St Albans Pub Pride: Why we need to tackle monkeypox prejudice

This weekend is St Albans Pub Pride.

This weekend is St Albans Pub Pride. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

I literally cannot believe what I am seeing and hearing. Stories about the outbreak of monkeypox in Hertfordshire accompanied by a barrage of racist and homophobic comments which have required constant scrutiny of our Facebook feeds.

Anybody who has seen the popular and poignant It's a Sin series will have been touched by its compelling look at how the HIV virus impacted the gay community in the 1980s.

Take the character of Jill - she is not gay herself but she stands by her friends as one-by-one they die of AIDS before her eyes. I strongly identify with her character, not in terms of heroism but the hassle and lack of understanding that she faces for being an ally. The fact she opens herself up to condemnation just through being naturally empathic. 

I wondered when I watched it... had she not been mixed race and female would Jill have sat so closely with the pained men as they were torn to shreds by a disease that took the lives of thousands? I find some comfort in sitting among the broken, being broken myself. Think Jesus rather than Florence.

I mean... like to think that now understanding, compassion and tolerance for minority groups is as standard as... a very standard thing... but prejudice can be subtle and cunning.  

This is the thing, I have realised recently, about tribalism. Not because of a tokenistic lefty nod towards inclusion but because that is where my tribe is. The difference is the thing that makes us the same. (I'll give an example so it doesn't just sound like bollocks.)

As a sober person, child of an alcoholic father and slightly neurotic mother, I am not phased when I meet a gambler or a sex addict. I tend to see it as all the same thing really. A hole in the soul type scenario. 

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When I hear people make 'jokes' about alcoholism, I know that there is a whole assumed world of what that looks like often pieced together by people who truly have no idea about the reality. That is where stereotypes fuel discrimination.

HIV is not a gay illness, China is not responsible for COVID and when footballers miss goals it is nothing to do with the colour of their skin. Yet here we are again, seeing a torrent of abuse reminiscent of bananas being thrown onto the pitch. I have had to field ridiculous Facebook remarks by bigoted individuals desperate to further stigmatise gay and black people, on the back of the recent monkeypox outbreak. 

Compounded by images of black hands covered in pus-filled boils and a green flag for homophobes everywhere.

Why might we not challenge undercurrents of prejudice? 

I think people maybe worry that by standing alongside someone, they might be drawing attention to the difference. That by noticing it we think it makes us appear racist or homophobic. But it’s a bit like when someone loses a close family member and people think it’s best not to ‘remind’ them that their child/mother has died. But they have not forgotten. That is their reality. Day in and day out.

And what better time is there to be showing solidarity to fellow humankind? A perfect example of taking action to stand against intolerance and prejudice is our very own Danny Clare who launched St Albans Pub Pride, a movement which has now become a national event.

It was put together to allow pubs to welcome the LGBTQ+ community and highlight their commitment to diversity, as well as engaging with young people who might not previously have taken part in Pride events. 

Today (Friday May 27) will see activities and events across the city and rest of the country, all because of Danny's vision, dedication and ridiculous amounts of hard work.

What better occasion to throw questions of prejudice into the public arena?