This is a belated statement regarding the East End Gay Pride. As a group of local queers we had felt it was necessary to write something from our perspective, but as we are not part of one singular organisation but were working on this as a group of individuals, this took slightly longer than expected. We invite anyone to support this statement by signing under any name they wish in the comment section.
An Open Letter to London Pride and all other groups and individuals that supported East End Gay Pride
By a group of white local queers, in collaboration and with the input of local queer people of colour.
We feel ashamed that as vocal figures of the London LGBTQI community, you unquestionably endorsed, and in some cases condoned the organisation of East End Gay Pride. We are calling for an apology for Paul Birrell’s behaviour regarding his attitude during the debates surrounding East End Gay Pride.
Firstly, we would like to remind Paul Birrell of his statement in is article in Pink News on Monday the 14 of March 2011, in which he states:
‘Leaving aside the admitted similarity in appearance between the far right and quite a few gay men – it’s the boots and cropped hair – the idea that the far right has decided to re-brand itself with a bit of Kylie and some rainbow flags is laughable.’
Leaving aside the apparent ignorance of this comment, homosexual individuals and politicians have most definitely in the past years aligned themselves with far-right racist groups (as seen the Netherlands with Pym Fortuyn to give one of the most prominent examples from recent national press), it has been revealed on Tuesday the 15 of March 2011 in full light by IMAAN that one of the main organisers,Raymond Berry, was indeed part of the EDL. There is something extremely worrying about community ‘leaders’ to jump to the defence of any gay initiative without checking their sources, and apparently not reading the news, as Birrel’s flippant comment about gay fascism demonstrates.
Secondly, and beyond the now irrefutable proof that organisers of he EEGP have links to the EDL and other unsavoury groups like ‘Stop The Islamification of Europe’, the continual disregard towards the coherent criticism of the nature of an event like a Pride March through East London has been at best insulting for the large part of the queer inhabitants of the East End that have been working in the borough for years in order to build bridges and combat all forms of hate. Critics have been attacked on the validity of their activism, sexuality or gender, their race and nationality or simply censored through the deletion of their comments on Facebook pages.
There has been a sense that groups like Rainbow Hamlets were completely ignored in the statement they co-signed with Tower Hamlets council, the Muslim Association of Britain and The East London Mosque, being called ‘traitors’ on various gay forums and comments pages. To claim that a Pride event is not political is ludicrous, as challenging structures of oppression, such as sexism, racism, homo/lesbo/trans/biphobia are inherently acts that destabilise received prejudices on which our societies are built. Therefore, the politics to march through an area that is a home to many marginalised communities will be a political act of re-enforcing white gay visibility through pointing the finger towards the large Muslim community living in the area, hence continuing the racist idea that all Muslims (and through the same extent, dispossessed communities) are intrinsically more homophobic and ‘less civilised’.
It is also political act to reaffirm one’s identity through disregarding another.
This is a racist political act, which carries, amongst others, the name of fascism.
LGBTQI Pride has its roots in a form of activism that defied oppressive state structures towards sexuality and gender orientation. Its contemporary emergence in the West was part of a larger historic moment of civil disobedience that included the struggle for People of Colour’s rights, Women’s rights and a general emancipation from authoritarian, colonial and patriarchal capitalism. As queer local activists, it saddens us that the slow and fraught path towards gay liberation has erased peoples empathy and memory for the struggles of others who suffer from similar structures of oppression. It angers us that gay people are so easily co-opted into discourses that justify wars and the killing of thousands of civilians on foreign soils under the banner of so-called civilised democracy, in the name of homosexuals and women. The Western powers that are murderously, militaristically and culturally interfering in other nations and communities’ agency are the same that violently repressed homosexuality not so long ago.
One of the most shameful contemporary examples is Theresa May’s invitation by Stonewall to accept an award as ‘Employer of the Year’. So this lady, who not that long ago was standing against the repeal of Section 28, is being celebrated for the continual imprisonment and deportation of asylum seekers and migrants ?
It is the same limited perspective, selfishness, and frankly, lack of awareness that you align yourself with.
We stand proud against Homo-Lesbo-Bi-Transphobia, but also against the rise of Islamophobia and Racism. We denounce any scapegoating and violence done to any marginalised group.
We would also like to express our support for The Safra Project and IMAAN for their hard work over the years.
Here is a non-exhaustive list of intelligent reactions you repeatedly ignored, as well as complementary educational material that has been available in the public domain:
Again, we ask you to apologise publicly for your support of the racist East London Gay Pride,
Luca Darkholme (GMB Adult Entertainment Branch), PG Maciotti (Xtalk), Simon Leahy, Caoimhe Mader McGuinness, Billy Phoenix, Info Andersson (Bar Wotever / Wotever World), Ronan McNern, A.L. Gust, Phoebe Queen