It's summer and the sun is shining! Happy days indeed. Every summer a plethora of Gay Pride events take place across the UK, some are good, some are bad and some are very ugly! These are interesting times for gay people in the UK and indeed Europe. Never have us Brits had it so good; marriage equality has passed in the House of Lords and the future looks bright. Do we still need gay pride then? Surely all the big battles have been won?
It's very easy for us to be complacent, these hard-won rights can so easily be taken away as history in Europe has shown. Across the continent in Russia, Ukraine and Georgia serious battles are going on. Both Russia and Ukraine passed a series of ridiculous anti-gay laws last month which basically means that even mentioning the word gay might be seen as an offence by promoting it. Developments in Russia in particular make Tebbit and Thatcher's gay-bashing in the 1980s seem like a walk down the yellow brick road in comparison! These laws are serious though and could impact upon tourists too. Reports have emerged that openly gay visitors to Russia can be arrested under these laws. What will happen to gay athletes and their supporters next year at the Winter Olympics in Sochi? What will happen should Russia win Eurovision again? These are serious issues which in the likely event they do win the right to stage the contest again in the near future, will have a direct impact on the majority of Eurovision fans attending.
To play devil's advocate for a minute, it could be argued that Eurovision is first and foremost a television show, not a gay event. Of course the reality is somewhat different. Eurovision has routinely been used as a platform for protest and like Azerbaijan in 2012, it offers a spotlight for those wishing to make themselves heard. If Eurovision goes to Russia then I think it could possibly be a good thing in the long-term. Such issues are a reminder that things aren't so easy for people in other countries, just like things weren't so great here in the UK not too long ago.
Gay Pride in the UK is no longer the protest it once was, it's a celebration of diversity and as was the case of Bristol Pride last weekend, it is increasingly becoming a family event. It's worth remembering though that homophobic attacks are on the increase and people still die in the UK from such attacks. For those who want to go, get drunk and watch a series of live acts take to the stage, fine, they're lucky to be able to do that. The opportunity didn't just appear from thin air. I saw a sign at the weekend which reminded me of the true meaning of pride, which is often forgotten. Where there is pride there is also prejudice. I know who I'll be raising a toast to in Manchester next month.