I woke up yesterday with a smile. The sun was out, I was (perhaps unusually) not hungover and I knew that the day was a special day. It was, as you may know, Oxford Pride. I scuttled along to Cornmarket, ready to embrace and be a part of something that is very important to me; a celebration of the LGBTQ community and the opportunity to connect with other people who are united in being an L, a G, a B, a T or a Q.
Unfortunately, within minutes of arriving I soon felt distinctly unwelcome. I am being truthful when I say that it genuinely saddened me to soon see a multitude of signs saying “Unite against the bigots” and “Don’t let the Tories turn back the clock”. Soon, the leader of the parade began the chant “No ifs, no buts, no public spending cuts”. I am a proud Conservative, just as much as I am a proud gay man, and I found it extremely distasteful to see the event being politicised like this.
The headline for Oxford Pride was “Celebrating Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer Life in Oxfordshire”. This is an aim that I wholeheartedly support, and is why I was at Pride. The LGBTQ community is vast, encompassing different sexual orientation, different genders, different races and different backgrounds. That is what makes it such a special and (unless you’re a Conservative) a welcoming environment. The aim of Pride is not, to my knowledge, an excuse to launch a political attack upon Conservatives. Of course everyone is entitled to their political opinions, and rightly so, but if the LGBTQ community are running a political, anti-tory, event I cannot help but feel they should publicise it as such. I hardly think I need to point out that there are more LGBTQ Conservative MPs than there are Lib Dems and Labour combined, or that leading Tories have apologised for past legislation and are now working hard to work on LGBTQ issues. Tories are not, despite what the Oxford gay community would appear to want you believe, bigots who want to go back to the time of Section 28. It pleased me to see a Conservative Stall at the Pride event but this still does not excuse the behaviour of the Parade which is the ‘public face’ of Pride.
The gay community should be working together to improve and work on LGBTQ issues, regardless of political background and regardless of the leading political party; equality is not a party-specific issue. If anyone is reading this and will be involved in Pride next year, please do hear my plaintive plea: please make it an a-political event, where we join to celebrate LGBTQ life and where everyone is welcome – even Tories.