On 7 July 35,000 people marched through London for World Pride – 10,000 more than previous years. Workers’ Liberty and Women’s Fightback marched in the trade union block.
Workers’ Liberty and Women’s Fightback LGBTQ activists organised a meeting after the march called Proud to be Radical. We discussed the relationship between LGBTQ politics and anti-capitalism and thought about what kind of Pride we’d like to see.
Paul Penny, an LGBT activist in the RMT union, spoke at that meeting… his speech is printed below.
(More to follow.)
“We will not give up until we have built the future we all deserve.”
My name is Paul Penny – I’m a proud member of Workers’ Liberty, vice-chair of the RMT union’s National LGBT advisory committee, and long-time LGBT activist. Today was my 33rd LGBT Pride march.
Our gathering this evening is billed as a ‘Celebration of anti-capitalist politics and LGBT Liberation’. But of course, in reality, we are still some way from LGBT liberation and the war against homophobia and transphobia has not ended.
And around the world, many LGBT activists are reporting a trend of worsening human rights violations against LGBT people and an increase in religious and state-sponsored homophobia.
The theme of this year’s World Pride 2012 is ‘Decriminalising Homosexuality worldwide and Global equality for LGBT people’.
Homosexuality is illegal in seventy-six countries around the world, and in ten of these punishable by death or life imprisonment.
LGBT people are routinely used by anti-democratic forces as scapegoats for the social instability of the capitalist system, serving as a functional distraction from other human rights violations, corruption, misgovernment, economic problems, rising food prices, and political tyranny.
The capitalist class purposely target LGBT people and make use of popular prejudices and false claims as a means to foster division in the working class and divert attention from more class-based issues.
By claiming society’s moral disintegration and asserting LGBT people are eroding a ‘traditional’ way of life, political demagogues and religious leaders seek to create a climate of opinion out of which to gain support
And today, it is US Christian Conservatives who are exporting their virulent homophobia to Africa – and US Christian-Right evangelicals have been working with religious and political leaders across Eastern Europe to formulate legislation to criminalise LGBT advocacy and incite anti-gay genocide.
The Russian city of St Petersburg has recently passed a law making it illegal to speak in public about being LGBT. And the mayor of Moscow has just banned all Pride marches for 100years! And he uses street thugs, the police and neo-nazis to enforce this ban. The governor of the city of Tambov, who called for gays to be ‘torn into pieces and thrown into the wind’, epitomises the toxic anti-gay atmosphere across Russia today.
And we hear how the governing parties in Iraq are complicit in the widespread execution of Iraqi LGBT people, and the LGBT community is living in terror as sectarian militias control the streets.
And a recent Wiki-Leaks cable estimates that the number of LGBT people executed in Iran since the Islamic [counter]-revolution of 1979 could be between 4000 and 6000 individuals. Meantime, the Iranian leaders claim that homosexuality does not exist in their country.
So, we can sit on the sidelines and watch this happening, or we can organise for a united fight-back. And in the RMT union, this is exactly what we are doing.
I attended the RMT’s Annual General Meeting less than two weeks ago and spoke on a resolution on International LGBT rights that was passed unanimously.
The resolution called on the RMT union to:
1. Support campaigns against homophobia around the world and build solidarity links with LGBT rights campaigners and trade unionists around the world
2. Support and mobilise for appropriate protest actions
3. Raise the issue of LGBT rights at international events that the union attends
4. Support LGBT workers and trade union rights in countries such as Iran, while opposing military action against them.
And in the past few days, the RMT Council of Executives has decided to adopt a strategy for combating homophobia.
So I am proud to belong to such a progressive union as the RMT. And I am proud to be a member of Workers’ Liberty. And I am proud to be radical!
I would like to take this opportunity tonight to pay tribute to the courage of the many LGBT activists across the world who continue to speak out – even in the face of extreme danger.
And I want to pay tribute to David Kato, the Ugandan LGBT activist, who in 2010 was bludgeoned to death in his Kampala home soon after winning a case against a newspaper that published names and addresses of “known” Ugandan lesbians and gay men with the headline “Hang them”
And let us remember 28-year-old Agnes Torres Hernandez, a Mexican transgender activist, who in March was brutally murdered – her throat slashed – her body thrown into a ditch.
I would like to read you the recent words of Frank Mugisha – the courageous LGBT campaigner on the frontline in Uganda fighting the “Kill the Gays” Bill:
“There is still such a long road ahead of us, but we are driven by the conviction that we are part of a larger story of global human rights, and we will not give up until we have built the future we all deserve.”
I will end then with a message to Frank Mugisha and the many other courageous LGBT activists and oppressed LGBT workers across the world. I want to say:- You are not alone! We are with you in the struggle! In solidarity!