UKIP (the UK Independence Party) want to march in Pride London on 27 June. Good. Let them.
To do otherwise would contradict the edicts of Pride – a celebration of freedom of expression, an opportunity for all LGBT people to announce ‘this is who I am’. To not allow gay people to march because they’re part of a particular political party undermines the freedom of expression that is at the core of Pride.
It has to be a freedom to choose to express something that you might not agree with, otherwise it’s not freedom at all.
I don’t agree with anything UKIP has to say, but at the same time, if I were to deny their gay members the chance to march in a Pride parade, that would make me no better than anyone throughout history who would have denied me the right to express myself because of my sexuality or any other aspect of who I am.
If we are choosing to celebrate true equality, then we are choosing to allow people to be dicks. Otherwise, what’s the point?
UKIP are a political party. I’d argue that a party that’s historically done far more damage for LGBTI and racial equality would be the Conservative party, and yet they march every year. (Remember how many Tory grandees were vehemently against equal marriage legislation?)
In that case, they need to be included even further. I’m not saying we have to hold the hands of a UKIP member as we march. But if we are to be truly equal in society, then that means Pride has to represent all aspects of the gay community.
It is imperative we include everyone, not just those who think in the same way you and I might. If suddenly Pride represents only those who think in the right way, and support the right causes then it stops being about freedom and acceptance and becomes about limitations and exclusion.
You can’t say ‘I respect your right to choose, as long as you don’t choose that,’ that’s not freedom, but a different version of censorship.
As soon as society starts to censor an unpopular opinion, it is forced underground, where anger and unrest fester and grows into something malignant. Far better to keep these opinions in the light where they can be challenged, before working to correct that ignorance.
People say UKIP is a racist organization, but I’m sure UKIPers themselves would argue that just because some members of their organization are racist bigots doesn’t mean they all are. I know several gay people who are racist. Hell, I know gay people who are homophobic. That doesn’t stop them from being part of the community; it just makes them an angry and ignorant part of it.
The way to deal with that is to include these people and show these ignorant pockets of the community their ill-informed and prejudiced opinions don’t line up with the reality around them. That’s hard to do, because it involves putting yourself closer to people and ideas you don’t like. But it’s the right thing to do.
And while we’re talking about unsavory organizations – very rich, powerful groups of people with nothing but self-interest and a blatant disregard for community and the lot of their fellow men being banned from Pride – remember its corporate sponsors who pick up the bill for Pride events not just in London but around the world.