Early on the morning of Saturday 28 June 1969, a riot broke out at the gay bar, Stonewall Inn, in New York city following a police raid. For the first time members of the gay community would no longer tolerate violent police behaviour and resisted arrest. The Stonewall riots marked a significant turning point in LGBT activism and sparked a series of Gay Pride marches across the globe. These historic events occurred just 18 months after it became partially legal to have homosexual sex in England and Wales.
London’s very first gay march was held in November 1970 with 150 very brave souls marching through Highbury Fields. Despite prejudice and homophobia still very much the norm, around 1,000 people marched the following year. Today, London Pride brings together over 200 different community groups and half a million participants to celebrate the diversity and equality that has been achieved since.
Some might question, why bother holding Pride festival now since same sex marriage has been introduced? No doubt the legal achievements to date are a force for good, but there are still issues in our wider society that need addressing.
Only this month three men were attacked in South London. Their attackers were screaming homophobic abuse as they sprayed bleach over them. Homophobic bullying in schools is still bringing misery to thousands of kids across the UK; Stonewall’s research shows that 55% of gay young people experience homophobic bullying and 99% hear the phrases ‘that’s so gay’ or ‘you’re so gay’ in school. On the international front, Russia has introduced laws outlawing ‘homosexual propaganda’ that has since promoted a rise in violence against the LGBT community. Uganda now imposes draconian sentences on people accused of homosexual acts and homosexual propaganda.
Closer to home, homophobic hate mail was left on Birkbeck Pride’s stall at last year’s Freshers Fayre, proving within our own college tolerance cannot be taken for guaranteed.
That’s why for the fourth year in a row, Birkbeck will be represented at London Pride. Last year 20 students marched with us from Bakers Street to Whitehall and this year will be no exception.
On Saturday 28 June from 11am outside the main building on Torrington Square, Birkbeck Pride will be out in force. We will be leaving at 11.15am to join the main parade on Baker Street. The march starts at 1pm. On the day, we will have custom-made banners and placards, stickers to give away to the viewing crowd, along with t-shirts for everyone so we really stand OUT! All current students, staff and alumni are welcome to march.
Birkbeck Pride will also be at the Big Pride Picnic on Sunday 29 June in Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens.
London Pride allows us to celebrate who we are, recognise our similarities and address the inequalities that remain at large within our society. So join with us and march next Saturday.
Written by Andy Godwin (Former Secretary to Birkbeck Pride.)