicts Tony Blair’s pledge to the 1997 Lesbian & Gay Pride Festival that Labour would “build a new Britain free from discrimination”.
OutRage! will assemble at 11:30 a.m. at the Queen Mother’s Gates, at the end of South Carriage Drive, Hyde Park Corner, SW1. The March leaves from this point at 12 noon.
As well as the main large photo of Pinocchio Blair, OutRage! placards with smaller versions of the same image will highlight six gay equality issues on which Labour has taken “NO ACTION”, thereby failing to honour its pledge to eradicate discrimination:
In addition to Labour’s broken promise to end discrimination, OutRage! has two other themes at Pride this year:
OutRage! will be carrying photos of the carnage at the Admiral Duncan pub with the slogan “Homophobia Kills!”, and a huge banner reading: “Remember – Stonewall was a riot!”.
Twelve times since May 1997, Labour has torpedoed initiatives for homosexual equality.
Prior to the 1997 election, Labour made three very specific pledges on lesbian and gay human rights:
Immediately after the 1997 election, Tony Blair made a general promise –in a statement read out at that year’s Pride Festival by Culture Secretary, Chris Smith MP– that his Government would “build a new Britain free from discrimination”.
This commitment is contradicted by Labour’s repeated refusal to support gay equality measures:
This makes a total of 12 separate occasions in the last 26 months when Labour has sabotaged measures for lesbian and gay equality.
OutRage! is urging that next year’s Euro-Pride celebrations in London include a Pride Human Rights Festival.
For several years, London’s Pride events have incorporated the Pride Arts Festival. Why not have a Pride Human Rights Festival too?
Next year London hosts Euro-Pride. How about a Pride Human Rights Festival with a European theme? OutRage! has written to Amnesty International U.K., suggesting that they help coordinate such an event.
Issues that could be explored at the Pride Human Rights Festival include. —
1) European legal strategies
In the Lisa Grant case, the European Court of Justice upheld the right of employers to discriminate against gay staff. But four ex-military personnel are still fighting in the European Court of Human Rights to overturn the ban on gays in the armed forces. Can they win where Lisa lost? Or are the European courts a waste of time?
2) European political strategies
The European Parliament and European Commission have limited power, but they have supported gay equality in the past. Could they be lobbied to secure E.U. action against antigay discrimination?
3) European joint campaigns
Instead of gay organisations campaigning separately in their own countries, should we be coordinating Europe-wide campaigns for the adoption of common European laws on the age of consent, partnership rights, balanced education (including sex education) in schools, military service, protection against discrimination, and parenting rights?
As well as involving lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender organisations, OutRage! envisages that the Pride Human Rights Festival would also include Amnesty International and other gay-friendly civil-rights organisations such as Liberty and Charter 88.
As promised The Pride Trust has read and considered your open letter.
Despite the emotive phrases “dumbing down” and “de-gaying Pride”, to which we take particular offence, we believe your general comments to be constructive.
With performers it is nigh impossible to insist that they make a political statement prior to their set. We can suggest, advise and prompt but they have other things on their minds. In some cases the fact of their appearance at the event is in their own minds sufficient proof of their support for the event and what it stands for. As to what they say to the media after or before they perform — again we have little control, but they are given the full story on the event and its history. If they choose to ignore us, we don’t generally have them back, (except the Minogues who seem to recur spontaneously).
A theme for the event is a very good way of capturing attention, undoubtedly. OutRage! has been involved in, some might say responsible for, the themes of 1994 (Freedom and Equality Now) and 1995 (Lesbian Visibility), both of which grew out of discussions I myself had with members of OutRage!. I believe we part on the question of the focus of these themes. It remains The Pride Trust’s policy to create themes which are broad and which can encourage individual groups and sectors of the gay community to highlight the issues raised in the theme as they affect their constituency. I am sure you feel that this is an adequate response; however, I would equally say that a theme of the kind you indicate also has its limitations, tending more towards a single-issue form of political statement, whereas Pride is a broad church with many issues contending for attention. It remains a balancing act and one which I do not profess to say we have resolved. I recall in 1994 that this was also OutRage!’s feeling and that the Freedom and Equality Now Theme was itself subdivided to encourage this single-issue element as well. I also recall that, following the 1994 March, OutRage! was so exhausted that you declined to do the same again in 1995, the Lesbian Avengers taking the lead that year. If however you feel strong enough to assist us in finding a theme or focus which satisfies all approaches and carry it through, I and Rachel Beadle, the Chair, would be pleased to meet your representatives and bash some ideas around.
I recall that placards were made available for both 1994 and 1995 — I believe also that there was some feeling that they weren’t as effective as we had all hoped, so we haven’t repeated them since. This too would be a good discussion point, should you wish to meet.
A banner on the stage is an excellent idea –and in fact there was one– but it was a little small! This is a simple problem we can rectify in 1998.
