Tens of thousands of people marched through Birmingham as the city’s Pride festival began on Saturday.
People danced, sang and let off confetti in the street as the Pride march made its way through the city centre. Max, a young LGBT+ person, told Socialist Worker, “I only came out a year ago—so for me coming to Pride is really a celebration.”
They added, “We’re doing all right legally, but we’ve still got a long way to go with LGBT+ rights.”
The Pride march was led by number of LGBT+ Muslim groups and Parkfield primary school deputy head teacher Andrew Moffat. It comes agains the backdrop of homophobic protests, led by mainly Muslim parents, against LGBT+ lessons at some schools in Birmingham.
Jamila Manzoor came with a delegation from Iman, an organisation that provides support for LGBT+Muslims. She’s been coming to Pride for many years, but this is the first time in the festival’s 22 year history that Muslims have been at the forefront.
“This is very important for me—I’m lesbian and come from a Muslim family,” she told Socialist Worker.
Chants of “We’re here, we’re queer—get over it” rang out from the large bloc from Unmuted, an organisation that represents LGBT+ people who are black.
Nadine joined the bloc with with a sign calling on people to “protect Muslim queer, trans and intersex people of colour.”
“We’re taking a space for visibility for those who need it—Muslims communities, people of colour,” he told Socialist Worker.
“Visibility and support are so important—it’s hard for many people to express themselves.”
A group of right wing Christians, some of whom have supported protests outside Parkfield school, tried to jeer at the edge of the protest. They were drowned out by chants of “Teach love—not hate” and looked on awkwardly as LGBT+ couples danced past them.
Parkfield Community School and other schools in the same academy chain dropped the No Outsiders education programme.This included learning about same-sex relationships as part of teaching the Equality Act 2010.
The issue reignited as another school, Anderton Park, was forced to to shut early on Friday to ensure teachers and pupils were “safely let out of the way” ahead of protests. Around 200 bigots gathered outside the school gates.
Ferhan Khan, who joined the Pride march, was outside the school the previous day to back LGBT+ lessons. He told Socialist Worker that he was leading Pride to “make us visible as queer Muslims—no shame”.
“There have been protests outside the school but today shows you don’t have to be homophobic as a Muslim.”
Earlier last week LGBT+ supporters were pelted with eggs and intimidated by bigots after they hung heart shaped signs on the school gates.
All children should have LGBT+ inclusive RSE lessons. And even if some parents object they should not have the right to withdraw their children.
Jamila argued that RSE lessons are vital for children, including many who identify as both LGBT+ and Muslim. She explained, “If children don’t get the right education, they will face problems in life that remain hidden.
“They might not understand their feelings, they can go into depression and have low confidence.”
Nadine said that the equality lessons were important so children don’t “grow up in ignorance” about LGBT+ rights. “Not having them is completely backward—we need to educate people about it,” he said.
The Pride march was a powerful expression of LGBT+ people and a show of solidarity and defiance against those who want to push people back into the closet. As Bashun told Socialist Worker, “It’s about celebrating who I am—so people can see that we exist.”