Let the Pride Flow
Pride has come to the cities, and is celebrated by some communities and within some political parties — but it’s no good if we abandon the places where pride doesn’t reach yet. It’s no good if we dismiss “the other” as being unreceptive, backward and ignorant, and retreat to the groups that do welcome us. This is fostering a new kind of division within our world, where, rather than reaching out and taking the difficult steps of building new bridges, facing hard predjudice, we’re putting up barriers.
For whilst those groups may be intolerant, unkind, uninformed — they’re just as likely to have friends, family, children who are gay or trans. We’d be doing those people, the people who can’t spend a weekend in London with rainbows in their hair, a great disservice by abandoning them. It’s too easy to pick out the hate figures, the lightning rods for intolerance and to paint all of the people even vaguely “on their side” as infidels, to be blocked out and ignored. But it’s the grass roots of those other groups, the people on the ground with the same daily concerns as you or I who dictate the policies and views of the hated leaders. It’s by talking with those grass roots, by winning acceptance, by making small changes in the way they view difference, that the whole community can change.
No, it doesn’t happen overnight. There’s not the quick win (and hollow victory) of forcing out an intolerant figurehead. What we must remember is the tolerance we enjoy when we march for Pride in our cities didn’t happen overnight either. It took decades to spread, and still needs vigorous support to be kept healthy and positive. So we have to keep breaking barriers, to swallow our pride just a little to speak with people who are not automatically and unquestioningly tolerant and understanding of our lives. Until we have those difficult conversations, they cannot begin to understand — and until those roots are exposed to a different energy, the rest of the tree will remain fed by hostility. Much though the figureheads and media faces are seen as leading the intolerance, it is the thousands, millions of people who support them without thinking that allow the division to continue.
In my social media feed I see regular posts attacking “the other side” for their intolerance. Whilst it’s easy to get likes from posts that shout criticism at deserving targets, those likes only come from people who were already critical, already aware, already understanding of the issues. What’s harder is reaching out to those groups and understanding their concerns and the history that brought them to this point in time. We’re encouraged by social media to ‘sing to the choir’ — to only identify ourselves to our own, safe groups. We’re encouraged to build barriers in ways that are subtle and pernicious. In our own way, we are unthinking and supporting division every time we post or repost something that only exists to ‘call out’ people who are not like us.
Should we ignore intolerance and hate? No, of course not — but we have to find better responses than raising our defenses and attacking back. You’ll get a thousand reposts from a well timed attack, a thousand likes. Reaching out to just one person doesn’t get noticed. What we have to realise is that it’s that single human contact that makes a change for the good, not the public dismissal of different opinions. Social media doesn’t reward that, doesn’t show it happening, doesn’t provide a call to quiet action. That’s something that, for now, we have to find in ourselves.