Activist Peter Tatchell has said the main Pride event in London has become “too corporate and commercial” and has lost the human rights dimension.
Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to descend on the capital on Saturday for the Pride parade which organisers say will feature more than 30,000 participants from all sections of the community.
The parade will pay homage to the 1972 march, passing significant sites from the UK’s first LGBT+ movement.
On Friday, Mr Tatchell was one of around 20 veterans of the 1972 march, aged between 70 and their late 80s, who gathered in London to retrace the exact route of 50 years ago.
Campaigner Mr Tatchell was one of about 30 Gay Liberation Front (GLF) activists who organised the first UK Pride and he has marched in every Pride London parade since.
Speaking about Friday’s march, he told the PA news agency: “This march marks the historic 50th anniversary of the UK’s first ever Pride parade.
“Myself and other veterans of 1972 are here to say that we were there and we are still fighting for LGBT+ liberation in the UK and worldwide.
“It’s amazing to think that what began as one Pride parade in London in 1972, attended by only 700 people, has exploded this year into over 190 Pride events across the UK with a combined attendance of a million people.
“In the last five decades our movement has overturned all Britain’s anti-LGBT+ laws, some of which dated back centuries.”
Speaking about the main event, Mr Tatchell said: “A lot of us are very concerned that the main official Pride event has become too corporate and commercial.
“It often looks like a huge PR, marketing and branding exercise by big companies.
“The human rights dimension has been lost. The original Pride was both a celebration and a protest.
“That’s the way it should be this year as well. We need to remember that there are still issues to fight for, particularly globally where 69 countries continue to criminalise same sex relations – 12 Muslim majority countries still have the death penalty.”
He added: “The big corporations are the only ones that can afford big expensive floats, so they dominate the parade and overshadow the LGBT+ community groups.”
Mr Tatchell said his view of Pride is widely held, adding that there have been discussions with Pride organisers about doing it differently.
“But it hasn’t changed so far,” he said. “LGBT+ human rights has not been front and centre of Pride for many, many years.
“It’s turned into a huge street party and little more.”
Mr Tatchell and the veterans of 1972 will lead the Pride parade on Saturday.
Asked if he has considered boycotting the main parade, Mr Tatchell said: “We feel it’s better that we’re there to raise LGBT+ human rights issues rather than stay away.”
Mr Tatchell said there has been huge progress in the last 50 years but that there is still more progress to be won.
“The Government promised to ban conversion therapy four years ago.
“We are still waiting. It’s now said that it will eventually ban this abhorrent practice, but it will not include protection for trans people.
“A conversion therapy ban that excludes our trans siblings is not a ban at all,” he said.
Pride in London said it has almost 600 groups marching in this year’s parade, and that the vast majority of them are grassroot organisations, non-profits and LGBT+ community groups.
Organisers said they look forward to welcoming the GLF at the front of the parade this year, to pay homage to the first protest in 1972 and to the veterans who paved the way for others.
All proceeds raised from commercial partnerships are reinvested into the LGBT+ community, such as through the Unity Fund, organisers said.
The Unity Fund aims to build stronger communities by providing one-off grants to grassroots organisations, which address the needs of the UK’s LGBT+ community.
Meanwhile, public health officials have urged people not to attend Pride events if they have monkeypox symptoms or feel unwell.
As of Thursday, there were 1,235 confirmed cases in the UK.
Wendi Shepherd, monkeypox incident director at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), said: “The monkeypox outbreak continues to grow.
“Our investigations and information from confirmed cases continue to show that the overwhelming majority of cases are in gay, bisexual or other men who have sex with men.
“This weekend let’s enjoy Pride safely. Before you go to any events or parties check yourself for blister-like spots and rashes.
“Please don’t attend if you have monkeypox symptoms or feel unwell. If you have a rash or blisters stay at home, phone a sexual health clinic and get tested.
“Please be vigilant for any monkeypox symptoms in the coming weeks, especially if you are having sex with someone new.
“To assist with our contact tracing, we encourage everyone to ensure they exchange contact details with sexual partners, to help us limit further transmission where cases occur.”
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