Finally, sponsorship. Again I am bound to repeat a point which I know you do not agree with: that sponsorship is necessary to subsidise the free entry to the festival — even with a day collection of £ 238,000 it still has to be there, otherwise all the Pride-goers would be paying £ 10 or £ 15 a head! No doubt your point refers to United Airlines. I fully accept that they do not apply equal employment rights across the board: but they are not alone as a multinational concern in having to settle these issues. It is Pride’s policy to scrutinise the business activities of its sponsors with some care. The United Airlines sponsorship was brokered at a time when they had had little cause to reflect on their policy in this area, and it is an issue which has arisen during the course of the year, and we are in the process of considering their continued sponsorship of the event in the light of this. Indeed, internationally there are a number of Pride Events which have been caught out in just the same way with sponsors and business partners who have been slow to connect their sponsorship support of a gay event with the treatment of their own staff and their business interests. — I am particularly thinking of Coors in the US which has divided the Pride Organisers into pro and anti.
As a sobering aside, our and your dislike of a paying event seems not to be reflected by those people who participated in the South Bank University Survey carried out at the event this year. 30% agreed strongly that it should be a paying event; 20% agreed slightly; and 19% didn’t care either way. Only 15% strongly disagreed. We were also surprised to find that only 19% of the sample consider Pride to be political! These are all initial results and the statisticians at SBU are currently carrying out further work with the respondants to ascertain whether the results are, in their words, “robust” or not. There is a great deal of food for thought in these figures, as I am sure you will agree.
I look forward to hearing from you and to meeting you if you feel it will be constructive.
On behalf of The Pride Trust Directors
OutRage! has responded to the Pride Trust, thanking them for their position statement, and accepting the offer of a meeting.
The main corporate sponsor of London’s 1997 Gay Pride Festival, United Airlines, has been exposed as pursuing antigay employment policies.
The gay rights group OutRage! is calling for a Europe-wide “Boycott United” campaign, in protest at United Airlines’ refusal to give spousal benefits to the partners of its gay employees. “Extending the existing U.S. boycott campaign to Europe will put United Airlines under increased pressure to halt its discrimination,” said Peter Tatchell of OutRage!.
United Airlines had adverts in the official Pride Programme, proclaiming its gay-friendly credentials. At the Pride Festival on Clapham Common, United’s logo was displayed on the main stage; and the airline had its own marquee, where it encouraged gay travellers to “Fly the Friendly Skies”.
Calling for a boycott, OutRage! says: “United has cynically exploited the Pride Festival for commercial gain. It wants gay customers: but it doesn’t care about gay human rights”.
United defends its position by claiming that it offers partnership benefits only to married staff, and not to unmarried couples of any sexuality. “Since there is no legal provision for gay people to get married, this policy automatically discriminates against gay employees”, said Peter Tatchell.
United is suing San Francisco over its requirement that all companies doing business with the city must grant same-sex partnership benefits. United argues that no city has the legal authority to determine the employment policies of national or multinational corporations. “What’s happening in San Francisco is irrelevant”, said Peter Tatchell. United was refusing spousal benefits five years before the city introduced its policy. If United were a gay-friendly company, it would willingly grant gay partnership rights, irrespective of the legal rights or wrongs of San Francisco’s policy.
“OutRage! is urging gay travellers and travel agents –and their straight friends– to boycott United. Our spending power has the potential to hurt the airline financially. In the highly competitive airline industry, even a small drop in revenue can have a big impact and force a change in policy”, said Mr. Tatchell.
OutRage!, with the support of the Association of Flight Attendants, is urging everyone to alert their local gay press and and gay rights organisations about the Boycott United campaign, so we can exert pressure on the airline right across Europe. We are also requesting people to write a letter of protest to the Head of United, Worldwide:
South Perimeter Road,
or to his USA HQ:
1200, Algonquin Road,
P.O. Box 66100,
Recipients of this call to action included two leading gay travel agents in the UK, In Touch Holidays and Uranian Travel. Uranian Travel confirmed (13-August-1997) that they had already ceased to do any business with United Airlines. In Touch Holidays, regrettably, are not actively supporting the boycott: although they state that in fact they do very little business with United.
Over 30 trade journals and magazines serving the U.K. travel industry and business community have now been alerted to the conflict at United Airlines.
While we are immensely appreciative of the work done by the staff and volunteers of the Pride Trust, we are dismayed by the recent trend to dumb-down and de-gay Pride.
- Each year’s Pride events should have a different, concrete human rights theme, such as “Equal Age of Consent”, “Partnership Recognition”, “Equality at Work”, and “Parenting Rights”. These are broad-based human rights demands which the whole community can support. Having a tangible human rights theme would give Pride events a focus, strengthen the sense of community spirit on the day, and increase the likelihood of mainstream news coverage.
- Each year’s theme should be included on all publicity and advertising, and spelt out on a massive banner at the front of the March and above the main stage at the Festival.
- The Pride organisers should provide at least a couple of hundred placards emblazoned with the year’s human rights theme to be carried by people near the front of the March.
- All stage performers should be required to sign a general declaration of support for equality, which would be printed in the official Pride Programme and circulated to the media. They should also be asked to say a few brief words from the stage in support of the human rights theme of the year, (as in “Hi! I’m Kylie, and I’m proud to support an equal age of consent”).
