Pride for All?
At Be: Trans Support and Development we are very aware of the different roles which we have to take, often simultaneously. Whilst our training, education and research work is vital, and improves the lives of Trans people across the North East and beyond, our support work is no less important. Through our groups, both on line, and off, Trans people have an opportunity to build community, share concerns, knowledge and experience.
In facilitating our support groups in various spaces it has been impossible to miss a concern being expressed by many, prompted perhaps by the time of year. The question comes in many forms but can be summed up as “Will I be welcome at Pride.” One simply has to look at some recent events to see why Trans people may be asking themselves this question. The Pride in London campaign #LoveHappensHere has been written about by a number of publications. Any campaign which focuses on romantic attraction immediately excludes Trans people, although of course some of us are lesbian, gay and bisexual too. When the posters to accompany the campaign were released, people were quick to spot that whilst allies were mentioned a number of times, Trans people were only mentioned twice, as if an afterthought, or less important than straight cis allies.
If this were the only situation of a Pride event failing to be genuinely inclusive of Trans people perhaps we could reassure those asking. Unfortunately it is far more usual than it should be. Only this year we have had Blackpool Pride labelling the Trans Zone as “adults only” and we hear constantly of people feeling uncomfortable, or even experiencing transphobia and transmisogny at Pride events. The largest Pride in the North East, Northern Pride’s, Newcastle Pride. did have a Trans Zone, but have dropped it, seeming to prefer pet shows and corporate sponsorship to making sure Trans people feel welcome. We of course understand how important sponsorship is under austerity but we would ask those sponsors to check exactly how inclusive the organisations they are supporting are. It does not feel, to us, to be acceptable that our local Pride event mentions drag acts 18 times in its guide, but not transphobia once.
We see ourselves as critical friends here. We do not believe that those volunteers organising Prides up and down the country set out to exclude Trans people. However, they must start engaging with Trans people and Trans organisations. They need to accept that their own internal biases will mean that they will not be able to be inclusive unless they include Trans people, openly, visibly and with an understanding that we often do need special accommodations and support. It was worrying to read Northern Pride claiming “LGBT people are not asking for special treatment” as if there were a level playing field for all LGBT people. Prides need changing rooms, Trans zones, training for staff, education and cultural competency if they are to be somewhere that Trans people feel safe and welcome. Until there is a level playing field we will continue to fight to ensure Trans voices are heard.
If you would like to talk to us about making your Pride event more inclusive you can contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org