Herald Article: Pride and Frustration

This article appeared in the Herald newspaper today.

I will be joining the Pride Glasgow march this weekend with mixed feelings – pride at how much has been achieved and concern at how much that needs to be done.

I’ll be marching with hopes high that before Pride comes around next year, the Scottish Parliament will have passed new laws to allow same-sex couples to marry. Marriage law is one of the greatest barriers to equality for gay people in Scotland. Access to marriage isn’t the only big change gay people need. However, it remains such a big prize for gay campaigners because those marching through Glasgow all know how much social attitudes have softened since civil partnerships came in and all hope for even more once same-sex marriage is part of our common life.

Changes to the law are hugely welcome, but still don’t represent equality – just ask any gay couple wanting to get married in church on the same basis as the straight couple sitting in the pew next to them. The overly cautious legislation that will be passed next year is a consequence of politicians still giving credence to religious voices of intolerance.

Another issue that still needs a lot of work is access to education free from prejudice. It means education authorities and individual schools working on homophobic bullying. Part of the means of achieving that is to ensure that gay teachers in schools are able to be the role models that both gay and straight kids need. Those teachers need to know that they can live outside school time without fear of what might happen in school if their relationships are known about.

Notwithstanding the high spirits that are a feature of every Pride march, I’ll be marching to express a good dose of anger and frustration. Every Pride is a celebration but every Pride is a protest too. This time the most immediate part of the world which is causing concern is Russia. President Putin’s sudden recent crackdown against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people has been brutal, unexpected and frightening and greatly under-reported in the mainstream media in the UK. Glasgow’s Lord Provost’s letter to her opposite number in twinned Rostov-on-Don this week is welcome but far too weak. She has invited a delegation from Russia to “share more of our good experience of working to include LGBT citizens as a valued part of our city”. Meanwhile, Glasgow’s actual LGBT citizens might be rather puzzled, given the history and demise of the LGBT centre in the city, as to how that support is being expressed.

This weekend at Pride, I’ll be marching, as usual, with thousands of others. This time, though, I’ll be marching with members of my own congregation. There will be several older members coming along to march in support of their gay and lesbian children and grandchildren. I’ll be marching alongside a couple whose civil partnership I’ll be blessing in a couple of weeks as they make their journey towards legal marriage. Alongside me there will be clergy from my own Scottish Episcopal Church and ecumenical friends in the crowd in clerical-collars answering all the usual questions that arise about how to find a church that is open, inclusive and welcoming to all. I’ll also be walking alongside a young straight couple who have told me they want to bring their toddler, a member of the Young Church at St Mary’s Cathedral. They want to be able to tell him he was at Pride the year of the legislation allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry. My earliest memory is of being woken by my parents to see the moon landings. These days, for some parents bringing up children, equalizing the law on marriage is the equivalent kind of life defining moment.

And I’ll be marching with LGBT folk from my congregation too; people who work and struggle and pray for justice in the church and beyond. I march this year because I’m immensely proud of them all.

Tales of the City #9

The scene is Great Western Road, at 10 am – just after morning prayer. A street cleaner in a council jacket runs down the street hollaring at me after morning prayer

Street Cleaner: “Oi, oi!”

I turn wondering what I’ve done.

Self: “Um, yes?”

Street Clearner: “Was it youse that was in the paper? It was, it was youse”

I wait expecting a stream of Glasgow invective.

His eyes light up, he beams a toothless smile and responds: “Hey man, hey, that was just great.”

He’s referring to this piece in the Herald.