Pride Is A Protest: Why The Disco Backlash Is Empowering
If you, the unaware, venture out into central London on Saturday and find yourself surrounded by rainbows, glitter, and the sound of abandoned laughter, fear not. No, you haven’t walked into a weird LSD laced dream. You’ve walked into the queers reclaiming the city, because Saturday is Pride.
The day where the queens of Queens, the dykes on bikes, the twinks, the bears, the lipstick lesbians, and all the other people who fall under the umbrella term of ‘queer’ come out. The streets become heavy with the excited feet of people embracing their freedom of expression. It’s a day for the LGBT+ community to shake the dust off their feathers and show off their brightest plumage. We’re here, we’re queer. Get used to it.
For the most part in the UK, especially in London, people are used to it. Being called a homophobe is a societal no-no. This is thanks to the the tireless work of LGBT activists over the years. The very first Pride parade held in London looked entirely different to the one we will be seeing tomorrow. It consisted of just 2000 people and was first and foremost a protest march. The queers of London were marching in solidarity to the queers of America who had started their first Pride Parade as a way to mark the events of the Stonewall Riots that happened in 1969. Year after year, Pride became a little less political and a little more of a party.
In 1970, a year after the Stonewall Riots, the first whispers of disco began to emerge in the private home (named The Loft) of DJ David Mancuso. On February 14th Mancuso threw an invitation-only party called “Love Saves the Day.” The majority of guests invited to the party were from the gay community, whose appearance then became a regular one at The Loft. There, gays and lesbians were able to dance together without fear of the harassment that would usually be inflicted upon them by the police or general public in dance clubs. This became the birth of disco. Thus, disco and the LGBT scene go hand in hand. Without the queers, disco would not exist. Without disco, the queers wouldn’t have any icons like Diana Ross or the Village People (and that would be a sad day, indeed). Very subtly, but very surely, disco became a musical manifestation of revolution and liberation for the gays.
However, at the end of the 70s, when disco’s relationship with the filthy homosexuals seeped out into the open, a backlash happened. Amid the loud cries of “disco sucks!” crates filled with disco records were blown up on July 12th 1979, at Comiskey Park in Chicago as part of ‘Disco Demolition Night.’ In an attempt to silence queer voices, 59,000 people silenced queer music by destroying disco records. This marked the end of the Golden Age of disco. It is important to remember the disco backlash because a backlash happens when the people in power feel threatened. At one point LGBT culture had ingrained itself so thickly into the music industry and society that the straight white majority felt a need to push back. This shows that even though the queers are a minority group, we are powerful.
This strength is something that we must never forget. A lot of people have asked me why the LGBT+ community needs a parade. Why isn’t there a straight Pride if there’s a gay Pride? How is that fair? The day a news headline says that a straight, cis-gendered sixteen year old kid has committed suicide because they were bullied for their sexuality or their gender presentation is the day I will personally arrange a damn straight pride myself. But that hasn’t happened yet. LGBT+ people are still under threat, especially in countries like Russia and Uganda. Transphobia is also rampant and needs to be discussed. Furthermore, in the past couple of years, queer spaces have been closing around London at an alarming rate. Most recently, the Black Cap, a legendary LGBT Cabaret venue was closed down in Camden despite the outraged cries of the community. Closing our spaces is a way of dismissing our culture. It also takes away the few spaces the LGBT+ community have to themselves. It is taking away our haven.
So if you do go out on Saturday to celebrate, remember that as a community we also have reasons to protest. Our spaces are being shut down. Our fellow community members are being oppressed and degraded. They may not be nearby, and we may have never met, but they are still a part of our history. Take comfort in knowing that once us queers became so scary through songs like YMCA (of all things) that 59,000 people became angry enough to burn records.
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