I just watched a 2014 movie I don’t know how I missed, based on a true story. The film is Pride, and it chronicles the efforts of Gays and Lesbians Support the Miners, a group in London that supported the national coal miners’ strike of 1984-85 – a strike to stop the mine closures that were promoted by the Iron Lady, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, to reduce the power of the unions. The group was the brainchild of Mark Ashton, an activist with the gay rights movement in Britain (and, though the film never mentions this, he was a member of the Communist Party and General Secretary of the Young Communist League). His pitch to his comrades was that they should support the miners – despite some of the gay men having been bashed by anti-gay violence in those very communities – because the powers that be treated both groups so terribly.
The group raised and sent a ton of money to three mining communities in Wales, and then began visiting the miners and their families. There was the usual anti-gay bias on the part of some, but others welcomed them from the beginning – especially most of the women. Some of the miners’ wives visited their gay allies in London and spent a wild night going to London’s gay bars. People on both sides came to respect and care about each other.
Then a leak to the sensational press (such as it was in the pre-internet age) highlighting the gays’ support led the miners to vote to end their relationship with the group. The union eventually lost the strike.
It’s notable that this occurred as AIDS was ravaging the world, and a scene in the movie shows one gay man criticizing the group for raising funds for [anti-gay?] miners and not for the gay community.
The film ends as the gay community in the UK is putting on its annual Gay Pride march in London. Remarkably, busload after busload of miners and their families arrive to join the parade. This really happened, and I have goose bumps as I’m writing it.
As the credits roll, there are updates to the lives of the real people depicted in the film: a member of Gays and Lesbians Support the Miners, who was the first man in the UK diagnosed with HIV, was still thriving; a miner’s wife, who became a leader of the miner-gay and lesbian alliance and then went back to school was elected to Parliament from Wales; and Mark Ashton, the leader of Gays and Lesbians Support the Miners, died of AIDS at 26, just two years after the events depicted. That broke my heart.
This story offers food for thought for our current situation:
- The intersectionality (what we used to call Solidarity) is off-the-charts inspiring.
- The LGBTQ+ movement, after making many strides, is facing some of the worst backlash in decades, at least in the U.S.
- Don’t get me started on the devolution of the media.
- And coal mines across the U.S. are closing, at first due to cheaper fracked gas but now also due to cleaner and cheaper renewables. I can’t be against that, because coal is deadly not only for the climate but for the communities where it is mined, whether underground or through blowing the tops off the mountains. But the miners are not the villains, and I’ve seen their anger and fear at the prospect of losing their livelihoods. In fact, they could be heroes in their own film. It’s encouraging that among the positive measures in the Inflation Reduction Act is the extra points proposed projects get when they pay union wages for the workers hired.
And even though I gave away the plot, I highly encourage you all to watch the film for yourselves.