Keeping it in the room: health, happiness and living in Berlin
As So So Gay reported yesterday, the people behind Pride in London have come under fire for allowing political party UKIP to take part in this year’s Pride parade. While some people argued that, however distasteful the party is, they should be allowed a voice, others disagreed, saying that the party, whose representatives have a history of causing howls of outrage, is beyond redemption.
We reached out to Pride in London to ask them to debate their position, but they refused to defend themselves, saying they had ‘no comment … beyond the statement‘ which had already been issued.
Instead, we asked UKIP why they think they should be allowed to take part. Flo Lewis, chair of LGBT* in UKIP, opens the argument for, while Andreas K, a writer in London who covers LGBT issues and pop culture (and who has attracted attention on social media for his strongly worded views in his blog), argues against.
We’ve only edited their aguments for sense – we’ve not cut or changed anything.
For the first time the organisers of London Pride invited my UKIP LGBT* group to attend. We as a group are delighted! Of course individual ‘kippers have attended the rally in the past, and will do in the future, but never before with the recognition of the LGBT* group. Neither I nor anybody else in the group feels that this is an endorsement of UKIP by the LGBT* community but an acknowledgement of the growth of the LGBT* in the party. Four million people voted for UKIP in the elections; there were many prominent LGBT* candidates, and a fair few LGBT councillors were elected in UKIP colours.
Of course there are certain aspects of the party that do not appeal to all in our community, but it is only by engagement and challenging such aspects within respectful debate can these things change. The attempt by some to have the LGBT* in UKIP’s involvement in Pride barred is a shame, as if such actions succeed they only serve to segregate members from within the LGBT* community based purely on political views instead of standing united on the platform provided to raise awareness of LGBT* issues and continue to campaign for true equality.
Pride’s roots are as a movement rooted in acceptance and inclusion, and UKIP’s policies and membership, broadly, promote the exact opposite. It’s as simple as that.
There is an argument to be made that the views of a few members of the party should not reflect every other member, but that is for cases when the list of terrible shit is finite. If you subscribe to a party from which archaic bigotry is churned every few days from every orifice, there is a level of personal responsibility.
Don’t take it from me — the chair of the party’s LGBT group quit last February due to ‘disillusionment of policy direction and dissatisfaction at the failure of the leadership to set a gay-friendly tone.’
The most prominent example is when UKIP councillor David Silvester blamed last year’s floods on the legalisation of same-sex marriage. Roger Helmer, one of the party’s MEPs, compared finding homosexuality ‘distasteful if not viscerally repugnant’ to liking a different kind of tea. A party donor, tycoon Demetri Marchessini, made the claim that LGBT people are incapable of love. The list goes on, and the party’s homophobia is not some anomaly of individual eccentricity, but a direct consequence of the party’s broader intolerant BNP-lite platform. The party’s LGBT members are, put simply, in the wrong party if they care about their own civil rights.
Opponents of banning UKIP from participating in the Pride parade would fall back on the inclusiveness of the festival and call anyone against this decision a hypocrite. This is nonsense — UKIP’s efforts to participate are more like an opportunistic photo-op rather than a genuine cry for acceptance and co-operation.
It’s not UKIP as a whole that are looking to attend London Pride, but the members of the LGBT* group that are within it! Much in the same way that the Church groups attending do not pretend to represent the whole of the Church of England or the Catholic communion.
The assumptions that are made in such statement are all based around the perceived ideologies of UKIP and the media representation of such party. Several facts are of course absent. As a party we have an explicate ban on those who have previous ties with the ‘intolerant’ BNP or such organisations. The ‘Gay Floods’ town councillor had previously made the same comments as a Conservative councillor but received no coverage; he was swiftly and decisively expelled from UKIP for the statements which you mentioned here. As for my predecessor, his disillusions toward the party are countered by the fact that the LGBT* have participated in training days at local branches, and have been asked to speak at major conferences. I am speaking tomorrow at our South East conference in Eastbourne, for example. Hardly the acts of a bigoted party!
Given five minutes and a search engine, anyone can find hundreds of idiotic statements made by members of all political parties, some given more media attention than others. I put to you, is it not a social issue than a specific party issue? Such statements are not within the confines of one party?
Give the same five minutes to look at the LGBT* in UKIP group: as a group you can see all of our work standing for equality and challenging prejudice. Are these not the acts that deserve to be recognised to stand for the same ethos as Pride itself? Having seen these examples I say to you that we as a group do not attempt to ‘cry for acceptance’ but continue to fight for equality and wish to stand beside others in the LGBT* community, all united for the same cause.
Unfortunately, whether or not you, as chair of UKIP’s LGBT group ‘feel’ like the group participating is an endorsement of the party by the march’s other participants is irrelevant. If you elect to march alongside a certain banner, there is a tacit acceptance of the ideology that stems from that banner. If the march were a celebration of Britain’s multiculturalism and its immigrant workforce, and UKIP wanted to participate to ‘acknowledge the growth of immigrants within the party’, I as an immigrant would find it unthinkable to be alongside them. How is this any different?
I’m unsure how you anticipate engagement and respectful debate during a street party. But even if it were so that we could argue ideology in the midst of all the fanfare, it’s hardly the role of other marginalised LGBT individuals to educate on decency. There is a level of personal responsibility in all of us to not act in a bigoted manner. Matters of discrimination are not ‘up for debate’.
Finally, you say that banning UKIP would be segregation based on political views. Well, yes, absolutely. This notion that Pride is or can be apolitical is nonsense. Like I mentioned before, the event began as a revolutionary movement to defend the disenfranchised from harmful rhetoric – the same type of rhetoric that representatives of UKIP regularly produce today.