There once was a time when gay rights groups existed on the margins of society. Gay and lesbian people across the country were outsiders in their own communities. The law was against them, social attitudes were against them, and politics almost ubiquitously peddled silly, bigoted arguments against them. Though I say "them" - I am an out, contented gay man myself.
It tooks decades of work from incredible public figures – and even more incredible private ones – to change attitudes. The argument has always been simple: we just want inclusion. To be equal. To have a clear voice. And it’s proved very effective: the UK is, according to research, Europe’s most gay-friendly nation.
Yet the modern gay community – equal in law and thereabouts in culture – has turned in on itself. It brandishes the attitudes and outlooks that once-upon-a-time it would define itself against. Looking like an inward, aggressive group of judgemental trolls.
This was epitomised with the banning of Ukip’s LGBT wing from London’s Pride parade. The anti-EU group – who, not short of a sense of humour, label themselves “out and proud” – has been told by event bosses they can’t march with thousands of other gay rights activists and supporters. Why? Because it would seem that said bosses and self-styled activists don’t agree with Ukip.
It is true that Ukip’s last manifesto opposed same-sex marriages. That stance is stupid and outdated, not to mention a waste of their political capital (if Ukip have any), but it’s a view they’re entitled to.
In my opinion, in banning Ukip from marching, Pride London has managed the unthinkable: to be more narrow-minded and ignorant than a party that exists to serve that very purpose. If Farage wants advice on how to peddle his latest tale of how Romanian gypsy divorcees are flocking to steal your job and cat, then he need look no further than this committee of pride organisers
Why draw the line at banning pro-equality UKIP members? Why not ban gay Catholics? Or lesbian Muslims? They are part of organisations who would often willingly – and to a much worse extent – take away gay rights. But it would be morally wrong to exclude them.
How the world has flipped on its axis when right-wingers are asking to march in gay pride and gay activists are banning them because they dislike their worldview.
You can imagine the conversations as the group met, shifting the pile of cut-out Polly Toynbee columns to make space for note-taking. “I don’t oppose them exisiting, I just think it should be behind closed doors, you know?”
“But what if the children see two Ukippers kissing? What if it makes them that way?”
Irony is, it would seem, dead on its arse.
This isn't to try and justify Ukip. At best, they're a group of miserable old white blokes with little grasp on the world in 2015. The sort of people who count on Jim Davidson as a cultural reference, and didn’t think the whole Interweb thing would catch on until they realised they could tweet in CAPS LOCK about migrants and benefits and FRANCE.
But these individuals banned from Pride are people who pit themselves against the Jim Davidsons of their own party. They share a belief in LGBT equality, and are sticking their heads above the parapet to do so. Why can't the Gay Establishment do the same for them?
Because of their LGBT status, these people face prejudice; they shouldn’t face it again because of their political outlook. It was the success of the gay community for decades that it reached out – Stonewall began its operation with meetings in Thatcher’s whips office, and sent Sir Ian McKellen to meet with John Major. It campaigned on building bridges, not barriers.
But in this day and age, self-appointed activists now mimic the angry, illiberal attitudes that are used to oppress them.
Gay pride is political. But it should be open to any who share that fight for equality. There is no approved list of allies; only those for us and those against us. People fighting to reform Ukip from the inside are much-needed friends of Pride, not foes.
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