A huge party for Londoners is promised
Saturday as more than a million people are expected at the city's
annual Gay Pride parade and festival.
But the idea of an extravagant party
for gay men and lesbians seems to have caused controversy in the
Pride London's theme is “Come out and
play” as the rest of the world celebrates the 40th
anniversary of the birth of the modern gay rights movement, the
Stonewall Inn uprising.
In 1969, the patrons of the Stonewall
Inn, a popular joint for drag queens and transvestites, fought back
against the New York City police, who often harassed patrons at
gay-friendly bars. For days, thousands joined in demonstrating
against the police.
“I'm shocked that Pride London has
hardly mentioned the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall
riots on its website or in its magazine,” gay rights advocate Peter
Tatchell told the Guardian. “Most of the content is about
entertainment and partying. To ignore and downplay this important
anniversary is an insult to the veterans who began our momentous
fight for freedom.”
Anisas de Jong, director of the UK
Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group, agreed: “Gay Pride should be
providing more of a political space in line with its history which is
about visibility being a political statement in itself. The whole
Pride issue is not just about celebrating our identity but about
making a political statement about our identity and addressing
Pride London organizers, however,
defended their decision not to focus on the anniversary, saying it
would be preaching to the choir and that the Stonewall anniversary
would “get a lot of mainstream press interest” anyway.
The carnival stepped off at 1PM
Saturday as go-go boys atop rainbow waving floats wound through
crowded London streets from Baker Street to Trafalgar Square, where a
full day of entertainment awaits revelers.
Tatchell brought his own political
statement. Standing along the route, he was photographed holding a
sign that read “Gordon & Sarah can marry, gays can't. End the
ban on gay marriage,” a reference to Prime Minister Gordon Brown
and his wife, Sarah. Sarah Brown was among the many celebrities
marching in the parade.
The UK recognizes gay and lesbian
unions with civil partnerships, not marriage. Tatchell, one of
Britain's best known gay activists, has called the legal divide “a
form of sexual apartheid.”
London will be the site of an even
larger gay party when it hosts WorldPride in 2012.