I’m a gay man and I hate these new Pride posters
Their confusing message tells us a lot about where LGBT allyship is going wrong
If, up until now, you’ve been celebrating Pride, but always while having to spare a thought for the poor heterosexuals who aren’t the centre of attention for a whole 24 hours for one day in the year, then good news! Today London Pride revealed new posters aimed at promoting diversity at this month’s celebrations. As part of the #LoveHappensHere campaign, posters reminding us of our straight brethren circulated across social media.
“I’m a straight man with gay pride!” says one (next to a lion, widely regarded as one of the most heterosexual looking creatures in the entire animal kingdom, no less.) “Gay man, straight man: we’re all human”, bleats another, a stark reminder for anyone still using outdated heterophobic language in the workplace. Another: “London welcomes you, whether you’re lesbian, gay, bi, trans or straight!” which I guess is particularly reassuring for any tourists visiting London who might think heterosexuality is still outlawed in this country. Oh and there’s one saying homophobia is ‘sooooo gay’ which, yes, technically it is, as that’s a word rooted in homosexuality, but also… no, no, please no.
This sage rhetoric was mined from everyday members of the public, presumably because it’s cheaper than paying people to come up with this sort of shit, but the point is: people are rightly pissed that the emphasis of this campaign is on crowbarring straight people into Pride. Not because we don’t want them there – of course we do! Some of my best friends are straight! I even slept with one at university! – but because their inclusion in anything is so broad and all-encompassing that it doesn’t need to be signposted in the first place.
Straight people are obviously included in Pride, but it’s becoming so commercialised that it’s hard to know what it even stands for. Is it like a general, vaguely appropriated piss-up; a woke St Paddy’s Day? Or is it supposed to stand for something bigger, an act of defiance doused in glitter and a call-to-arms for visibility among a sea of starchy straight-culture?
The LGBT community have a right to find the broader strokes of this campaign problematic. Even the #LoveHappensHere hashtag, a sentiment that impressively manages to mean both too much and too little at the same time, isn’t so much offensive or anger-inducing as it is benign. #LoveHappensHere is so unspecific, so broad and unfiltered an idea that it’s hard to disagree with it, but it’s also difficult to understand what it’s trying to advocate or challenge (look at Stonewall’s brash, no-holds-barred ‘Some people are gay. Get over it’ slogan for a lesson in how to be tough and unapologetic). This all-you-need-is-love rhetoric is nice, but in reality doesn’t tap into what makes homophobia fester in the first place, so it’s not particularly useful in the larger conversation around sexuality.
In 2017, all brands have to do is whack a rainbow stripe across their logo to receive a slap on the back in the name of diversity. But workplaces still use problematic language and gay slurs without realising. Many prospective LGBT parents will have to jump through hoop after hoop to make sure they are afforded the same rights as their straight counterparts. Not to mention the countless instances of abuse in streets and schools. Young men and woman across the LGBT spectrum are afraid to come out, which is fucked up and sad.
This idea that straight people need to be coddled and brought into wider conversations about Pride won’t help the way spaces within the country’s LGBT communities are buckling under footfall from straight people. That’s not to say they’re not welcome – but microaggressions and invasive behaviour by some individuals fucks things up for everyone. I had an argument with a straight friend years ago who used to hit on guys in gay bars so he could get free drinks (PROBLEMATIC) and last year members of a hen party gleefully photographed me snogging someone tall, dark and handsome in a gay club while screaming “YASS KWEEN” (ALSO PROBLEMATIC). To be gay means to grow up feeling inherently ‘other’ and isolated, so generally, it’s not the kind of thing we like to impose on other people unless we have to, e.g. they’re literally photographing dudes kissing like they’re in a big gay fucking zoo.
I guess individuals, like posters, can be dumb and messy and could do with being drop-kicked in a bin, but we need straight allies to show solidarity and generally help us ward off the shitheads in the universe. Outrage has a habit of inflating and growing off the hot air until it takes up too much room. So it’s worth mentioning that there are many posters in the campaign that are sweet and nice and good. And of course, nobody’s going to be losing sleep over this. They’re not getting so riled by this jarring campaign that they're hitting neat scotch after neat scotch long into the night, scrolling through these clumsy posters until their eyes are crusty and dry. I’m still working out to what extent I’m actually pissed off about this versus finding the dumbing-down of the event seemingly required to make it palatable for straight inclusion fucking hilarious.
So here’s the deal. I, a gay man, am cool with you coming to pride but you’ve got to be an ally every other day of the year. Tell someone off for using ‘gay’ as a pejorative term. Punch a homophobe. Don’t say “I could have guessed!” when anyone comes out because unless you saw them literally fuck a dude you could not, my friend! You literally could not.