50 years after the Stonewall uprising in New York, it would have been difficult for some to find the revolution amongst the big corporation sponsored floats at London Pride 2019. They were all here, about 200 private companies, but they shall remain unnamed because we are going to talk about something bigger and much more important.
At the end of the plastic rainbows, no pots of gold were to be found. Instead, there stood the London Bi Pandas. The Bi Pandas are an LGBTQIA+ activist group. With monthly get-togethers, they work hard on building an inclusive and safe community for all, regardless of gender.
The group was marching alongside their float at London Pride for the very first time. They came here to, ‘chew bubble gum and kick ass’, and they were all out of bubble gum. Their message was clear: Pride is a protest – and this more than ever.
Dressed in black and white, they held their placards high up in the air for everyone to see. They were on a mission to erase all the stigmas around bisexuality and to challenge capitalism. The mission was accomplished. All around, other protesters and watchers cheered them on, chanting and clapping as they made their way through Oxford Street.
Monroe, who made it all happen for the Pandas was marching their first parade, “Every time I saw someone point to one of our placards, every thumbs up, every excited jump, every happy wave, every fist punched into the air as people in the crowds saw us go by – it made me feel like we did the right thing. The response to the float was electric, and it truly felt like in the moment that we could change the world.”
Being one of the only true activist floats was a true challenge, but the unity within the group and the support they showed each other was their strength. In 2019, queers around the world are still fighting to be seen, heard, and respected. Max, another founding member, says, “I think the Bi Pandas represented so much more than queer visibility – our presence was a fierce demand to be taken seriously as queers that inhabit every corner of the social ladder with some very real concerns.
There is no true equality unless there is equality for all people, including our working class queers, our queers of colour, our trans queers and our queers seeking asylum. This is what the London Bi Pandas represents to me.”
Once the float reached Trafalgar Square, the reactions within the Bi Pandas was unanimous. Iris has been in the parade almost every year for the last decade, “Marching with the pandas felt much bigger than existing as an individual, and it felt more important than with groups I’ve marched with in the past.
It felt like we were providing a real message, and one that really resonated with the crowds. It was amazing to be a part of something that was beyond politely asking to be allowed to be seen, and instead riotously demanding things far beyond the acceptable realm of “love is love”.
Standing tall against the system and the corporations was an empowering experience. It was good to be reminded of how urgent it is to keep protesting and to keep fighting for the rights of all human beings. The London Bi Pandas are paving the way for a better future, given the reactions of the crowd to their first float, they are heading in the right direction.
Words and Photography by Pauline Di Silvestro at London Pride 2019 with London Bi Pandas on 6th July 2019