On Saturday 7th July, thousands of people flocked to London for a near-universal celebration of sexual diversity. World Pride – the name of the event implies inclusivity and a wide-spread response – was held in Trafalgar Square this year, not counting the parade that filled the streets and stopped traffic. But there was something severely lacking, despite the generally pleasing atmosphere.
Where were the floats? Where were the double-decker buses full of cross-dressers and men in latex gimp suits? Where was the thumping bass, and the great, many-layered dresses adorning men with, frankly, legs that are better than my own? The feathered headdresses and the partial nudity remained (many a Speedo graced the parade, you can be sure), along with dressed-up corgis and women in suspenders and brogues, but there was a distinct lack of anything “larger than life”, so to speak.
It was hard to understand, for a while, the monumental effect that the lack of funding had had on the Pride Parade. It was only when a group of elderly folks rounded the corner near Trafalgar that the true repercussions could be felt. A number of people – generally older or handicapable – were holding signs and banners signalling their discontent at the banning of the customary giant floats that are decorated by groups in an attempt to be the most gaudy or attention-grabbing of those present.
The signs pointed out the exclusivity of the event now that less capable people were unable to take part in the parade. For those with less mobility, the floats and buses are a guarantee that they will be involved in the festivities, without the necessity of full movement. The route, which traverses a large portion of central London, is nigh-on impossible for those who are unable to walk or jog it; not to mention the fact that the parade itself takes hours to complete from beginning to end, even without the ridiculous lack of seating at the main event in Trafalgar Square.
The point of Pride, if you take away all the glitter, feathers, and rainbows, is to be an event for all. You don’t have to identify as LGBT to be a part of it, you just have to be a supporting entity. If you believe that everyone should enjoy equal rights, you can join in; it’s literally that simple. You will not be judged on colour, religion or sexuality, and so it’s an exceedingly liberating event to attend. But is that negated when the older generation – those who have been fighting for these rights for longer than any of us – and those with less mobility, are excluded?
Pride shouldn’t be partisan; there’s always going to be a political nature to the demanding of equal rights, but rights are rights. They are not dependant on your vote and they are not dependant on funds. They should not be assigned to a group of able-bodied, heteronormative individuals who have the money to pay for a set of wheels. This year, there have been widespread expressions of disappointment at how toned-down the event was due to the lack of vehicles participating, but clearly the most important issue is that of inclusivity. Pride needs to be entertaining but more importantly it needs to include everyone. Organisers need to realise for future Pride events (whether they are World Pride or not) that they need to make that provision for everyone, so that participation is not based on whether or not you can walk the distance.
The idea behind Pride is that it allows the marginalised to express themselves in a culture that oppresses them. It defies the very ethos of the event to disallow some and allow others based on physical capabilities. This is something that the organisers should keep in mind for future celebrations, in order to avoid making the same mistakes again.