On the 6 July 2019 an estimated 1.5 million people descended on the capital to celebrate Pride in London. This year’s event marked 50 years since the first Stonewall uprising in New York and was an opportunity for all involved to mark and celebrate the wide range of diversity through all walks of life including our Armed Forces. More than 30,000 people from 600 groups, organisations and businesses were taking part in the event, which this year had a theme of Pride Jubilee. Proudly leading the tri-Service contingent of this parade was the Central Band of the Royal Air Force.
Pride is a global movement which supports equal rights for all LGBTQ+ people throughout the world. As well as an opportunity to raise awareness, it is also a huge celebration of the advances in diversity and inclusion in our society up to today. This celebration is particularly prevalent in our Armed Forces as since the year 2000, gay and lesbian citizens have been allowed to serve openly in the military. The Ministry of Defence (MOD) has justifiably recognised the valuable contribution LGBTQ+ personnel make. Indeed, we have come so far that all three Services are featured in the Stonewall Top 100 LGBTQ+ employers in the United Kingdom. For many, Pride in London was an opportunity to rejoice in this, celebrate how far things have come and to truly be proud of who they are.
Led by Central Band, the military contingent of the parade was made up of serving LGBTQ+ personnel from the Army, Navy and the RAF. Marching alongside them and MOD civilian staff was Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt who previously welcomed those participating in the event at the Victory Services Club, London.
Defence Secretary, Penny Mordaunt said:
The participation of our LGBT+ Service personnel in the London Pride Parade is a fantastic reflection and recognition of the value they bring. The armed forces is an open and welcome employer, and we are absolutely committed to increasing diversity across the forces to reflect the society we serve. Today is the day to thank those LGBT+ personnel who work so hard to serve their country, and I was honoured to meet and march alongside so many of you today.
Before the parade commenced, Central Band, under the baton of their Director of Music, Flight Lieutenant Chris I’Anson, had the pleasure of entertaining the crowds. The spectators were treated to such inclusive classics as This is me from The Greatest Showman as well as other rousing audience participation songs such as Tom Jones’ Delilah.
When the parade stepped off, as well as the usual musical staples, the marching troops and enthusiastically supportive onlookers were highly entertained when the Band unexpectedly broke into such ‘camp classics’ as Copacabana and YMCA. In fact, Senior Aircraftman Tim Ieraci said;
One of the highlights of my whole career was seeing thousands of people at Piccadilly Circus doing the choreography to YMCA while the Band played along.
The parade concluded with the tri-Service contingent paying their respects to the fallen at the Cenotaph on Whitehall; a truly poignant moment and yet another reason why many LGBTQ+ personnel were marching that day.
Article: Corporal John Brown