Is Pride something to be Proud of?

Recently I was at London Pride, celebrating 25 years since my first Pride event. I love to be out on the streets of central London with thousands of out and proud queers and sensing how the good vibration we bring spreads through us and into the atmosphere of the Capital’s streets.

I was thrilled when a few years ago the park parties stopped (because they had become so commercial and bland) and we focussed our celebration in the centre of the city, particularly because we took over Trafalgar Square, the centre of the nation, and raised our rainbow flags high, giving out powerful social and political messages.

I’m not so sure there is still much of a campaigning edge to our annual event.  The theme of last years’ Pride was ‘Come out and Play’, and this year it was ‘Carnival of Love’.  It’s great to honour the positive joyful spirit of gay people, yet one thing that always bothers me is that while we display large numbers and energy, showing how beautiful we are and how much we like to enjoy life, we exert little of that to put pressure on wherever we might to campaign for the rights of people like us to express their love and sexuality in other parts of the world.  Surely this is the area where gay campaigning needs to now focus on. In comparison to this, the debate about marriage seems indulgent and self-centered.

But indulgence is our favourite collective sport.  Now that there is no park to absorb our energies after the Pride march, the streets of soho become an orgy of drunkenness.  Everybody I have spoken to who got sucked into the broth has complained of the intoxicated nonsense they endured, seemingly unable to escape!  Is it the commercial emphasis of gay life that has perhaps made connections in our community rather shallow, fleeting and needing alcohol (or drugs) to happen?

For the second year running, a group of healers, activists, radical faeries and curious queers met in phoenix flower garden, tucked away off Charing Cross road, for a picnic where the connection was built through conversation, massage, tea and cakes and even a group ritual of the ‘rising queer phoenix’.  Over 30 gathered and many visited our little oasis of calm, and the conversation was expansive and exploratory, going into spirituality, personal growth, global change and more.  After parading proudly to celebrate our right to love freely and live openly, it was a true delight to spend the day with intelligent, open-hearted people and end it sober – with enough energy left to go out and party the night away and really make the most of our day!

I also participated in the ritual of remembrance, offered by the wonderful Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence in St Anne’s churchyard.  It was a powerful and poignant statement, a small nod to the darker side of gay life, the challenging journey we have been through collectively, and an offering of solidarity against all hate crimes.  The churchyard this year was a family area, with slides and other activities for kids, which was great – although sponsored by a major supermarket chain; I found the notion of signing up for a Clubcard, while on my Pride party day-out pretty abhorrent!

I am someone who is constantly praising the spirit of gay people as a liberating force for love and tolerance in the world. But from the drunkenness and shallowness of our official day-out, I wonder if many gay people see themselves in that way. I am involved in gatherings and spaces where queers explore their inner worlds and share emotionally and spiritually with others – bringing massive shifts of consciousness, healing and light.  When these things are part of the collective communal queer public experience then I guess I will be proud of Pride again.  At the moment, I cannot help thinking that while we do display our good hearts and positive spirits at an event like Pride, we hardly tap into the potential that really lies within them.

One place we could get to explore that potential and meet others who feel there is more to being gay than Kylie, Ketamine and Consumerism is LOVESPIRIT……an event in September in London to celebrate the spirituality of queer souls – take a look at www.lovespirit.org.

Copyright © 2011 Marco Lovestar. All rights reserved.

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