In recent time we have seen through various media channels, the march for equal marriage seems to be marching globally and at an ever increasing pace.

I don’t know about anyone else but when I look at each news announcement I feel a sense of excitement and joy that the world takes another step towards a more fair and just world.

But at the same time, how big are our steps forward? What do they realistically mean to us on the ground that lives each day with the problems and issues that (currently) come with being LGBT? Have things changed that dramatically over the past 40 years? I’ll confess at this point that I am 26 so my accounts of what occurred in the 70s and 80s are based on history and what friends who lived through those periods have told me.

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In the last 50 or so years the LGBT community has seen many ups and downs. Starting with the Stonewall clashes in 1969 right the way through to the bombing of the Admiral Duncan in 1999 and the “Straight Alliance” marches of today. During the 70’s and 80’s homophobia was widespread and very much an ‘accepted’ legitimate view by most governments. And that isn’t just in this country, but all over the world. ‘Coming out’ was very much a life or death decision for many in the LGBT community. Most chose not to and either buried their feelings or lived a “double life”. There was very little in the way of support and counselling and even less in the way of public support and promotion.

Having said that, during all this darkness and struggle the LGBT community was exactly that; a community. From stories that I have been told and recollections from others who lived in London and Manchester at those times, the communities there stuck together to help each other out. If there was an assault they would rally round each other or if a “gay-friendly” bar or pub was under threat of closure they would come to support and boost numbers. By all accounts, the community was so underground but at the same time so close-knit that it even gave rise to the infamous “hanky code”. (For those that don’t know if it, I highly recommend you Google it. It’s very… interesting!).

So in the 21st century, the age of information and connection where are we? Are we any closer to that Holy Grail that is equality? Well, let’s start with the last point; the hanky code and ‘underground’ culture. On the whole, I think this has died out or is dying out. With the establishment of “gay bars” or gay-friendly bars, there is more choice and selection for venues to attend and for the community to meet in. Social media and the wonder that is Grindr has made interacting with each other far easier and in some ways more open. Although social media isn’t everyone’s cup of tea you have to give it credit for opening up the community even further.

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Social media has also meant that the confused teenager or middle aged father of 2 now has an outlet to explore or vent what feelings or inklings they may have. Where would they have gone before to find out more about their feelings? A public toilet? Their local gay bar (if they have one) where they are watched as they go in and out? Not exactly options that fill you with safety and reassurance. However social media offers an outlet where they can explore their feelings, relatively safely and in their own time and terms. Surely that is a step forward?

How about the sense of community and togetherness? Has the LGBT community gelled together or are we growing further apart? In my experience, I think we are growing further apart. In hard times (financial or otherwise) I have seen several different cases where local bars, businesses or organisations have had to close because the local community hasn’t been there to support them. The old community are still there and still have those principles (myself included) but the new age community don’t seem to have or share those principles. (I apologise if I am doing them an injustice).

Pride seems like an opportunity to get drunk and sleep with people you otherwise wouldn’t have been able to; well that at least was my experience of it. Pride should be about the community coming together and taking pride in who we are and what we stand for. I could bet any money that at any pride in any part of the world will be at least 2 people dressed in attire that would suit “Madame Helga’s House of Pain”. When did that become part of being gay? And when did that become making a stand for equality? Children attend these pride events… they shouldn’t be exposed to “backless chaps”. But I digress… the point is, what has pride become? I don’t think it’s about pride in who we are and our community anymore, which is a great shame.

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Nationwide and even globally the equality movement is picking up pace and the message seems to be taking hold. This is something to be grateful of and continue to support (and I do) but always be aware of what is happening on the ground. Prejudice, inequality and homophobia are still rampant in this country and we should take pride in all those that work to stamp it out and hope that that message never changes.

For those of you with a keen film mind, the title of this entry comes from a quote from the Matrix movies. I was watching them the other day and the phrase stuck in my head as something fairly apt. No matter what the age or period, the notion that some things change and some things stay the same still holds true.

 

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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.

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.