Cork Pride: What it means
As with any kind of cultural festival, Pride means different things to different people, writes Laura Harmon
For many, Pride is a celebration. It’s an expression of the diversity of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community. For others, it’s a political statement, a means to demonstrate that LGBT persons are still not treated equally in the eyes of the law. Some people see Pride as a measure of how far the LGBT rights movement has progressed, a way of remembering the people who have fought for our rights. Others see it as a show of solidarity with LGBT persons in other countries who do not have the freedom to gather in public or the right to express their identities openly. Just like any cultural festival, there are some people who don’t celebrate Pride at all. Whatever Pride means to you, there is no prescribed way to celebrate Pride and the interpretations of it are as diverse as the community whom it represents.
The origins of Pride go back to the Stonewall riots of 1969. Police raids of gay bars were routine in the 1960s but when a group of gay, lesbian and transgender individuals fought back against a police raid at the Stonewall Inn in New York in 1969, it sparked off the birth of the gay rights movement. Within two years of these riots taking place, gay rights organisations were founded across the world and the first Pride parades took place in June 1970 commemorating the anniversary of the Stonewall riots. Today, Pride parades are held annually across the world.
Pride in Cork
Cork City has a well-established LGBT community and since Cork Pride parade began seven years ago, there have been many changes both in Cork and in Irish society. In the last seven years, Cork’s LGBT scene has expanded; there has been a growth in the amount of support and social groups. The community comes together regularly to raise funds for organisations campaigning for LGBT rights. The LGBT Society in UCC was awarded best large society in Ireland this year at the Board of Irish College Societies awards. There is a strong commitment from local elected representatives to LGBT equality and Cork City Council was the first one in Ireland to pass a motion in favour of marriage equality. In short, the people of Cork have a lot to be proud of when it comes to LGBT issues.
Nationally, public opinion is changing. According to a Red C poll conducted in 2011, 73% of Irish population are in favour of equal access to marriage in Ireland – a rise from 53% in 2008 (Lansdowne). The current Programme for Government includes an explicit provision to look at the provision of same-sex marriage in the context of a Constitutional Convention. Our Tánaiste has come out in favour of civil marriage for LGBT persons. History, it seems, is being made before our eyes and for many lesbian and gay persons, the reality of equality seems almost within their grasp.
Cork Pride has always had an open and welcoming atmosphere with something to offer everyone, no matter what your gender identity or sexual orientation is. The theme of this year’s parade is ‘the future.’ For many LGBT young people and their friends there is a real sense that they can help to shape their futures; that this generation is going to make Ireland a better place for the next.
While all this progress is occurring, we really can’t afford to rest on our laurels yet. There is still a huge amount of work to be done to make Ireland a more equal place, particularly when it comes to tackling discrimination and transgender inequality. While there are many challenges ahead, the future for LGBT persons is brighter now than it ever was in Ireland and no matter what your gender or sexual orientation is, we can all reflect and take pride in how far we have come so far.
Laura Harmon is Equality and Citizenship Officer of the Union of Students in Ireland, and the Organiser of Cork Action for Equality.