My first pride experience was here in Edinburgh this June. Having recently immersed myself into queer culture I was beyond thrilled to have my first Pride in the place I love the most as an out-and-out queer woman. Walking towards Bristo Square on the 25th, the feeling of community trembled through the streets, each footstep sponsored by none other than ExxonMobil. Solidarity! Polluters and the LGBTQ community come together! Edinburgh Pride stands for gay rights and gas pipes. Finally, there are enough of us to profit off. Yet, amongst the pink pound propagation, all I could feel in the march was an overwhelming sense of community. One could only hope (and I do believe) that the vast majority of the singing in the streets was not the squeals of corporate pigs but rather the cries of a community still fighting for their rights in a system dictated by heteronormativity.
Yet, hypocrisy still loomed over the parade despite the sunny weather – which Chase Bank probably sponsored so they could give out more fans. The Edinburgh tour bus holding none other than a Tory MP led the masses through the streets, just showing that anyone can support a cause – as long as you can make money off it. The MP gave a speech at parliament that was responded to by screams of “Tory scum” so his virtue signalling couldn’t poison the ears of the locals. His response was to write a sob story for The Scotsman backing up the famously homophobic political party to make gay Tories feel better about their political standing being oppositional to their own rights (and if not the rights of so many others).
Although, from this, it seems that Pride has been stolen by the right, the Tories, and the capitalists, I saw a glimmer of hope in the person who looked me in the eyes and gave me a pink piece of paper with “I am so proud of you!” written in felt tip pen. I saw hope in the group walking alongside the RMT strikers and marching off course to Waverley to stand in solidarity with them. I saw hope in my friends and each beautiful individual draped in colour, the families with children running in the sun, the dancers covered in feathers, the drummers, and everyone with a sign or slogan – treating pride as a protest, as it should be treated.
There was also more to Edinburgh Pride than the march. The Pride opening on Thursday night featured an award-worthy line-up from Fruit Salad queer cabaret featuring an opening critique on corporate pride, moving into multiple acts literally throwing themselves upside-down and hanging from the Bongo Club ceiling by their legs. Tracks Mondays (or Thursdays) also provided a host of beautiful drag artists and advocated for acknowledgement and funding for trans artists and Femmergy provided everything femme from house to pop taking over both floors of the club for a proper pride celebration, queer as hell and funky as fuck.
Now as businesses have torn down their rainbow flags and reinstated their conversion therapy policies, I can look back and cry about how my rights are only valid for profit or I can be happy that at least I have some. There is still a fight to be fought though. Particularly for trans and non-binary people, who are constantly being invalidated and told that their rights and lives do not count. Pride is and will always be a protest and it doesn’t end on the 1st of July.
Image courtesy of author.