Pride in London’s #LoveHappensHere campaign began innocently enough, with images posted on the Pride Twitter account that described how gay and bi couples met and fell in love in London. Great. In now deleted tweets, a set of posters appeared emlazoned with bizarre, homophobic and questionable quotes from supposed allies – there’s ‘Marv’ from Vauxhall – whether he’s real or a figment of the homogenous advertising team blob’s imagination, who knows – proudly sharing, ‘My gay friends make me more attractive by association’ while Bradley from Camden said ‘Befriend a gay person and win a prize friendship’. Bradley seems to pity us, while Marv gleefully exploits his gay mates to make himself seem more interesting and liberal. Perhaps the most damning of the bunch came courtesy of Tori from Leyton: ‘Being homophobic is sooo gay’.
LGBT+ people have of course responded to the posters on Twitter. Dozens of parody posters have cropped up with slogans like ‘No, we don’t want a threesome with you’ and ‘I’m passively homophobic but I want to enjoy queer spaces because they’re more fun’. The generically cheesy poster format – unluckily for Pride in London – might just have been the perfect way to call out this queer-erasing nonsense, in style.
Pride parades have steadily shifted away from LGBT+ people and toward allies, because they are a larger, more profitable market. The change is most obvious when Pride events are booking pop acts with no connection to LGBT+ communities – Durham Pride was forced to drop a Beyoncé tribute act that intended to appear at their May event in what was essentially blackface – and offering large sections of their parades to capitalist, oppressive organisations like the Metropolitan Police or Barclays. These posters are another glaring example of the increasing focus on cis straight people. If Pride were taken seriously and its roots as a protest actually acknowledged, these people probably wouldn’t even come.
Instead, #LoveHappensHere erases the reality of LGBT+ lives and replaces it with a prettier narrative. London is painted as a liberal haven free from homophobia and transphobia, and allies don’t feel any pressure to change their behaviour, or take any real steps to support the LGBT+ community. There is no space at this Pride to discuss what it is really like to live as an LGBT+ person in London, because ‘allies’ are shouting over us. Even the aesthetic of the posters contribute to the erasure of anything real; they are all neon and rainbow coloured, cartoonish and abstract. They make it quite clear: there is no space at this Pride to discuss what it is really like to live as an LGBT+ person in London, because that would not be pretty enough.
All the while the Marvs of the world feel comfortable talking about gay people like we’re a new hat, it’s hard to imagine that Pride will feel welcoming to LGBT+ people. This failed poster campaign is evidence of the fact that people think it is trendy to be an ally. We are a ‘prize’ to them, something to exploit to boost their own attractiveness. So what happens when we aren’t trendy anymore? Being seen as ‘cool’ has done nothing to prevent us from being insulted, attacked, and killed. When does Pride actually benefit us?
It’s almost difficult to blame the allies who responded to Pride in London’s call for ‘messages of love’. They should never have been allowed to contribute in the first place. Worst of all, the efforts made to include allies in Pride celebrations far outweigh those made to include trans people. Based solely on the #LoveHappensHere posters, allies have at least four times the representation that trans people do. Pride should be a time to reflect on LGBT+ history, celebrate those of us who are still here and thriving, and remind allies how they can actually support us as a community. Covering yourself in glitter and getting pissed is loads of fun, but ultimately doesn’t do a lot to combat youth homelessness or the high rate of suicide amongst trans people.
Pride in London responded to criticism in a statement that apologised for ‘something that appears to devalue our own community’, and deleted the offending tweets. As much as I hate those insensitive, tone deaf posters, deleting them now does little for London’s LGBT+ community. It’s just another erasure of the discrimination that we face. But why talk about homophobia and transphobia in London – the capital of a country where 4 in 5 LGBT+ people have been victim of a hate crime - when we can cover it up, forget it ever happened, and throw a massive party instead?
Follow Sophie Lynne Jackson on Twitter here @sophlynne