Don’t revoke my gay card, but I’ll admit I haven’t been to a Pride since Dublin 2007 where I snuck into The George and stumbled around like I’d discovered another dimension. Liverpool does loud, proud celebrations quite well I’ve noticed, so I was keen to explore this year’s offering.
I was particularly curious to see Liverpool’s Pride response to a tough year for LGBT+ communities around the world, and a particularly poignant year in 2017, being 50 years since the partial decriminalisation of (male) homosexuality. Responding aptly, the theme for this year’s Pride was International Love, as chosen by the audience and not a board, interestingly. It’s no surprise to know or discover that the LGBT+ community hasn’t been exactly the most proactive in being as intersectional as it should. Misogyny, transphobia, homophobia, body-shaming, ableism, ageism and racism are alive and well within the community and International Love feels like a nod to the desperate need to be move beyond these divisions.
The city is palpably more colourful – flags billow like capes from groups of young people. Some are awkward, dressed to impress but moving like anxious pack animals, others are swaggering unashamedly through the streets like it were their birthday. Shop fronts shove their offerings of solidarity to the front window and there really does feel like a sense of everyone getting on board. This might be in the case of just trying to make a sale, and that’s fair enough, but it does feel more authentic than that.
The march was a raucous and joyous affair. People were genuinely excited and happy. Well, apart from the religious protestors, but they got glitter-cannoned so they didn’t pose too much of an issue. I’ve had many interesting conversations with many people over the weekend – some are critical to what the general concept of Pride is or should be, others dive head-first into the festivities.
I’m sure Liverpool Pride’s team came up against some resistance with the inclusion of Barclay’s as a sponsor, but if that money is able to provide the city with a safe, happy and valuable Pride then good, if that money supports community work or those in need within the community, then I think the ends justify the needs. Now, whether individual organisational teams choose to spend corporate sponsorship is another question. I think Liverpool Pride did a good job of supporting the community whilst having something for everyone. There was a healthy dose of arts and cultural activity for those so inclined, and a clear dedication to a good-auld party, which many people would want regardless of what else was going on.
My personal highlight was the launch of Writing on the Wall’s What’s Your World Pride Story? which worked with a wide range of LGBT+ people in Liverpool, including many who are seeking asylum and refuge in the city. It was genuinely moving affair that reminded me of the true nature of what Pride should be – supporting our own who need it.
Some of the interesting topics I discussed with people are; where are the quiet spaces at Pride? Is being LGBT+ all about commodity? Is the LGBT+ experience linked intimately to clubbing, alcohol and partying? Are we doing enough? Should we stop defining ourselves?
I think all these questions will take longer to write than would be useful – and this is case and point to the overall experience of queerness. We should question, always. Question how we celebrate ourselves and how we choose to frame that. There is no singular ideal of Pride, like there is no ideal or singularly definitive LGBT+ person. Liverpool Pride did a fantastic job of catering to the many tastes and experiences within the LGBT+ community, and did so to their largest audience yet. I hope they continue to go from strength to strength and continue to provide a party, a sanctuary, a community and a platform for the many different people within this community.