The organizers of London’s annual Pride march announced on June 6 that they have banned the LGBTI group of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) from joining the June 27 celebration. UKIP, a right-wing populist party that won the third largest number of total votes in the most recent election, has a track record of marginalizing or opposing LGBT issues. Nearly 2,400 people signed a petition last week to remove them from the event, and the directors acquiesced, citing safety concerns as the primary reason.
Many prominent LGBTI rights campaigners have been outspoken about supporting the decision, arguing that UKIP’s history of homophobia, transphobia, and misogyny and stance on gay marriage means that their participation goes against the very spirit of Pride.
“If you don’t support gay equality, I don’t see how you have a right to march in the parade,” Peter Tatchell said in a BBC interview on June 8.
But Edwin Sesange, an LGBTI Ugandan activist who is the director of Out and Proud Diamond Group, an organization that supports sexual minority African asylum seekers in the UK, feels differently. This is an edited version of a conversation with him from June 6, 2015.
Why are you campaigning for UKIP’s right to participate in Pride?
The road to LGBT equality is full of skid marks and skepticism. You cannot look for tolerance while displaying intolerance.
And you don’t find UKIP’s values inherently at odds with a Pride celebration?
We might feel uncomfortable with UKIP members marching with us, but if we’re uncomfortable with their presence, just imagine how they feel being part of a party represented by Nigel Farage. If they’re finding comfort in us, they don’t need rejection. Some [LGBTI] people oppose them, some people stand against them, but we really need to stand with them and be by their side.
But some would say that while sexual identity is not a choice, your political party is.
People are entitled to their own political opinions. We can’t make decisions on who all LGBTI people should support. What kind of message are we sending to people whose views we want to change? We are the minority, but we need the majority to be on our side.
So what would you say to the LGBTI activists who want to ban them?
What will people say about the gay community and how we’re treating UKIP? Is that the kind of community you’d want to support? We’ve been the target of so much hate, but we want people to change their views.
It is very brave for these people to come out [and join Pride]. They know how their party feels about them, but they’re still coming out and that is a big step. Do we want to lose those allies?