Pride in London’s promotional campaign for the 2017 pride parade claims that #LoveHappensHere. As it turns out, something else happens here as well; completely pandering to a straight audience, framing LGBTQ+ people as fun novelties and completely undermining the community’s efforts to combat casual homophobia.
‘Being homophobic is sooo gay.’
For an organisation that denounces hate and fights against homophobia, they sure seemed comfortable using ‘gay’ as a slur in this poster. This playground ‘insult’ (for that is how it’s framed here) panders to a straight and, historically, homophobic audience.
I don’t think I know anyone from my generation that hasn’t been called ‘gay’ as a way of undermining their actions or opinions. Just this last week I’ve overheard someone complain that their cocktail made them look ‘gay’. If this was an obsolete mode of using LGBTQ+ identities as a negative, maybe it wouldn’t be so horrible. But it’s not – and it’s very much not okay.
‘My gay friends make me more attractive by association’
I imagine the aim of this campaign, originally, was to empower the LGBTQ+ community. Why then, have they included a poster that completely dehumanises gay people and turns them into an attractive accessory for straight people? For real, what is this bullsh*t?
How many gay men have been told by a female friend that they want to be their ‘fag hag’? How many times have members of the community felt like a token to make their ‘liberal’ friend feel good about themselves? We do not exist to exclusively better your lives. We’re just trying to live our own.
‘Befriend a gay person and win a prize friendship’
Continuing the theme of turning LGBTQ+ folk into accessories for cishet people, this poster actually has a rather sinister undertone. Its implication is that by simply being nice to and ‘befriending’ a member of the community, you are then entitled to their friendship. I cannot stress this enough… THIS. IS. NOT. THE. CASE.
Our friendship, time and effort is not a prize to be won. It is not a reward for offering us basic human decency by accepting who we are as people. This poster seems to imply that you can turn up to Pride and just collect your free gay. We are not a participation trophy. Take this toxic bullsh*t elsewhere, preferably a dustbin far, far away.
‘I’m a straight man with gay pride’
We hit peak straight-pandering with this poster, which is not about LGBTQ+ people at all. Whether you believe that cishet folk belong at Pride or not (highly debatable within the community), you cannot argue that Pride is specifically about celebrating the LGBTQ+ community, and not straight people being cool with it.
The focus of this poster, and indeed many of those now removed and still existing, is on straight alliance rather than LGBTQ+ people. I’ve seen more examples of posters revolving around cishet ‘friendship’ and ‘support’ than I have about bisexual, trans or asexual people. Although at this point it’s almost a relief – I can only imagine what other harmful stereotypes would be plastered over the internet in a supposed ‘celebration’ of our community.
Pride in London’s Response
Since the inevitable backlash, Pride in London’s official website published a short statement regarding the backlash to the poster campaign:
“It is clear we misjudged the content of some of the messages in this poster series, undermining the individuality, importance, and dignity of the LGBT+ community. This was never our intention, and we are genuinely sorry to have played any part in something that appears to devalue our own community, and have removed these four images from our campaign.”
Is this apology enough? Probably not. These posters have already been seen by many, their messages imprinting on our minds. The LGBTQ+ community has been told that we merely exist to enhance the lives of cishet folk, and we’ve been told it by one of the biggest Pride organisations in the UK.
So what do we do? We carry on. We keep calling shit like this out, and we remind the world that we exist for ourselves. We amplify the lesser-heard voices within our community, and we shout down anyone who tries to push them out. We persevere.
And we do better.