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LGBT+ Pride and the class battles that lie beneath it  

The right is on the war path against pride flags and symbols—and that’s a good reason to cheer them, says Isabel Ringrose  
Issue 2810

Pride must be defended from bigots (pic: Victoria Pickering on Flickr)

We are celebrating 50 years of Pride in Britain this June, but the flags and positive coverage are proving too much for the right. Their media complain about a rise in diversity officers and inclusivity awareness.

The new pride flags—with black stripes, trans colours and others with intersex symbols—have further ruffled feathers for their “wokeness”. Pushing for liberation threatens the oppression the right thrives off. Homophobia, sexism and racism divide ordinary people, especially in a time of crisis.

The right frames any advances as an attack on their “freedom” to spout hatred. In reality limiting conversations about LGBT+ issues means blocking opportunities for a unified fightback.

Symbols that celebrate and recognise diversity are an important beacon to illustrate the gains that have been made. We should defend them. Wearing rainbow lanyards can open a dialogue about issues for LGBT+ people. It’s harder to be homophobic if pride is acknowledged and recognised in a workplace. Companies and brands change their logos to include pride colours in the summer months.

But sometimes these endorsements come at a price. Big firms hope that by backing pride they can cash in on the “pink pound”. But they also hope to gain some control of the battle for liberation, defining its limits and setting boundaries on what tactics are appropriate.

That can be seen in the way a number of big organisations, including the BBC, withdrew their support for a programme run by the Stonewall liberation campaign because of its insistence on trans rights.

Corporations that claim to back pride must be told it is not enough to just fly a flag. What policies are in place to support LGBT+ people all year round? Is the equalities officer a purely tick box role or do they create an open environment?

Visibility is no good unless it results in advances for LGBT+ people. But there are also limitations to the material changes that can be made. Most institutions are part of a system that reproduces oppression in the first place, which contradicts their actions.

The Home Office has changed its Twitter picture to a pride flag. What an insult to the LGBT+ refugees fleeing for their lives facing deportation from Britain to countries where people are persecuted because of their sexuality.

The Royal Opera House is flying a pride flag, but it is part of a chain of exploitation. Outsourced Cleaners there are battling bosses who maintain a £10 an hour wage. NHS facilities have a big push towards showing off the rainbow.

But workers are still overworked and outsourced, and severe underfunding means a limited number of LGBT+ services and long wait times. In 2020 train operator Avanti West Coast unveiled its Pride train.

It was crewed by an entirely LGBT+ team. Other train companies jumped on the initiative, providing visibility for Pride Month. But what’s the value of an LGBT+ train crew that lives in constant fear of being unable to pay their bills, or of losing their job? Every working class person should back the upcoming rail strikes because it’s in their interest to fight the system causing oppression.

LGBT+ people have more in common with those striking than the bosses who chose to be inclusive for their own gain. Bosses pose as friends of the oppressed, but they still hold down wages and rights.

That’s why initiatives should be fought for from below by trade unions. When it comes to upholding rights those at the top will always do what’s best for the system they serve—and act as it dictates.

Pride Month may be contradictory when it comes to who backs it and why. But when the right gathers to attack, it is important to defend the gains that have been won.

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