The LGBT+ movement has made enormous strides in Britain in the last thirty years. It’s a huge achievement for us and I don’t wish to downplay the massive change in social attitudes and laws that our comrades have fought for and won. Having said that, it seems that we have an increasingly short memory about how we got here and who our friends are.
The massive changes have come about because of the bravery of our forerunners and older LGBT+ people, not because people suddenly “saw sense” or because “love wins”. Without them, we would still be criminalised and we would still be getting beaten up. The excellent film ‘Pride’, released in 2014, brought a specific part of our history to light: the struggles of LGBT+ people and the miners in the 1980s and the challenges both groups faced.
Both groups were brutalised by the police and demonised in the press, for being “perverts” or “violent”. The police’s role in the miners’ strike exposes their real role in capitalist society: protecting capital and the state; beating up pickets whilst protecting vans of scab labour; acting as a paramilitary force on behalf of Thatcher’s government and the ruling class.
It was only thirty years ago or so that the police who now march in full uniform at Pride were beating us up, using laws that criminalised us to intimidate and crush us. We won against them with the spirit of solidarity. But their fundamental role in society and the state hasn’t changed.
“No Pride in War” campaigners are rightly angry about the Red Arrows flyover at Pride, pointing to the profits made from war by companies like BAE Systems, and the British state’s use of the Red Arrows to trade arms. Astonishingly, the section of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act that gave a “homosexual act” as a legitimate reason for someone to be discharged from the armed forces was only repealed this year in the Armed Forces Bill 2015-2016. Additionally, the “pinkwashing” of the military, or draping tanks in rainbow flags, does not take away from the misery and suffering that so many people have been subject to at the hands of the British state.
It’s our responsibility as LGBT+ people to make solidarity with people living in places where it’s relatively common to be murdered for your gender identity or sexuality, and to recognise the link between the struggles of queer people across borders rather than having a “we’re alright Jack” attitude.