Veterans of the first Pride parade in 1972 lead World Pride march in London today

Besi Besemar July 7, 2012

London celebrates Gay Pride today with veterans from the first march in 1972 leading the parade which has been scaled down by the authorities to a march without floats and vehicles following financial difficulties encountered by the organisers.


Peter Tatchell

This years march celebrates 40 years of Gay Pride, when in 1972, 700 people marched from Trafalgar Square to Hyde Park to demand “Gay Liberation’.

One of the people on that parade was Human Rights Campaigner, Peter Tatchell.

Peter who marched today, said:
“In 1972 we decided to organise a Gay Pride march, with the theme of being out and proud. This was a very controversial idea. In those days, nearly all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people were closeted and many felt ashamed of their sexuality. Few dared publicly acknowledge their gayness, let alone march for LGBT rights.

“Not surprisingly, only 700 people joined our first Gay Pride parade. Many of my friends were too scared to attend. They thought everyone would be arrested. We weren’t arrested but we were swamped by a very heavy, aggressive police presence. They treated us like criminals; abusing us with impunity. Confident and unfazed, we just smiled and chanted: “2-4-6-8! Is that copper really straight?

“Despite police intimidation, we were determined to have a fun time and make our point. The march was a carnival-style parade, from Trafalgar Square to Hyde Park. There were lots of extravagant costumes and cheeky banners poking fun at homophobes like the morality campaigner Mary Whitehouse.

“We got mixed reactions from the public – some hostility and some support but predominantly curiosity and bewilderment. Most people had never knowingly seen a gay person, let alone hundreds of queers marching to demand human rights. “Aren’t you ashamed?” one man shouted. “No”, we shouted back, as we blew him a kiss.

“The 1972 march never demanded mere equality. We didn’t want to be equal in an unjust society. Our goal was social transformation, to liberate all of humanity. We stood in solidarity with the liberation struggles of women, black people, workers and the movements for colonial freedom. Many of us veterans of 1972 still strive to achieve these ideals.

“Over the last four decades LGBT Pride has grown from one march with less than a thousand people to two dozen nation-wide parades with a combined attendance of hundreds of thousands of people. We’ve come a long way, baby.

“The increased acceptance of LGBT people is another big change. In 1972, homosexuality was still viewed as an illness, lesbian mothers had their kids taken off them by the courts, LGBT people were witch-hunted out of the armed forces and the police arrested thousands of men each year for consenting gay behaviour.

“These injustices are history. But there are still prejudices to overcome, such as homophobic bullying in schools, the ban on same-sex marriage and the refusal of asylum to LGBT refugees fleeing persecution in violently homophobic countries like Iran, Jamaica, Cameroon and Uganda. According to the British Social Attitudes survey, 36% of the public still believe that homosexuality is mostly or always wrong. That’s why, 40 years after the first march, we still need LGBT Pride.”

This year’s London Pride is also World Pride, a global jamboree attracting LGBT campaigners from all over the world.

World Pride in London is urging global equality for LGBT people

Nearly 80 countries still criminalise homosexuality and more than half these countries belong to the Commonwealth

The theme of today’s Pride parade is:
“Decriminalise homosexuality worldwide – Global equality for LGBT people.”

Organisations taking part included Stonewall, Terrence Higgins Trust, Albert Kennedy Trust, Food Chain and Out and Equal.

Companies walking included representatives from Google, Smirnoff, British Airways, Ernst & Young, KPMG, Barclays, Co-Operative and PwC.

Out to Swim, Gay and Lesbian Underwater Group and Pink Singers were some of the networking social groups taking part.

Peter Tatchell continued:
“Nearly 80 countries still criminalise homosexuality, with penalties ranging from a few years imprisonment to life imprisonment – and even execution in countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran.”

“More than half the countries that outlaw same-sex relations belong to the Commonwealth, despite the Commonwealth’s professed commitment to human rights, equality and individual freedom.

“The Commonwealth is a bastion of homophobia and transphobia.

“More than 40 of the 54 Commonwealth member states (80%) currently criminalise homosexuality, mostly as a result of laws that were imposed by Britain in the nineteenth century, during the colonial era.

“The penalties for homosexuality include 25 years jail in Trinidad and Tobago and 20 years plus flogging in Malaysia.

“Several Commonwealth countries stipulate life imprisonment: Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Pakistan, Uganda, Bangladesh and Guyana.

“In parts of Nigeria and Pakistan, gay people can face ‘honour killings’ and execution under Sharia law.

“There are, or have been, homophobic witch-hunts in several Commonwealth countries: Nigeria, Cameroon, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Ghana and The Gambia.

“In the history of western imperialism, there were parallel colonialist narratives of racism and homophobia.

“The existence and toleration of homosexuality among tribal peoples in parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America was often cited by the colonisers as evidence of the ‘barbarism’ and ‘racial inferiority’ of indigenous peoples. It was used to justify the so-called ‘civilising’ mission of colonialism and Christianity.

“This World Pride we call on governments worldwide to:

• Decriminalise homosexuality
• Prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity
• Enforce legislation against threats and violence, to protect LGBT people from hate crimes
• Consult and dialogue with their LGBT communities