- All commercial sponsors should be required to sign a general declaration of support for equality, which would be printed in the official Pride Programme and circulated to the media. Sponsorship should be accepted only on the condition that the company’s lesbian and gay staff receive equal treatment in all aspects of employment.
If performers and commercial sponsors are not prepared to support equality, we don’t want them at Pride. Those who don’t respect our community should not be given a platform.
David Allison, Peter Tatchell, and Alastair Williams
We wish to thank the staff and volunteers of the Pride Trust for their efforts in staging Pride ’96. Organising this event is often a thankless task, which is difficult to get right, even with the best will in the world. No one who undertakes to organise Pride could possibly produce a perfect event acceptable to everyone.
While we are very appreciative of the Pride Trust’s efforts, we feel that the direction and atmosphere of this year’s March and Festival went badly astray by sidelining the struggle for human rights. In a spirit of constructive criticism, we offer the following observations. —
- There was nothing particularly gay about the Pride Festival on Clapham Common. It was not much different from any free pop festival. It could have been Glastonbury or Reading (plus a few extra queers!). There was no sense of gay solidarity or community spirit.
- The main stage was surrounded by huge business adverts. There was no banner stating that this was Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride ’96, or reiterating our community’s demand for equality and human rights.
- With one brief exception, people on the main stage made no mention of the fight against antigay discrimination, and the very serious dangers posed to gay civil rights by Michael Howard’s new proposals to crack down on sex offenders. These proposals will require gay men convicted of consenting behaviour (such as cruising and cottaging) to register with the police, making this probably the most serious assault on gay civil liberties in many years.
- Although the theme of this year’s Pride was supposed to be “Generations of Activism” the organisers allocated only two minutes on the main stage (out of eight hours stage time) for the veterans of the Gay Liberation Front, who were the original pioneers of Pride. Moreover, only five GLF veterans, hand-picked by the Pride Trust, were invited on stage. While many GLF veterans were excluded from the stage, plenty of straight performers were welcomed with open arms. What’s more, in contrast to the miserly two minutes allocated to the GLF veterans, these straight artists were given plenty of time to plug their latest single (or the one they had ten years ago).
- Our estimates suggest that the commercial turnover at the Pride Festival was in the region of £ 2.5 million — the main beneficiaries being straight-owned businesses, not gay community organisations. It seems that commercial interests are now dominant at Pride, and that gay community groups are subordinate. Making money now takes priority over the still unfinished struggle for lesbian and gay freedom. It was the fight against homophobic discrimination which motivated the creation of Pride 25 years ago. Yet this goal, and the people who originated it, were marginalised to the point of virtual invisibility at the Festival.
There is nothing wrong with the corporate sponsorship of Pride, but what is wrong is allowing business interests to depoliticise the celebrations. Let’s be frank, most commercial enterprises are only interested in getting us to buy their products, and couldn’t care less about lesbian and gay human rights.
We do not want Pride to become a dull and dour, politically-correct event. We agree that it should have a Mardi Gras-style flavour. This does not, however, preclude also giving Pride a fun and energising political dimension. Pride must not become a mindless (if fabulous) once-a-year party where we pretend that we can dance away our second-class citizenship. We can’t. On Clapham Common, we were “slaves in a gilded cage”. We may have a wild, brilliant Pride Festival, but that doesn’t count for much when straight society still fucks us over with impunity.
The practice over the last two years of having vague Pride themes like “Lesbian Visibility” and “Generations of Activism” hasn’t worked. They are too amorphous and ambiguous to inspire the Pride revellers and to attract serious news reporting. A big pop festival is rarely news: but a big pop festival focused around a specific human rights demand increases the chance of media coverage.
We suggest that to remedy these problems, future Pride events should:
- Have a different, broad-based, specific human rights theme each year, such as “Equal Rights at Work”, “Partnership Recognition” or “Equal Age of Consent”. These are concrete themes that everyone in our community can agree on. They are tangible human rights demands which would significantly increase the likelihood of news reportage of the Pride March and Festival, while also promoting a much stronger sense of gay community spirit and solidarity on the day.
- Ensure there is a huge banner depicting the year’s Pride theme above the main stage and at the head of the March; and that all performers are asked to say a few words of support for the theme-of-the-year. Stage time should also be given to representatives from activist and community groups to briefly, and in uplifting mode, reiterate our claim for queer justice.
- Provide placards bearing the Pride theme for marchers to carry, and ensure that key homophobic institutions –like Parliament, Downing Street, the Ministry of Defence and Westminster Abbey– become targets for organised, topical protests.
- Offer free Festival stalls to non-profit community organisations.
- Take a leaf out of the success of the Manchester Mardi Gras, which manages not only to pay for itself, but also raise large sums of money for community charities.
We hope the Pride Trust will again this year convene an open public meeting where all sections of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community can express their views on the future direction of Pride.
Once again, we commend you for all your hard work, and hope that in the future Pride will celebrate both the battles we’ve already won, and also the struggles we’ve yet to win.
Josh Oppenheimer, Marina Cronin and Peter Tatchell