50 Years of LGBT Pride
Reviewed – 1st July 2019
“it is more important than ever that the LGBT+ community remembers the Stonewall titans who paved the way for gay rights“
On June 28, 1969, a series of violent demonstrations erupted at the popular gay bar the Stonewall Inn in New York City after a police raid got out of hand. Police raids were frequent at gay bars at the time and any man or woman deemed to be engaging in homosexual behaviour would be arrested. The Stonewall Riots are considered by many to be the catalyst for the gay liberation movement and the modern fight for LGBT+ rights in the United States.
In h Club’s the Oak Room, Matthew Todd, editor of the UK gay magazine Attitude between 2008 and 2016, chaired a panel discussion about the myriad of challenges still facing the LGBT+ community 50 years after Stonewall.
The panel consisted of Hannah and Jake Graf, Brian Paddick and Dr Nneka Nwokolo. Each speaker began by talking about their history and involvement in the LGBT+ community. Hannah and Jake Graf are both transgender and made headlines across the country when they married in 2018. Jake is a writer and director specialising in short films dealing with transgender issues and Hannah was the highest-ranking transgender officer in the British Army until she left the forces a few years ago.
Brian Paddick sits in the House of Lords and was, until his retirement in 2007, the UK’s most senior openly gay police officer. Dr Nneka Nwokolo is a consultant physician in HIV and Sexual Health and has been working with HIV+ patients since the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s.
The speakers were very impressive. It was especially nice to see transgender representation as LGBT+ spaces are often dominated by cis gay men. Nwokolo’s experience working with HIV+ patients before effective treatment was available was incredibly moving as she recounted how when she went home in the evening, she never knew which of her patients would be alive the next day.
The panel went on to discuss the commercialism of pride. Corporate brands have been accused of ‘jumping on the LGBT+ bandwagon’ during pride month. The panel argued however that this criticism comes from a place of privilege, that is, from those who live in big metropolitan cities. Todd talked about the impact that seeing something like a rainbow Starbucks cup can have on an individual living in a conservative area. Hannah Graf noted as well that corporation sponsorship of pride gives LGBT+ individuals some leverage if they were to face discrimination by one of these companies.
The discussion and tone were very conversational. The event could have been improved by an opportunity to ask questions, but the speakers hung around afterwards, so audience members were able to continue the discussion if they wanted.
Undoubtedly, a lot has changed in the last half-century, but the battle of LGBT+ equality is far from over. With increasing infighting amongst the LGBT+ community and growing reports of homophobic and transphobic hate crimes, it is more important than ever that the LGBT+ community remembers the Stonewall titans who paved the way for gay rights.
Reviewed by Flora Doble
50 Years of LGBT Pride
h Club as part of their celebratory events for this year’s London Pride 2019.
Shows previously covered by this reviewer: