I was excited to have the opportunity to experience a little bit of London World Pride last weekend. London’s annual summer LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and other non-heterosexual or cisgender identities) celebration is usually a big one, and add the honor of hosting pride events for the whole international LGBT community, this was quite a large-scale production. Although budget constraints had affected the planning committee recently, I did not notice any compromises.
The planning committee estimates about 25,000 people participated in Saturday’s procession, marching from Oxford Street to Regent Street, through Piccadilly Circus, and down to Trafalgar Square. From my vantage point on Regent Street, the parade lasted an hour and 40 minutes from beginning to end! I have never seen so many people proud to just be who they were, not just proud to be Queer, but proud to be a parent, a doctor, a lawyer, an outdoor enthusiast, a leather daddy, a dog lover, a musician, etc. A significant portion of groups marching represented some sort of religious organization that celebrated both their beliefs and their sexual identities.
For many, participating in a public pride event takes a lot of courage. Regardless of religious convictions, many social stigmas still exist towards publicly associating with the LGBT community. But depending on your faith, there may be even stronger religious and cultural barriers that would discourage you from participating in a pride parade.
In the US especially, Mormons are generally known for not embracing homosexuality in their communities. But last month saw an exciting, almost shocking, event when over 300 Mormons joined together to march in Salt Lake City’s annual pride parade. Even more amazing was a YouTube video featuring several LGBT-identified Brigham Young University students published in April. The video was in response to a campaign called the It Gets Better Project, meant to encourage Queer youth in knowing that they are not alone, and to be optimistic for their future. The students who participated in the video were under a lot of pressure for a short time after the video was released. While it seems like most of the student response on campus was positive, others felt that publicizing their identity was in violation of the university’s honor code, which prohibits “homosexual behavior.” Technically, the honor code is action-based, and merely stating or having feelings for the same gender does not violate this code. Administrators stated that the students would not be punished for participating in the video.
Other groups represented at the London procession included Christians At Pride, The Jewish Gay & Lesbian Group, and The Rainbow LGBTQI Unitarians. While I wasn’t surprised to see the Unitarians represented at Pride, I was inspired to do more research on them, as I knew very little about them. I had heard of Unitarian Universalist churches and known them to be fairly progressive; they were present at many rallies during the anti-Proposition 8 Campaigns. I was surprised to learn that Unitarians believe in helping find people “find their own spiritual path, rather than defining it for them.” There is a Unitarian church in our Borough of Kensington… perhaps I will be adventuring to this church next weekend!