When people see an injustice in the world, protesting is usually the first port of call for those of us lucky enough to live in a country where we are allowed to demonstrate. In fact, it’s fair to say that the act of protesting has barely changed in the last 75 years, and it’s certainly been effective. Just look at gay pride today, not only is it a fun event for millions of people to enjoy, but it’s a successful form of protest that has jettisoned LGBT+ rights further than many believed possible in this lifetime. But what makes this kind of political activism so effective?
Looking at the signs at the recent anti-Trump protests, the answer to this question becomes more clear. These protests saw minorities coming together in solidarity for one another. This unification is central to understanding why some protests are effective while others fall flat.
LGBT+ people have often shared political solidarity with others. Going back to the 80s, we have strong evidence of this with LGSM (Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners). For those among us who haven’t seen the film Pride, here was a group of gay men and women showing their support to the miners of the 80s, who were beaten down by Thatcher’s government. They raised almost £20,000 for the cause and when the issue of LGBT+ rights came forward in politics many miners openly showed their support for the community, without whom the Labour Party may not have been as progressive with gay rights as they were at the time.
Going even further back along the proverbial clock, solidarity can be seen during the first ever gay pride events. On the anniversary of the Stonewall riots, in 1970 over 1,000 “homosexuals and their friends” strutted down Hollywood boulevard in protest. Brenda Howard, who is colloquially known as the “Mother of Pride” was not only an important ally to LGBT+ movement, but also an iconic feminist. She was a key figure in uniting feminists and the community to create a larger voice. Without Howard and the unity of feminists, pride is unlikely to be the force it is today.
This combination of feminists and LGBT+ people created what is known as GLF (Gay Liberation Front), which in the wake of the Stonewall riots, played a large role in pushing for gay rights in America. It is perhaps the strongest of unities that the LGBT+ minority share, feminists and gay people often are cast down by the same patriarchy and this establishment is something both share in wanting to destroy. This shared goal combines the two on many shifting social changes. In a world where the President of the United States can boast about “grabbing women by the pussy,” the act of being female is a political one. Being considered rebellious for being who you are is something many gay people can relate to.
Coming back now to the persecution of Muslim people by the government and the media in the present day, this level of villainisation is something only recently shared by our community. During the 1980s, gay people were seen as something dirty and disgusting after the outbreak of AIDs. Governments used them to instill fear into the general populace similar to how Trump uses refugees and Muslims to strengthen his grip on America. The media also used this opportunity to denounce homosexuality, with headlines such as, “Homos prone to rare cancer”. Suggesting that the new outbreak of disease has homosexuality at fault. Now we have headlines such as “Muslim convert beheads woman in garden,” which suggest that being Muslim equates with brutality and terrorism. It’s a tried and tested method of minority persecution and is why many LGBT+ people feel so strongly in support for refugee and Muslim rights.
Ultimately the past and present show that as minority groups, we always benefit when we come together. Although we may not go through the same struggles, by proxy of being a minority, we can in someway understand what it is they are going through and empathise. What makes a protest so effective isn’t the common political agenda, but the unification of minorities. This creates a voice loud enough for people to listen and eventually benefits us all. It’s one of this communities biggest assets and going forward is something I hope we continue to embrace and showcase with pride.
Banner and first image: Hayley Ballard