Is Pride season over yet?
Does it in fact ever end nowadays? Like the ever extending and complicating rainbow flags and acronyms it is, by definition, never finished. There is always more ‘work’ to be done. Some hitherto undiscovered shame to be extirpated. Some ‘awareness’ to be ‘raised’. Some invisibility to be visibled. Some neglected letters to be added and incanted. And even more uplifting and inspiring corporate messaging to be communicated.
Pride is a business. With an unlimited growth plan.
The ‘+’ at the end of ‘LGBTQIA+’ (apologies if this acronym is now oppressively out of date since I checked five minutes ago) is a mission statement: the Rainborg will never stop assimilating. Resistance is futile. And somethingphobic.
This year was the 50th anniversary of the first Pride march in the UK, held in London. In 1972 the homosexual male age of consent was 21, compared to 16 for heterosex. Just five years previously it was ‘never’. The first marchers were a few hundred mostly revolutionary anti-capitalists who were treated with contempt and ridicule – and were almost outnumbered by police.
Today, legal equality has been achieved – and Pride is sponsored by banks and arms manufacturers and mobbed by cops wrapped in rainbow flags dancing to Abba. Over 1.5 million people reportedly attended this year’s London Pride. Far from its radical, marginal origins, Pride has become practically compulsory.
It’s certainly unavoidable.
As are the flags. So many fucking flags. And non-fucking flags. Fifty years on, there are now more than fifty Pride Flags. In addition to the ever-more-inclusive iterations of the rainbow flag (Dublin Pride stole the show this year by assimilating the flag of Ukraine to the Rainborg) these include: the Non-binary Pride Flag, the Agender Pride Flag, the Asexual Pride Flag, the Aromantic Pride Flag, the Demisexual Pride Flag, and of course the Abrosexual Pride Flag. Which you can salute below.
Not heard of abrosexuality? Really? Seriously?? Do better! Educate yourself!
Luckily, you can do that by visiting the Volvo Group’s website (Yes Volvo – theirs is the second Google search result for ‘pride flags’), where the abrosexual flag has been selected for inclusion in their prideful line-up:
‘Abrosexual refers to an individual whose sexuality is changing or fluid. For example, someone could be gay one day, then be asexual the next, then polysexual the next. While it is possible – and even common – for a person’s sexual identity to shift or change in some way throughout their life, an abrosexual person’s sexuality may change more frequently, over the course of hours, days, months, or years.’
A teensy-weeny insistent question or two occurs which, try as I might – knowing the risks – I can’t quite dismiss: what does it actually mean to be ‘gay one day, then be asexual the next, then polysexual the next’ – let alone ‘over the course of hours’? Why would you need a flag for such an impressively unchauvinistic ‘sexuality’? Doesn’t it in fact make a mockery of all those other sexual identities and their proud flags?
As the father of the metrosexual, I know a bit about daft neologisms. But at least mine are usually knowingly satirical social observations, not flag-waving, totally serious and sacred identities pushed by luxury car manufacturers.
But these questions are of course never supposed to be asked. Incoherence is a feature of LGBTQIA+ politics, not a bug. If it made sense, then you could have a discussion with it. Or maybe even – clutch the pearls – criticise it. The subjective, unintelligible, and un-interrogable nature of its claims is the whole point.
That ‘Q’ for ‘questioning’ is absolutely not to be taken literally.
Unless you put ‘taken in for’ in front of ‘questioning’. Earlier this month several police in a van turned up at a 51-year-old man’s home in Aldershot, England, arresting and handcuffing him for “causing anxiety”. He supposedly did this by retweeting a meme of four Progress Pride Flags arranged in a (remarkably easy) fashion to form a Swastika.
Don’t get me wrong. Although I’m a pale stale cis male same-sexer I won’t be joining the Campaign for Real Pride. I’ve never been a fan of the rainbow flag, even when it was actually a rainbow, rather than a colour calibration chart. I’m not much of a flag-shagger. I burned my LGB(T) bridges very publicly way back in 1996 with the ‘incendiary’ collection of essays I edited called Anti-Gay – published four years before the homosexual male age of consent was equalised, and a decade before civil partnerships were introduced.
The very first sentence asked the question that most gay culture and politics back then begged:
‘What is this thing called “gay”? And is it any good?’.
Today, though, it would have to ask:
‘What is this thing called “LGBTQIA+”? And how many people can tell you without using the internet?”
It was already apparent then that American-style identity politics was swallowing sexuality. And that happy-clappy propaganda – or righteous anger – was smothering honest discussion in the gay press: back when a gay press not only existed, but people actually read it (you had to do something sitting bored in lesgay bars waiting for “dating apps” to be invented).
Billed as ‘the shameful antidote to prideful feelgood politics’ Anti-Gay was intended to outrage the gayist gatekeepers – and it succeeded, beyond my wildest dreams. Gay Times, The Pink Paper, and Boyz gave it priceless publicity by repeatedly attacking it, at length. And London’s biggest gay disco even changed its sign on Charing X Road to read ‘Not Anti-Gay but PROUD to be gay’.
So, there were many reprints.
In fairness, although some of the attacks were personal, and our slim volume was accused of being ‘dangerous’ and ‘irresponsible’, I don’t recall any demands that I or other contributors be ‘cancelled’. That hadn’t been invented yet.
In hindsight, I almost wonder what we were complaining about. I had no idea back then that this censorious, mind-controlling ideology which I dubbed ‘gayism’, would become much more censorious (and much more of a mouthful) – as well as ‘mainstream’. Like gender studies and queer theory, which it has effectively merged with, it has become the ‘hegemony’ that it once critiqued.
Naively, I thought that the end of discrimination would mean the end of the need for the ideology: it would wither away. Instead, the end of discrimination has seen the un-questioning ideology and its kitsch chauvinism go… Volvo.
The problem with Pride is not that it goeth before a fall, but that it turns sexuality into identity politics: crass slogans, kitsch flags and ever-more-metaphysical, extremely-online ‘sexualities’, mobilised in a very American culture war. I realise this is my privilege talking, but identity politics makes everything ideological. Which is incredibly tedious, not in the least bit sexy – and definitely not funny, OK??
Legal discrimination is history, which is nice. But when it comes to freedom of thought and speech – and yes, freedom of provocation – things are way worse than they were a quarter of a century ago. The State has gotten out of our beds only to jump into our heads.
If I put out Anti-Gay today (assuming I found a publisher reckless enough), I’d probably wake up to not one paddy wagon but a whole bloody fleet of them wailing outside. Just for the dustjacket.
So much for ‘Progress’.
Anti-Gay is long out of print, and partly because it’s a collection of essays by various contributors before digital books existed, I never uploaded a Kindle version. It’s anyway perhaps best left as an analogue artefact from a lost civilisation. Rather like me. But as a quarter-century (and a bit) commemoration – and marking Pride’s Fiftieth – I’ve uploaded a PDF (available below) of my preface and opening essay ‘Gay Dream Believer: Inside the Gay Underwear Cult’. For students of ancient history.
Reading over my essay for the first time this century, I was struck by how some of the satire – such as mocking the notion that the Stonewall Riots in 1969 (ostensibly what Pride commemorates) were a world-changing revolution (everything B.S. is sad, closeted and homosexual – everything A.S. is ‘out’, glad and GAY!) has become official orthodoxy. That event is now officially referred to as “the Stonewall Uprising” – by corporate-sponsored LBGT+ bureaucrats/HR consultants.
Way to go to spoil a perfectly good bar riot.