Why I am so proud of Pride

Barry Duke Pride
Barry Duke has Pride

I ONCE bit a policeman’s leg. It was the only way I could break his grip on my long, auburn locks. This was at London’s third LGBT march in 1974. It was much more of an angry rally than a celebration.

We mobilised to declare it was not acceptable to intimidate and brutalise queers and that we were no longer prepared to take persecution lying down.

But lying down is precisely what we did. The authorities had agreed a march route with organisers but suddenly a large contingent of hostile plods decided to divert us down a side street.

We were having none of it and lay down in the road. And that’s when I was seized by the hair by one of a clot of constables who moved in to break up our demo.

Vivid memories of that rally came back to me when my diary flagged up the fact that Benidorm is to host its seventh Pride from September 4 – 9, and that RTN, to its credit, is partnering the event.

An enormous rush of satisfaction came over me when I recalled how liberating it was, in those early days, to stand up – nay, lie down – and chant “we shall not be moved!”

We were angry, and had a great deal to be angry about. In those days police harassment was endemic, and it was still fresh in many older protesters’ minds that Alan Turing, the gay codebreaker who played a pivotal role in enabling the Allies to defeat the Nazis in many crucial engagements, had been prosecuted for homosexuality in 1952.

Turing – regarded today as the father of modern computing who broke the Nazis’ WW2 Enigma code – accepted chemical castration rather than face prison, and died of cyanide poisoning in 1954 aged 41. An inquest found he’d committed suicide.

In 2009, following an Internet campaign then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown made an official public apology on behalf of the government for “the appalling way he was treated”. The Queen granted him a posthumous pardon in 2013.

Turing was one of thousand whose lives were blighted by a stupid and inhumane law, and, even after homosexuality was decriminalised in 1967, neo-fascist groups and religious hate-mongers like the ghastly Mary Whitehouse persisted with their gay-bashing – actual and verbal – well into the 1980s.

But then a sea-change occurred that saw LGBT rights in the UK improve with astonishing speed. This welcome progress culminated with the introduction of same-sex marriage in 2014.

The change in Spain was even more dramatic. The country rapidly became a world leader in gay rights after decades of Franco’s rule, which saw sexual minorities imprisoned or even killed. The legendary poet Garcia Lorca was one of those slain.

But when the Franco era mercifully ended in 1978 the country embraced liberalisation with a passion that left political and religious primitives reeling.

In 1979 Madrid’s staged its first Gay Pride march, and in 2005, Spain became one of the first countries in the world to legalise same-sex marriage. In 2007 it was hailed as having the most advanced LGBT rights on the planet.

In the same year, EuroPride was held in Madrid, and welcomed more than 2.5 million people over the course of one week. This year Madrid hosted World Pride, which attracted even greater numbers to the city.

I am immensely proud to have been in the vanguard of a movement that, back in the 70s, drew a line in the sand and said “enough is enough!”

But, as we blow whistles, wave rainbow flags and dance in the streets, let’s pause to consider the plight of those living in places where being gay remains a criminal offence – 74 countries in total. It’s an appalling fact that 12 of them have the death penalty for homosexuality.

Until they learn that LGBT rights are an integral part of human rights, these countries should be ostracised and denied the billions in foreign aid that they receive from the “decadent” West.

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