Challenge homophobia. Show that East London is not a gay-free zone
Dear Pride London,
East London LGBT Pride – Saturday 1 October 2011
Earlier this year stickers were plastered around East London declaring it a ‘Gay Free Zone’, warning that Allah’s punishment for homosexuality is severe. Previously, there had been a series of horrific homophobic attacks outside the local George and Dragon gay pub. In one assault, a 21 year old gay man, Oliver Hemsley, was battered over the head with a glass bottle and stabbed seven times, leaving him permanently paralysed and disabled: http://www.pinknews.co.uk/news/articles/2005-9183.html/
These gay-bashing attacks coincide with a dramatic decline in the number of gay venues in East London and some LGBT people moving out of the area because they feel it is no longer safe to live there.
The response of the LGBT community to this homophobia has been feeble. There has been no visible protest and no public affirmation that East London is not, and will never be, a gay-free zone.
Many LGBT people want to protest against homophobia in East London. They feel frustrated, angry and let down that no effective protest has taken place. They want a non-racist, unifying event that does not demonise particular communities, but which challenges homophobia and all hatred. I share their feelings.
The suggestion that LGBT people have to tolerate homophobia for the sake of preserving good community relations and not upsetting certain communities, is totally unacceptable. It is a shabby capitulation to prejudice and a shameful betrayal of the generations of LGBT people who have fought for our equality and human rights.
Every victimised community has a moral right – and a civic duty – to fight back against their bigoted oppressors.
People who oppose an LGBT Pride march in East London would never dare tell the Black, Asian or Jewish communities that they should not protest against discrimination and violence. Why are LGBT people expected to forego their right to protest while other victimised communities are not?
I therefore urge you to organise an East London LGBT Pride march and rally, working in cooperation with local LGBT groups.
Given the mostly unchallenged homophobia and the declaration that the area is a gay-free zone, we have to protest and show that East London is not a gay-free zone. This requires LGBT visibility and the reclaiming of East London as safe and queer-friendly.
Pride London is a suitably respected and neutral body to host the event, with the necessary experience and resources.
East London Pride does not have to be big or complicated – just a simple march, with some music and a few speeches afterwards.
All you need to do is agree the date, time, assembly area, route and finishing point – and organise a small stage and sound system for the post-march rally.
If you agree in principle by early September, the event can be organised and publicised to take place a month later.
My suggestion for East London LGBT Pride is:
Date: Saturday 1 October 1pm for 1.30pm start
Start point: Commercial Street E1 (by Aldgate East tube)
Route: Whitechapel Road, Cambridge Heath Road, Bethnal Green Road, Shoreditch High Street, Hackney Road, Austin Street.
End point: The churchyard or roadway opposite the gay pub, The George and Dragon, in Austin Street E2. A road closure could be agreed with the police. A small stage and sound system could be erected on the back of flat-top lorry, for speeches and music until 6pm.
I suggest that the East London Pride theme is: “Unite against all hate” or “East London United” or “Gays & Muslims united against hate”.
We want to the event to be inclusive and unifying. Black, Asian, Muslim and Jewish organisations should be invited to participate and to provide speakers for the post-march rally.
This rally should explicitly oppose all prejudice and hate, including racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, misogyny, transphobia and the victimisation of Muslim people.
We should specifically advise that the EDL and BNP are not welcome and should not attend. If they turn up, we should liaise with the police to remove them. We want nothing to do with their politics of bigotry and division.
Moreover, no racist, nationalist or far right symbols should be permitted. For example: no Union Jacks or St George’s flags.
Please give me your feedback.
Peter Tatchell Foundation