My uncle Cedric and my cousin Arthur died from A.I.D.S. A.I.D.S., otherwise known as Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, was a word in the 80's synonymous with mystery, disease and the gay community in America. People were so ignorant that it was believed you would contract it by simply being in the same room or breathing the same air as someone who had been diagnosed with the disease.
AIDS was a diagnosis that took the lives of hundreds of thousands like a biblical plague and the prejudice that went with it was horrid. It was hard enough being labeled as a "homosexual", but if you had A.I.D.S. or were H.I.V. positive, certain groups of people worldwide made life almost unbearable for one to survive freely as a citizen of the human race. It's interesting the types of emotions and passions that can arise out of fear...isn't it?
Summer of 1984 in the U.K., Margaret Thatcher was in power and a group of gay activists got together and formed an organization LGSM (Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners) raising money to support the families of miners during their lengthy strike of the National Union of Mineworkers. But there is a problem. The Union seems embarrassed to receive their support. Why? Because they are gay, different and assumed to be riddled with AIDS.
The activists decide to ignore the Union and go directly to the miners. They set off in a mini-bus to make their donation in person to a mining village located in deepest part of Wales...Dulais Valley. Thus, beginning an extraordinary alliance between two seemingly alien communities who form a surprising and ultimately triumphant partnership.
LGSM, with the support of the Dulais community produced a fundraiser. At the end of LGSM's infamous Pits and Perverts gig, South Wales miner David Donovan had this to say to the young activists and donators:
“You have worn our badge, “Coal not Dole”, and you know what harassment means, as we do.
Now we will pin your badge on us, we will support you. It won’t change overnight, but now 140,000 miners know that there are other causes and other problems. We know about blacks, and gays, and nuclear disarmament. And we will never be the same.”
By January 1985, there were 11 LGSM groups around the UK.
Mark Ashton was the face of LGSM and died just two years later, but he lived long enough to see his dream of gay rights becoming part of the political agenda realized. Also in 1985, the Labour Party Conference saw a motion to support equal rights for gay men and lesbians go down to the wire. It was carried only due to the block votes of the National Union of Mineworkers and its allies. With the release of PRIDE, a surge of interest has been sparked regarding Ashton's political activism and a fund in his memory has received donations of more than $16,000 since the film's release.
PRIDE is a film that only deals with the issues of gay acceptance in the UK, but touches upon the prejudices that surround being gay and the struggle for those in the closet who are not yet at peace with sharing their world with family and friends. One of the original LGSM members Jonathan Blake was one of the very first to be diagnosed with AIDS in the 80's and thanks to medical breakthroughs, is still with us today. He is portrayed brilliantly by actor Dominic West.
For aforementioned reasons, PRIDE struck a particularly huge emotional chord for me, but it also reminded me that the struggle worldwide for gay rights is still being fought. Equal Marriage for Gays and Lesbians continues to be in the forefront of daily news reports. I , for one, look forward to the day when people are viewed as human beings...NOT gay human beings, NOT black human beings, NOT transgender human beings...just SIMPLY HUMAN.
PRIDE opened in September 2014 and in in theaters now.