#East #London #Pride passes off peacefully as #gay community comes out for the day

Hundreds of people united under a banner of anti-homophobia and anti-Islamophobia

East London’s gay pride was branded a success by organisers yesterday after passing peacefully through Hackney and Tower Hamlets without a hitch.

Hundreds of people from the gay and wider community marched from Hackney Town Hall to Bethnal Green Road carrying placards and chanting slogans calling for an end to racism, homophobia and the cuts.

Rene, a Slovenian living in London for the past seven years, said: “This is not just gay pride but its a community coming together saying everybody’s welcome. You can see the placards about the immigrants, about the cuts, about the gay people; it’s not just one persons fight, it’s a community call. To fit in sometimes you have to stick out, be visible and stand up for yourself.”

The parade, which was given a police escort through the busy Saturday streets, was followed by a festival of music, cabaret and debate at community space Oxford House, in Bethnal Green.

Luftur Rahman, mayor of Tower Hamlets, was given a warm welcome after making a surprise appearance telling the audience the LGBT community is an important part of the area.

Terry Stewart, director of East London Pride, said: “It was excellent. The local community turned out and we came through the East End with no attacks and no abuse which puts to rest a lot of the arguments that the East End is full of hate. There is an issue of homophobia but its not as bad as people make out.”

East London Pride comes six months after a similar event in Tower Hamlets, East End Gay Pride, was aborted after a public spat between organisers and local activists who became suspicious it was aimed at provoking the local Muslim population.

A Muslim lesbian and gay organisation Imaan later produced evidence that revealed a former member of the English Defence League was behind the event.

EEGP was planned after an anonymous homophobic sticker campaign that cited Koranic verses. An 18-year-old from Tower Hamlets was later fined  for posting the offensive material.

Veteran gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who joined the parade, said: “It’s really important we celebrate the huge contribution by the gay community to East London in light of the recent controversies over the gay-free zone stickers. East London has not and will not be a gay-free zone.”

But he criticised Muslim organisations and Luftur Rahman for not supporting the event unaware the Mayor was due to speak moments later.

He said: “That would have sent a very strong signal of our communities being united against homophobia and anti-Muslim prejudice.”

However Denis Fernando, of the Lesbian and Gay Coalition Against Racism, warned it is important to remember that homophobia is not unique to any one community.

He said: “I’m from the catholic community and my family aren’t necessarily over the moon about me coming out.

“In order to tackle homophobia it needs to take many different forms, so sometimes standing in the streets and marching with placards, as we have today, is appropriate, but at other times it’s not; what is needed is slow patient dialogue just about the fact sexuality is one of our many identities.

“It’s a complex issue with many different dimensions so it was very encouraging to hear people chanting ‘no to homophobia’ and ‘no to Islamophobia’ and ‘anti-racists out and proud’. They were making it very clear to the community that we are with you, we are part of you. I think lighter touch politics can go much further than grand standing.

“One of the best statements of unity that has happened in the last few weeks was on September 3 (when the EDL held a demonstration in Tower Hamlets). I spoke on a platform as an out gay man with three other LGBT speakers, representatives of the mosque and the Mayor of Tower Hamlets and we said no to the EDL.”

Asked if it was difficult being gay in East London, Rene said: “No it’s not, [but] it’s not easy to be gay with yourself, then its not easy to be gay with your family, but when you find peace in yourself, then your family accepts you and when your family accepts you then you don’t really care about what society thinks.”

5 thoughts on “#East #London #Pride passes off peacefully as #gay community comes out for the day

  1. I agree that the ‘smaller’ gatherings are just as important as the big ones, the message is often more focused and conscious. And there is greater potential for more intimate experiences with passers by and visitors which can change minds and attitudes more convincingly.

  2. Of all the Pride events this for me was the most important – delighted that I could attend with my lovely friend Jenna – I did not have any experience of gay prides in the early years despite being 53yo I did not come out until 2004 – but I imagine this was a great reminder of how they used to be – no floats – nothing commercial – not trying to sell anything – just a group of 400 people with a social conscience marching with placards – I would welcome more of the same in the future.
    The chilling ‘out’ at the park with many from the march was a delight.
    However one activist brought me back to reality – 2010 London Pride going home this lovely man with full on false eyelashes and mascara went to the aid of a lad being beaten up near a bus stop by ‘five rednecks’ – and yet a group of gay men at the bus stop did nothing – shameful – that they did nothing – and that homophobia is still very much an issue TODAY in the UK.

    • Yes, a few people said to me they were disappointed more people didn’t turn out, but others said they had become disillusioned with the bigger events and that they had become too commercial. They definitely preferred the idea of having more local ones like ELP across London.

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