Comment: Why are gay people trying to ban East End Pride?

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Paul Birrell, the chair of Pride London, argues that the organisers of East End Pride should be congratulated for showing that East London is out and proud.

East End Gay Pride, the first Pride event focused on the East End of London, is set for April 2nd. This follows a spate of homophobic literature being plastered around the East End and the event is the brainchild of a group of friends from the area.

In a sad reminder of the prejudice that Prides face throughout the world, the event has been denounced as confrontational, with the organisers facing a flurry of baseless and deeply personal abuse.

I had thought that the idea of Pride being too confrontational had long died: London’s long-running annual Pride event is nowadays one of the UK’s largest outdoor events and attracts participants and spectators from throughout London’s many different communities.

However, it seems that once that concept transfers out of gay-friendly central London, then a different logic is applied and such openness is deemed to be in some way unacceptable. This is nonsense. The East End of London has a long history of drag clubs and gay boozers and was even – briefly – home to London’s Pride event.

The organisers of the event should be applauded for this fun and timely reminder of the East End’s LGBT community, not showered with abuse for simply wanting to show, well, a bit of Pride.

Perhaps one of the most bizarre rumours floating around is that Pride is being used as a front for the far right. Leaving aside the admitted similarity in appearance between the far right and quite a few gay men – it’s the boots and cropped hair – the idea that the far right has decided to re-brand itself with a bit of Kylie and some rainbow flags is laughable.

The idea that being out and proud is somehow an assault on someone else’s views is used time and again by hostile governments to ban Pride – I’ve seen this argument used to force the LGBT community off the streets and into parks, away from public view. That some within London’s own LGBT community should use this argument – in what looks suspiciously like a case of sour grapes at not having thought of the idea first – is a source of shame.

Pride London has offered to help East End Gay Pride navigate its way through the Byzantine regulations on outdoor events. We’re genuinely pleased that the organisers are bringing pride – and, I’m sure, lots of fun – to the East End.