Coming out in inverted commas because I'm unsure as to how I feel about the term. No one should feel obligated to declare their sexuality - it is a very personal thing. However, we live in a world where people are assumed heterosexual until they assert otherwise, and as such coming out is often a practical thing you have to do. How can we expect to obtain our rights, without first asserting that we exist?

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Opinion: Notes on Pride 2014

Pride in London

Visibility is important

I marched at London Pride again this year, with Imaan as usual. Rather than repeating least year's post, I wanted to write about a few things that were new this year.

We started the day with a heavy dose of rain and Islamophobia, the latter of the two courtesy of an official Pride In London steward. Said steward had decided to move Imaan away from behind a gay Catholic group called The Quest - our original marching position - in case there were problems. One of the Imaan committee members had to speak to the steward before we were allowed to march from our planned spot. I don't know if any apology was given, but I believe the committee will try to contact Pride In London themselves so I hope to find out more in the future. The Islamophobic insinuation was appalling, and generally a poor way to start the day.

However, we decided to make the most of the day and put the incident out of our heads. Our contingent numbered at maybe 20, with handmade signs, improvised costumes and some masks. We tried to make sure we covered a spectrum of LGBTQ identities in our signs so no one felt excluded and naturally, a lot of the signs had Islamic themes. One I remember in particular quoted Sura Al Hujurat (verse 13), which talks about the diversity of God's creations - a good reminder to everyone that LGBTQ people too are creatures of God. Given none of us were naked or dressed in exotically flashy costumes, we had a few chants lined up this year to engage the crowd. They were simple but effective, and ran as below: 

"We're here, we're queer, we don't drink beer."

"2, 4, 6, 8, is that imam really straight?"

"3, 5, 7, 9, Mohammed is a friend of mine."

"We shout, we talk, we don't eat pork."

Gauging the crowds' reactions to the words made the chanting all the more interesting. The first was probably the most controversial given the community's (and indeed Britain's) alcohol-imbued culture. It did get some laughs and encouragement, but I remember a segment of the march where the crowd just went dead quiet when as we said the words, and not in a nice way. The second chant got quite a few laughs as well, but I feel more people would have laughed if they knew what imam meant. 

As a footnote, I'd also like to mention that I met quite a few Bengalis/Bangladeshis at Pride this year, including some marching with Imaan itself.


After the Pride march, I spent a relatively chilled out, friendlier evening at Transpose - something I wanted to write a few words about before wrapping up. Transpose is an event centred around trans activism organised by CN Lester and it was my second time attending. It was one of the events from last year's Pride that left me hopeful about political will and activism. I'm glad that the event is still going, because a lot of the other events I praised last time haven't been repeated this year.

I wanted to give a quick shout out to Kat Gupta, who's work on racism and what some non-white people from the LGBTQ community in Britain face I could relate to. Kat spoke about white people who talk about how they've dated someone from so and so race, or such and such country. They speak about these dalliances to qualify their open-mindedness - but experience has taught me that the more pertinent question to ask these people is why they aren't still dating that person of a different race or nationality. Chances are, these people are only open minded enough to not be out and out racist, but still miss the micro-aggressions, sweeping assumptions and power dynamics they exercise in their relationships. 

Finally, Transpose was fundraising for the Born This Way documentary, following LGBTQ activists from Cameroon, the threats they face and the struggles that come with seeking asylum to flee persecution. Please check them out and donate if you are able. Thanks!

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