Comment: Why I’m glad UKIP were able to march at Pride in London

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Lib Dem councillor and former Director of London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard David Chalmers, writes for PinkNews on the issues faced by organisers of Pride in London after UKIP was invited, then un-invited to take part in the parade.

I don’t know about you but as I am getting older I am finding that I am growing more and more intolerant of intolerance.

Take this weekend that has just gone by. Leading up to Pride in London we had been consumed with the debate whether to allow the LGBT+ members of UKIP to join in the Parade. On the day they turned up and just joined in, and as far as I can make out no-one was hurt, there was no riot, the sky did not fall in and everyone appeared to have had a wonderful time. Perhaps not the people finding themselves directly behind them, but I hope it did not disturb their fun too much.

I will stand by my position that Pride should start from the premise of wanting to be as inclusive as possible and try not to exclude others . We will all at some point offend some one else and ourselves be offended by what a certain group or organisation says or does – that is a fact of life – and so long as no one is actually harmed or threatened by their actions – it is one of those things that we have to accept as being a part of our liberal democracy. No doubt there were some people who did not want to be associated with the leather queens walking their pets on the lead, but to me it just proved what a diverse bunch we are.

However I do draw a line, I am not advocating that we allow racists or people who want to save our souls through some sort of mumbo jumbo conversation therapy, to join our Parade . But it was a good thing that UKIP were there on Saturday , it upheld the spirit of Pride , and who knows may even go some way to someday waking up some of their members to the fact that they are alive in 21st Century.

We know that the issue has not been solved and before next year comes around we are going to have to have some intense discussions on how to deal with parties like UKIP. It is not just a problem for the UK. Prides and LGBT+ communities across Europe are grappling with this issue concerning right wing populist parties. It is part of the irony of life, that as we have made it easier for people from all walks of like to want to declare their sexuality openly it has lead to LGBT+ people popping up in some of the most uncomfortable places.

As we were preparing for Saturday’s celebrations we heard the momentous news on Friday that the Supreme Court of the United States had declared that same sex marriage according to their Constitution should be legal throughout all the States. Thousands of people all over the world, me included, whatever their sexuality – covered their profile pictures on Facebook with the rainbow flag to show their solidarity with this historic decision. We know that we still have so much to do around the world, and even in the USA itself, to protect the rights and lives of LGBT+ people, but we can allow ourselves a moment to rejoice after a win such as this.

I guess amongst my “friends “ I live in a sort of bubble, as everyone was as pleased as myself at the news of the Supreme Court’s decision . So I was quite shocked when I read the comments, that some of my friends were putting on their own profiles, which seemed to suggest that they were arguing with people

whom they knew, their “friends “,who were actually condemning the Supreme Court’s decision. So lets get this right – people who they knew and called their friends were angry that their friends might now be able to do something enjoyed by everyone else in their society, themselves included, that is to express their love for someone by getting married to that person. It just so happens that person is of the same sex.

I know some people are having a hard time with squaring this decision with their religious views. Centuries of indoctrination takes its toll. I am prepared to give these people time to come to their senses and will even engage with them and try to help them on their way. But whilst they hold such abhorrent and offensive views, they are not my friends, just as I would find it highly unlikely and quite disturbing were I to find one of my friends was a member of UKIP. I cannot stop someone from thinking the way they do, but not in my private space.

My advice to anyone who finds such people amongst their “friends” is to cull them from your list . As I said at the beginning I am finding myself increasingly intolerant of other people’s intolerance, but I guess that is another just sign of us becoming a part of society like everyone else – we just have to turn away, let them get on with their lives, so long as they are not truly disturbing us and hope that they will at some point change their attitudes and opinions – they just don’t have to be our friends.

David Chalmers was a Director of London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard in late 1990s, a Co- Founder and Trustee of the Kaleidoscope Trust and recently elected a Councillor in North Devon.

As with all comment – this does not necessarily reflect the views of PinkNews.