Pride: A movie of revolution

Pride, a 2014 adaptation of the true story of UK gay activists supporting the miners’ strike in 1984, follows LGSM – lesbians and gays support the miners – as they raise money for the strike, yet struggle to find a union to accept the money due to rampant homophobia. The film manages to explore two major revolutions of modern Britain: the miners’ strike and the gay rights movement.

In March of 1984, miners went on strike over the closure of multiple pits, which threatened thousands of jobs, as well as whole communities entirely dependent on the mines. The strikes were punctuated with battles between miners and the police, with forces being brought in from around the country to key areas, often inciting violence as a means to stop picketers and protestors.

Mark (Ben Schnetzer), one of the film’s protagonists, draws a comparison between his experience of being marginalised by the police as a member of the LGBT community and the strikers being marginalised for their protests. He asks his friends to put aside any anger they feel towards the miners, from whom several characters had received homophobic actions, to support them in their cause. For some, it’s too personal and, quite understandably, too much. But LGSM is formed and funds are raised, much of it coming from the LGBT community.

Whilst the film’s initial focus is the miners’ strike, the issues within the gay rights movement are also thoroughly explored. Through the relationships that the LGSM group forms with the small Welsh mining town, we see the dedication the group has for struggling people, despite those people not thoroughly accepting them. We also see the difficulties they face in their own lives and the challenges of being gay in a homophobic community; the difficulties of being in the closet, of not being accepted, of being hated and feared and beaten up. But also of AIDS and HIV, something new, frightening and unknown in 1984.

The discussion of AIDS, a very prevalent fear for the LGBT community in the late 1900s, becomes more frequent as the film goes on; it’s an undercurrent that is always there, becoming more and more obvious and impactful. One conversation between Jonathan (Dominic West) and Sian (Jessica Gunning) highlights the uncertainty and anxiety of being HIV positive (the real Jonathan Blake was on the brink of committing suicide because of it). In moments, it can be seen how it was used as an excuse for, or perhaps a cause of, homophobia.

But some say the AIDS crisis was the much-needed spark in the LGBT movement in the UK that galvanised people into speaking out; without it, we wouldn’t have the LGBT rights and freedoms that exist today. And it certainly did have a big impact, as governments were forced to recognise gay support organisations that were previously ignored (for example, the Thatcher government helped fund the Terrence Higgins Trust which provided care and information for AIDS). If this disease could only affect gay men, then the community knew that they would have to fight for themselves, as others would not. Unfortunately, in 1980s Britain, an illness that would wipe out ‘the gays’ was not necessarily seen as a bad thing to all. But people spoke up more and more, as the silence from the LGBT community became less optional, because it soon became clear that silence equals death.

Which to myself begs the question, was it worth it? If AIDS was the defining factor in the development of the LGBT rights that exist in Britain today, was it worth all the pain and death? Did the immense suffering of one generation reduce the suffering of the generations to come? I cannot answer this question, and I would imagine everyone would have a different answer. I can’t justify a damaging illness on the basis of social revolution, especially given the long-lived consequences it still has today and will continue to have in the future. But if the consequence of it was to reduce the emotional and physical pain of my friends and others, then I can at least be grateful to those who used it as a basis to fight. As I can be grateful to the miners and LGSM, whose friendship forged the basis for enshrining LGBT rights in law.

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May 2022
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