The Plastic Hippo

July 6, 2011

Mother`s pride

Filed under: Rights,Society — theplastichippo @ 9:43 am


There are some birthday gifts that have more to do with the giver rather than the receiver. Train sets, guitars and footballs from dad and the DVD of Mr Darcy taking his shirt off and jumping into a lake from mum come with hidden motives.

So it was with the “indestructible” Tech Team radio controlled Gunship helicopter bought as a birthday present from the best toy shop in the world on Regent Street. With three channels and an auto-stabiliser function to counteract yaw and spin, the “indestructible” flying machine was broken within a week. But with a lifetime guarantee, the 60 odd quid would not be money totally wasted. Rather than pay for the postage and packaging to return the downed chopper to the shop, we decided that another trip to the big smoke was in order.

Holding firmly to our working class, socialist principles, the family took to the privatised railway to visit that there London with three distinct tasks. Firstly, to replace the boy’s helicopter. Secondly, to take in a performance of Much Ado About Nothing at the Globe Theatre and thirdly, to view the summer show at the Royal Academy. With tickets to hear the Sharapova v Kvitova orgasmic grunt fest in SW19 unavailable, our proletarian zeal would have pleased Karl Marx.

The long march from Euston along the Tottenham Court Road and then Oxford Street saw warning signs of road closures, diversions and people dressed in some rather unusual costumes. Ah yes, of course, Saturday was the day of the London Pride march and rally.

With the helicopter successfully replaced, we abandoned the plan to attend the 2-00pm matinee of Much Ado and decided to watch the parade. With elbows spread along the crowd barriers outside Hamleys, we considered flying in formation with the police helicopter overhead but the batteries needed charging. At this point, with the start of the march delayed, the hippo made a tactical withdrawal to an old favourite watering hole off Carnaby Street to enjoy a pint of, what else, London Pride.

Thus refreshed and back at the barricades, the parade started with Peter Tatchell and Ken Livingston being mobbed by photographers. One pap was particularly entertaining. Desperate for a money shot, he screamed: “Go on Ken, give him a kiss.” Ken declined, smiled weakly at the cameras, lay back and thought of Boris. Then, after the inevitable bloody samba percussion band, we got to see the gorgeous frocks.

In times gone by, Pride was more confrontational than celebratory. But now, with the involvement of respectable corporate interests such as Tesco, British Airways and even Nandos, a bit of outrageous exhibitionism in Regent Street on a sunny Saturday afternoon provoked only warm smiles and encouragement from the predominately straight onlookers. If the event has become more anodyne over the years, that does not detract from the courage required to take part or the elation of human beings freely expressing their identity. The public displays of affection were still sufficiently heartfelt and the love in the air was more informative for the younger hippos than any PSHE lesson. The fact that such an event has become less shocking is testament to how far we have come in respecting the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Apart from the helicopter overhead, the only visible police presence took the form of ranks of uniformed gay and lesbian Met officers marching proudly behind gay and lesbian members of the Royal Navy, the Army and the Royal Air Force. Even leaders of the Scouting Movement, Methodists, Catholics, Sikhs, Jews and the wonderfully self-named Queer Quakers joined the march, interspersed with rugby clubs, volley ball clubs, lawyers, drag queens and roller skating lesbians. One couple pushed a pram containing a tiny baby. Affixed to the pram was a sign that read “Hatched by two chicks”. The two women were greeted with cheers and applause.

But the biggest cheer was awarded to an open topped bus full of young, gay and lesbian Muslims. Their banner read “Some Muslims are gay. Get over it.” At this point, a tear of joy had to be wiped from the hippo’s eye. There is still hope for us all.

Apart from the publicity addicts at the front in the shape of Tatchell and Livingston, other politicians dared to take part. A large contingent of Libdems and a tiny group of Tories found themselves in the now unique position of actually being applauded for their stance. In any other circumstances they would expect a barrage of boos and empty bottles. Sexuality, in seems, unifies rather than divides.

The only hint of aggression, trouble or violence came at the corner of Waterloo Place where a group of Baptists had gathered. In the true Christian spirit of compassion, understanding and the love of humanity they heckled the marchers informing them that their “deviant” life style would result in them “burning in hell” due to their “sinful abomination”. These taunts were returned with smiles, waves and the offer of a hug, all rejected by the born-agains. The hippo could not resist informing one of the evangelicals that Jesus never married and was rather friendly with John the Baptist. Have you ever seen a bright pink and very angry fundamentalist?

Dispatching that particular nutter to the deepest pit of hell was the low point of the day. The high points, however, included witnessing the sheer joy of free expression and a restoration in faith in humanity, particularly the proud parents supporting their gay and lesbian children. After all that, seeing the piece by Jeff Koons in the courtyard of the Royal Academy was slightly anti-climactic. Jeff might not be to everyone’s taste but even so, his “Coloring Book” is simply stunning.

Having replaced the toy helicopter, perhaps the best gift offered to the boy was allowing him to witness Pride. Due to his teenage peer group vocabulary, there has been a tendency for him to dismiss weak or ineffectual occurrences or ideas by saying “that is so gay”. After being hugged by a man wearing only a studded leather thong and having received a big smacker on the cheek from a six foot six drag queen, he may realise that prejudice, discrimination and intolerance is not the way forward.

After that, he is free to fly his helicopter wherever he likes.

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1 Comment »

  1. Towards the end of my first year as a student in London in 1986, a mate from Walsall was visiting and we stumbled unknowingly into the Gay Pride march whilst sight-seeing. No one cared or asked if we were gay or straight; they just encouraged us to join in. So we did and had a fabulous few hours in wonderful company. Long time ago now so my abiding memories are few. The main thing i remember though is feeling what I can only inarticulately describe as being in the middle of a lot of love and understanding.

    Glad to hear your kids had the privilege.

    Comment by Kate Goodall — July 17, 2011 @ 2:53 pm | Reply


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