At some point in our lives, we all feel proud. Whether it be accomplishing goals or simply being proud to have friends or family in your lives, we’ve all felt proud about something. To the LGBT community, pride is more than an emotion. It’s a living, breathing entity that fuels us and brings us together. Pride isn’t just a word to us, it’s who we are. It’s taken years of pioneering to bring the LGBT community to where it is today, and we honour that by celebrating Pride every year.
This year, Manchester Pride left me with a mixed bag of emotions. On one hand, I felt so proud to be a part of Pride and volunteer to help spread the message of equality and acceptance of the LGBT community, and on the other I couldn’t help but feel a wave of disappointment that was very hard to shake. Overall, I took a lot of positivity from Pride this year, but certain experiences have opened my eyes to how much needs to change in order to ensure the message of Pride doesn’t get lost.
Being in the Pride Parade was absolutely fantastic. Seeing thousands of people lined up to cheer the parade floats and marches was really inspiring, but as we made our way through the parade route, I couldn’t help but notice the crowd’s enthusiasm beginning to wane. You’d think if you turn up to see a parade you’d be a little bit more excited, instead, it was hard to read what energy they were bringing. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of the people in crowds were phenomenal and really cheered the parade on, but I felt like it wasn’t for the reasons that it should have been.
Seeing parade floats promoting supermarkets and banks really pisses me off, because it has nothing to do with our cause and everything to do with exploiting it for their commercial gain. It very well may be that certain organisations are supportive of the LGBT community, but I would much rather see parade floats covered in powerful messages of acceptance such as celebrating transgender individuals and #BlackLivesMatter instead of telling us who to buy our groceries from.
As I stood waiting for the parade to begin, I glanced over at some of the parade goers and saw a placard with a picture of Harvey Milk and felt so incredibly inspired. Here was a person holding up the face of one the most pioneering LGBT figures and all I could think was ‘Harvey’s face deserves so much more than a little placard’. It was then that I started to see how much Pride has changed over the years.
A lot of people forget, or don’t even realise, that Pride isn’t some carnival to come and see. Pride is, and always has been, a protest. Pride began as a protest in New York back in 1969 when iconic figures like Marsha P. Johnson took a stand and started a revolution. Since then, Pride has always been a protest to let society know that we are proud of who we are and that we aren’t going anywhere. We show this by showcasing our undiluted individuality and not apologising for expressing who we are.
I appreciate that these days the message of Pride may not be like it used to be, but when did it become okay to use Pride as a ploy to plug goods and services instead of letting the LGBT community express what Pride really means? I look at the events at Stonewall that started Pride and see how the voices of those who refused to be silenced have impacted the LGBT community so profoundly, that it saddens me to think that those voices are now falling on deaf ears.
After the parade, I continued my volunteer work and was able to experience the atmosphere on Canal Street as the festivities continued. I was disappointed to see that as the hours went by, the only thing most people were interested in was how drunk they could get. By late afternoon, the vibe of The Village soon descended into chaos and I found myself stood amongst women urinating behind cars, heavily drunk groups of people acting obnoxiously and men feeling the need to approach me using sexually inappropriate language. Is this Pride? I get that people want to have a good time, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but I didn’t feel even an ounce of Pride when trying to interact with people, which was such a shame.
I did however take a lot of positively from Pride when working with other volunteers and staff, who truly believe in making a positive difference. It’s because of organisations like the LGBT Foundation that the message of equality, support and awareness of important issues are spread across Manchester. I had a fantastic time working with some of the most interesting and spirited individuals that wholly believe in the Foundation’s cause. The LGBT Foundation has done so much for the community, not just at Pride, but every single day of the year.
I always try to find ways of showing my pride as a transgender woman of colour. Just recently, I searched online to find a trans pride pin that I could wear at work. I searched online and found several inspiring pins, but soon found myself looking at pins saying things like ‘DIE CIS SCUM’, which really disturbed me.
Now for those who may not be aware, Cisgender is the term used to identify a person whose gender identity corresponds with their biological sex. I’ve had a few people tell me that they don’t like being labelled as cisgender and a part of me understands, because I know how it feels to have labels put me so society can figure me out. On the other hand, I don’t like the fact that the term cisgender is being used more frequently in a negative way, almost as a way of identifying the enemy.
Transphobia is a serious matter, I’m 100% aware of this, but I’m not going to combat that by alienating an entire set of people because some of them are against the LGBT community. It’s heartbreaking to see so many trans lives taken in horrific ways, or to see anybody be made to feel that they don’t have the right to live their life with dignity and respect, and it’s perfectly natural, and downright necessary, to get angry about it. This is what Pride is about, standing up and making our voices heard. It’s okay to get angry, but don’t let anger turn into hatred.
When we allow hatred into our lives, it spreads like cancer and consumes us, taking us to a place that leaves little room for rationality. I don’t think that cis people are the enemy, but I do believe that there are people who try to bring transgender individuals down and it’s those people that we must stand up against. Our actions speak louder than using derogatory terms that put our allies and friends in the same box as those who mean to do us harm, and that’s not fair.
The Pride movement needs a serious makeover because I feel the true message of Pride is starting to fade and it’s upsetting to see. I don’t want Pride to be associated with hatred or commercial gain. I don’t want the LGBT community building walls against the world or even worse, against each other within the LGBT community. The whole point of Pride is to continue the message of those who came before us. The message that was created through the actions of protest, unity and strength.
Don’t fuck that message up! It’s too important to fuck up, especially when almost 50 years since the first Pride march, we still find ourselves combating bathroom laws against transgender individuals, countries executing people because of their sexuality and countless innocent lives taken in the name of homophobia and transphobia. Enough is enough!
It’s our duty as LGBT people and allies to keep the true message of Pride alive. It’s time to shake things up and get back to what Pride really means. It’s time to take action against those in power who are doing the real damage against us. I’ve said time and time again that I’m not ashamed of being transgender, and I don’t see it as some sort of bad label. I even showcased that message in a recent photography exhibition I was privileged to be a part of, because I wanted people to know that I have nothing to be ashamed of.
The fight of equality and inclusivity is never ending, but if we stand together as a community and with the allies that continue to support us, we can accomplish so much. Just look at what we’ve accomplished already. All you need to do is take a look at our history and you’ll see the many people who shaped the way we live today by taking a stand. It may be a small thing you do today, but it can make a huge difference to someone else in the future.
Prejudice is an ugly thing. It’s something the LGBT community has encountered for hundreds of years. As we move forward, let’s remember that positive change can only come with positive thinking. Be angry, have a voice, but use that voice to make a change instead of turning toward hatred. Don’t let hatred in, it has no place amongst such beauty that is the LGBT community.
We are beauty. We are power. We are Pride.