DIVA publisher Linda Riley on why she’s supporting Peter Tatchell in his mission to take Pride back to its roots

BY LINDA RILEY

Three years ago, at Pride In London, DIVA hired a double-decker bus to take part in the parade. We adorned the bus with a banner, filled it with our happy, rainbow-clad staff and supporters, and soaked up the cheers from the crowd as we made our way along the parade route through the West End.

Despite being the only float dedicated solely to LGBTI women that year, I couldn’t help feeling a little embarrassed. We had allocated a significant budget to Pride In London, but yet our modest bus looked rather shabby alongside the lavish machines from large corporates with their state-of-the-art sound systems and extravagant decorations. 

Linda, left, with Dawn Butler MP in front of the DIVA bus at Pride In London 2018.
Photo: A Foxley-Johnson

At the time, I admit to feeling uneasy at seeing all that cash splashed in the name of good PR when, surely, diversity budgets might have been better directed at supporting LGBTQIA+ charities and good causes; this is even more true in the post-Covid world where so much of the third sector is struggling.

The support of big business is, of course, welcome. For many years I have run diversity events which, quite simply, would be unable to take place without the generous support of our corporate allies. But we need to strike a balance. Above all else, Pride should be accessible to all, so when I hear that people are prohibited from marching at large events because of limited numbers or cost, or that the interests of banks, law firms and airlines have been prioritised, it does seem clear that, somewhere along the line, the scales have tipped too far in favour of sponsors to the detriment of LGBTQIA+ people seeking to celebrate their identity.

Further evidence of Pride In London taking their eye off the ball emerged earlier this year amid allegations of racism and the marginalisation of queer people of colour – another example of putting the interests of corporations before communities. This, I have to admit, only added to my disquiet.

It is partly for these reasons that DIVA and I jumped at the chance to support the Reclaim Pride March, alongside continuing our support for other grassroots events like the brilliant UK Black Pride.

Organised by legendary human rights activist Peter Tatchell, Reclaim Pride kicks off at 1pm on 24 July at Parliament Square. It will be reminiscent of those early “gay pride” marches, as they were called then, when queer liberation trumped rainbow capitalism and the fight for equality took centre stage. With this event, Peter has demonstrated that you don’t need loads of cash to put on a brilliant event. You can go back to basics. You can do things differently.

Reclaim Pride takes place on Saturday 24 July

Much has changed since that first march in London back in 1972. Most LGBTQIA+ people are equal under the law, can serve their country and adopt children. It is illegal to discriminate against us in the workplace or to deny us public services because of whom we choose to love. But homophobia, lesbophobia, biphobia and transphobia persist; and hate crimes against LGBTQIA+ people remain all too commonplace. 

Trans people are under almost constant attack and the government really does need to pull its finger out in fulfilling its promise to ban conversion therapy. We also cannot ignore the daily oppression faced by our LGBTQIA+ siblings overseas where, in some territories, loving someone of the same sex is punishable by death. Our government does business with these regimes and must now be more vocal in raising our concerns about the treatment of LGBTQIA+ people. 

Reclaim Pride will be a celebration, but not one which has lost sight of the true meaning of Pride: to celebrate difference, demand justice and stick two fingers up at the homophobes and haters. I hope to see you there.

Find out more about Reclaim Pride here.

DIVA magazine celebrates 27 years in print in 2021. If you like what we do, then get behind LGBTQI media and keep us going for another generation. Your support is invaluable. 

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