COMMENT | UKIP Deserves No Place At Pride8th June 2015
I can’t believe I even have to say this, but UKIP is homophobic. That statement should be as obvious as, say, the sky is blue, or Liam is the fittest member of One Direction (sorry not sorry).
Is every Kipper ready to go out and bash a gay? Of course not. But the party, as a whole, has a storied history of homophobia and transphobia, which Michael Segalov succinctly catalogued at Vice.
So when it was announced that LGBT in UKIP would join LGBTory, LGBT Labour, and other party queer contingents at Pride in London, there was an understandable and wholly predictable backlash. A petition to prevent them marching was quickly launched, and several prominent individuals, including the veteran equalities campaigner Peter Tatchell, condemned the decision to allow them to participate, telling the Mirror Online “I don’t think it is appropriate for any organisation that opposes gay equality to participate in the Pride London parade.”
Within days, organisers had reversed their decision, citing safety concerns in rejecting LGBT in UKIP’s participation and stressing the decision was not politically motivated. It’s a move Mr Tatchell called “a cop out” and Flo Lewis, the chair of LGBT in UKIP, denied, telling The Guardian that their petition was not rejected but, rather, their initial invitation was rescinded.
Whatever the reason, the reaction on social media was almost unanimous, with people across the political spectrum tweeting to express their opposition to Pride in London’s reversal. At first glance, it seems fair enough; no organisation should be banned because their safety cannot be guaranteed. That’s a poor reflection on not just parade organisers but also our community in general. Vodka, not violence, I say. But that doesn’t change UKIP’s horrendous record, both in policy and rhetoric, on LGBT equality. And it doesn’t mean they should be included.
Pride traditionally takes place in June for a reason. It commemorates the anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising of 28 June 1969, widely viewed as the genesis of the modern gay rights movement in America and from which the UK’s largest LGBT organisation takes its name. Originally, Pride events throughout the Western world were political acts of radical resistance to queer oppression. For years, it was one of the few times that LGBT people could be out and proud and reasonably assured of their safety. It was, if you will, the first public “safe space” for LGBT individuals, rooted in queer and trans liberation.
For many LGBT people, it still is. Despite the corporatisation of Pride over the past decade, it is still a space that is ultimately about affirming LGBT identities and equality, one that is supposed to be free of judgement, fear, and oppressive politics. How, then, can UKIP—which opposed the introduction of equal marriage, supports the rights of Christian businesses to discriminate against LGBT people, and has more than its fair share of homophobic members—be included in good conscience?
And while it’s true that UKIP didn’t even mention LGBT rights in their manifesto, that silence is deafening—and part of the problem. Every other major party did, in one way or another, affirm a commitment to equality. UKIP refused. Instead, they let their party members speak for them. And oh God, did they. Like their candidate who called us “disgusting old poofters.” Or their MEP who said homosexuality is “abnormal and undesirable” as opposed to something to be “celebrated” (which is, you know, the entire point of Pride). Or the time a UKIP candidate claimed we cause floods. The list goes on and on.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t pro-equality members of UKIP, or that the party isn’t making incremental progress. Richard Hendron, a former PPC, told the Mirror Online that the decision to march in the parade had the “full backing of (UKIP’s) National Executive Committee”. This is welcome news, and might well signal a shift in tone, if not policy. But it’s not enough.
And it’s not as if LGBT Kippers have been banned from participating in Pride in London. They are just as welcome as anyone else in our community. But their party isn’t. That’s an important distinction. Of course LGBT members of UKIP are welcome. But LGBT in UKIP is not, because the party represents everything that Pride opposes: homophobia, transphobia, marginalisation, and prejudice. The group has refused to call the party on it. So while they can’t march under their party’s banner, the individuals can still participate. And I hope they will.
But I also hope they’ll go back to UKIP and outwardly and openly challenge their party on its homophobia and transphobia. Change, more often than not, comes from within, and until LGBT in UKIP are willing to challenge the bigotry and hatred within their own ranks, the organisation has no place at Pride. Until they follow in the footsteps of the Stonewall revolutionaries, whom Pride commemorates, they have no place marching alongside those who do.
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Opinions expressed in this article may not reflect those of THEGAYUK, its management or editorial teams. If you'd like to comment or write a comment, opinion or blog piece, please click here.