My favourite Kung Fu movie is The Legend of Fong Sai Yuk, featuring a young Jet Li as our hero. He is part of a group of rebels fighting an evil regime, which oppresses all people. The final battle ***SPOILER ALERT*** sees Sai Yuk being challenged to defeat the town Governor and save his father from execution. To make things more difficult the rope that will release the guillotine blade is lit, so that Sai Yuk has only minutes to defeat his enemy and free his father before the rope burns through. The supporting townsfolk stand and watch.
What has this to do with Pride? Well to me, Pride used to be just like this movie scene: Sai Yuk represents the LGBTQ+ community, his father represents equality, and the governor represents discrimination. We, the Queer community, would march through the centre of town, protesting against oppressive values which really, truly affect all people – yet this was considered to be our fight and those supporting came to watch, not participate.
But what happened in 2019 was different. Mayor of London Sadiq Khan made a statement which shows his understanding of two important points:
1. A society that accepts discrimination against any one group is a society that accepts discrimination full stop.
2. True support takes more than watching people: you must stand with them.
This shift has been taking place for some time, with more and more allies joining the march each year, but 2019 was a breakthrough, like the breakthrough that was about to be made by one old lady in our Kung Fu movie…
…let’s get back to our scene and find out what happens next. Sai Yuk fights hard and wins the battle of course, catching the rope just as it burns through, stopping the guillotine blade from meeting his father’s neck. He is a strong hero, having trained his entire life, but there is one thing he cannot overcome: the blade is heavier than his body. As it sinks lower and lower in the guillotine frame, it’s clear that Sai Yuk won’t be able to hold it.
But then something incredible happens: one shrivelled old lady and her grandchildren push through the barrier shouting “Fong Sai Yuk! We’ll help you!”
Soon the whole town has broken through. They take the rope, pull it back and save Sai Yuk’s father.
It’s a revolutionary moment; it’s a moment of revolution.
Coming back to the subject of London Pride, if Sai Yuk represents the Queer Community, his father equality, and the governor discrimination, then I’m not sure who the old lady represents… perhaps Sadiq Khan? Perhaps you? Perhaps whoever was first to break the barrier and join us?
Or, perhaps it doesn’t matter because it point is, the barrier has been broken and this year everyone was IN. London was rainbow-bombed completely and it was no longer ‘cool’ for any shop, street or station not to display a rainbow flag (or several). The march contained not just queer groups, but everyone from the MOD to O2. TFL and even London Zoo went beyond the call of duty to show their support.
Some criticised the business contingent for purely wanting to advertise, but I say that when you see business, finance, military, government and general public all taking part, the point is it’s everybody. When I saw ‘The Conservatives’ in the march I thought “My god, it’s really everybody!”.
Until London Pride week when it was finally safe to let my guard down, I didn’t realise that I myself always been on guard against personal discrimination. When London Zoo greeted my partner and I with rainbow flags at the door, we knew that we could hold hands or hug whilst watching the penguins and no-one would ask us to stop. It made me sad to realise that I had never before felt such a sense of safety outside of a queer venue.
Attending the march itself, as I watched row upon row of queer and mainstream floats and groups go past, the whole thing felt like a personal apology to me. Perhaps my reaction seems odd, since I maybe haven’t received much discrimination comparatively, but I hope that everyone present received the same personal message as I did through the actions of the march. It was like I was hearing a whole crowd of allies say: “We’re sorry. Before, when we said we were supporting you, really we were just watching you fight. We understand now. We’re here standing with you. It wasn’t ok what happened. No-one ever should have judged you because of who you are. That was never ok. And it’s going to stop now, because we won’t tolerate it.”
I want to be positive here, and respectful; this shift from ‘watching’ to ‘standing with us’ is wonderful and to be celebrated, and yet all that time spent ‘watching in support’ is to be celebrated too, since it got us here. We have been gaining ground towards this shift for a long time and every step taken along the way is a hero’s deed. Every year, more and more progress towards equality is made, and every breakthrough shows how far we have come and how far we can go, in the UK and worldwide. This isn’t over: it is growing. Our Kung Fu movie ends with a revolution in one town, but plenty more work for the rebellion to do. Allies, thank you for standing with us and fighting with us – Jet Li couldn’t do it without you… and neither can we.