LGBTQ+ History Month 2023 – No Pride in War
We want to make sure LGBTQ+ histories are represented in our collection all year round, which is why we’ve incorporated the objects we used in our Peace OUT exhibition in 2019 into our permanent collections. This LGBTQ+ History month, we wanted to shine a spotlight on one of these objects and the story of the movement behind it.
In Peace OUT, we looked at LGBTQ+ activism as peacemaking, focusing on how people working for equal rights are engaging in a form of peacemaking. There are also places however where LGBTQ+ activism and what we would traditionally consider as peace activism cross over, such as with the No Pride in War campaign. We have this object from their campaign in our collection:
The No Pride in War network is a culmination of several different groups, and also has many individual non-associated members. This includes the Peace Pledge Union, LGBTQ+ groups such as Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants, and anti-military groups such as Campaign Against Arms Trade. This poster was created to show the group’s opposition to the presence of the Red Arrows at pride in London in 2016, the event around which the network originally formed.
Here’s a clip of Rachel Melly, who was interviewed as part of our Peace OUT project about her experience campaigning against the arms trade and for LGBTQ+ rights:
The Red Arrows are a famous Royal Air Force aerobatics display team, and No Pride in War argued that the presence of such a military display at pride was unacceptable given the history of discrimination within the armed forces, and their objectives more broadly. As they stated on the Facebook page for a vigil in response to the 2016 display:
“On a day that commemorates and celebrates the courageous struggles of past and present LGBTQ individuals and communities against oppression and violent prejudice, we find it deeply offensive that the event is providing a platform for the RAF to sanitise its image and divert attention away from its role in executing British military objectives across the world, and the human suffering that such operations involve.”
This comment about the RAF “sanitising their image” reflects one of the key issues No Pride in War have continued to focus on: the pinkwashing of companies and military organisations. ‘Pinkwashing’ here refers to a process in which organisations align themselves with LGBTQ+ causes, whether this is through appearing at or sponsoring an event such as pride, or something as small as changing their logo to a rainbow version for pride month, in order to present themselves as ethical. Activists often criticize this action as being hypocritical, especially in cases where the actions of these organisations explicitly harm LGBTQ+ communities around the world.
Another one of the key organisations No Pride in War have focused their energy on since 2016 is BAE Systems, one of the world’s largest arms companies, who have sponsored pride events across the country. This includes three Pride marches in 2019, and Leeds Pride in 2022. No Pride in War argue that this is an attempt to appear ethical from BAE, while they continue to sell arms to regimes around the world that systematically persecute, torture and even kill LGBTQ+ people, and that they should not be allowed to have a presence at such events.
© Peace Pledge Union, 2018
No Pride in War have continued to campaign against their involvement, and that of the military more generally with some success. Protests over military involvement at York Pride in 2018 meant that there was no official military present at the event the following year, and after a petition and protests against BAE sponsorship in Surrey in 2019 there was no arms industry sponsorship in 2021 or 2022. Diva magazine, a magazine for lesbian and bisexual women, also dropped BAE Systems from its awards shortlist after criticism from No Pride in War and other human rights campaigners in 2019.
“BAE Systems is happy to present a good face by showcasing employee diversity and sponsoring Pride events, it clearly does not regard women and LGBTQ+ people as important in countries it does business with, some with institutionalised discrimination and violence against them.”
From the petition launched to urge the organisers of Surrey Pride to drop BAE systems.
No Pride in War is a good example of how LGBTQ+ issues intersect with peace issues, and of groups with different aims coming together to tackle something which effects all of their members.
You can learn more about the No Pride in War Network, and see photos from some of their campaigns, as part of our digital Peace OUT exhibition here: No Pride in War | Peace Out (peaceoutexhibition.com)