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Transphobia at Pride

Updated: 3 days ago

(aka we will no longer put up with this shit)


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“You all tell me, go and hide my tail between my legs. I will no longer put up with this shit. I have been beaten, I have had my nose broken, I have been thrown in jail, I have lost my job, I have lost my apartment. For gay liberation, and y’all treat me this way? What the fuck’s wrong with you all?” – Sylvia Rivera, New York City Pride, 1973.[1]

 

At her speech at New York City Pride in 1973, Sylvia Rivera was met with the jeers of white cis gay men apparently too occupied with themselves at Pride to recognise the very woman who fought for them.

 

Her place on stage should have been applauded with the courage, heart, and resolution that she embodied. Instead, her presence received childish pursuits of alienation and ‘phobia’.

 

Yet the supposed purpose of Pride is that of celebration, visibility, and unity. To be inclusive of all who embrace the warmth of equality: where everyone can tell their story, be heard, and experience a euphoria delegated only to those spaces where we are loved. 

 

What celebration can be held amidst the attendance of transphobic political parties; harassment from security; the fear to speak openly about harmful experiences; rising prices of attendance, food and drink, while the cost of living and trans healthcare soars; as ‘the right people’ are cheered on like heroes, while you’re left to cope with rife transphobia reverberating from all around you? Where is the queer community in that?

 

It’s apparent that several Prides across the world in 2024 are still enjoying a transphobic tradition, as well as a great deal of other problems.


The purpose of this article is to name specific dangers within Pride, (re)calling to account those either unbothered by our complaints or ignorant to the issues committed. 

 

Many trans people have given up on - or have never even attended - Prides non-specific to transness and/or anti-capitalism: not only fed up with transphobia, but of blatant ableism, racism, colonialism, and capitalism. With or without our attendance, transphobic Prides shouldn’t be left to celebrate in our name. Nor should they function in the very same capacity that forced us away in the first place, repeating harm to others. 


 

The (unfortunately very outspoken) presence of feminism-appropriating radical transphobes at Pride.


For example, those that headed the march (or ‘parade’) at London Pride in 2018[2] and at Leeds Pride in 2019. [3] Both Prides were met with brilliant response: the organisers of London Trans Pride went to great lengths in 2019 to introduce the first exclusive Trans Pride protest, [4] and Leeds Pride’s attendees shut radical transphobes down on the spot.

 

For attendees of these Prides in particular, discussion of said events might even be a tired topic. It should go without saying that transphobia isn’t only present through a gathering of like-minded bigots: but through institutions, cultures, leadership, capitalism, security, and a lack of the community care that 2SLGBTQIA+ spaces are fond of for very important reasons. 

 

It’s clear that some Prides are conservative in their efforts to ignore the changing landscape that is trans liveability. 


To at once call themselves pro-trans, whilst increasing cost of attendance during a time of financial crisis and soaring trans healthcare - and investing space in violently transphobic parties.(Some Prides disallow food and drink, requiring attendees to buy pricey sustenance, whilst some others require tickets to attend - or both.) 

 

Conservative parties are a large transphobic presence at Pride - accepted and celebrated (as is the Pride fashion) at numerous locations. Thankfully, some UK Prides have been quick to issue bans to conservative Parties, such as Warwickshire Pride in 2023.[5]

 

In a statement released in October 2023, Warwickshire Pride stated that:

 

“Trans people are under increasing attack, which is now being sanctioned and led by the Conservative [Tory] government. We will not stand for this.”[6]

When the Tory Party met peaceful protesters at York Pride in 2017, they described the presence of the trans sign-holders as ‘intimidating’ to the point that “it would not be safe for them to return.”


Inviting hatred against the protesters themselves, the Tories felt it appropriate to upload images of the ‘intimidating’ sign-holders while speaking of their violence and unrelated instances of anti-semitism among the far left.[7]

 

The protesters in question were put at risk for voicing their opinions on the party’s transphobic policies, but York Pride’s response wasn’t to remove the Tories from attending Pride in any capacity.


It was to punish the peaceful protesters, by refusing to let them attend future events in any official capacity. It might be of no surprise that York Pride saw the attendance of the DUP the following year.


It’s certain that we mustn’t ignore any political party with conservative and transphobic ideas. We must hold to account other parties, such as UK's Green Party, [8] and Labour Party.[9],[10]

 

This year, trans community groups & local businesses are demanding Brighton Pride to follow Bristol Pride and Trans Pride Southwest to ban “transphobic political parties from participating in the march”.[11]


This includes Brighton and Hove’s Labour councillor, who is outspoken in her hatred of trans women and trans rights. “I am deeply sorry for the hurt caused by this,”[12] said the councillor in 2023, meanwhile ‘this’ refers to “’#transwomenareMEN’ and support[ing] claims that trans peoples’ rights erase women’s rights.”


Meanwhile, she retains her position as a Councillor for Brighton and Hove’s Labour Party.

 

It seems worth asking, then: why would Warwickshire, Bristol, et al. uninvite the Tory Party when others would readily invite them over protests from within the community?


What justification is there for the attendance of the Tory Party at any Pride in 2024, especially to the detriment of the safety of trans people? 

 


Perhaps, most importantly, we should be discussing whether it is at all safe for trans people to speak about transphobia at Pride. Apparently the answer is ‘no’. 

 

Last year, Sarah Jane Baker was arrested for telling a crowd to punch TERFs at a Trans Pride protest in London.[13]

 

Her charge, though later found innocent,[14] was for ‘encouraging assault’.[15]  Only five years before, you might remember, did radical transphobes lead the London Pride protest: a physical barrage on the very spaces supposed to protect trans people. 

 

As far as we’re aware, Sarah Jane Baker is still inside a prison for men, without access to oestrogen and encouragement for testosterone amounting to conversion therapy.[16] This means that Sarah Jane Baker has spent ten months in prison for a crime she has been cleared of - for using the words ‘punch TERFs’. 

 

 

Transphobic security at Pride is a question of insecurity - and is anything in place for people to complain about it? 

 

At Newcastle Pride 2023, official attendees were misgendered and searched repeatedly by security. 

 

“We both blatantly had our staff ID badges on [...] at the same entry/exit point, the security staff searched her (and never me!).”
“Through the event, I felt like queerness was a spectacle being exhibited by cis straight people and staffed by cis straight people. I didn't come across anyone who enjoyed it that day, to be honest.”

 

If Prides cannot hire or educate staff to treat trans people with general human respect, what does that reflect? What action is there to take, other than to create our own spaces?



Trans Pride Birmingham’s resolve to set up in 2022 was partially in response to the ableism and transphobia of security staff.

 

“Trans Pride Birmingham was originally set up due to the inaccessibility, ableism, racism and transphobia experienced at the commercial Birmingham Pride. This includes them having a police presence at Pride, and security services being transphobic and ableist.” 

 

It’s important to look at the areas of funding available for the attendees of Pride, as well as what the Pride is sponsored by.


Some Prides give out small grants, or permit for free, charitable organisations that benefit the community. Some Prides are funded by arms trade and oil companies, and those with ties to anti-2SLGBTQIA groups. 

 

One anonymous trans charity explained that they were denied a space at their local Pride due to concerns around transphobia.

 

Trans Pride Birmingham posted a call-out to boycott Birmingham Pride for sponsorships “complicit in the occupation and genocide of Palestine,” such as Amazon, Mondelez, McDonalds, and HSBC; a company with


“£100 million worth of shares in Caterpillar, who make equipment used to demolish Palestinian homes and build settlements for the Zionist entity.”[17]

 

“We have plenty of small grassroots trans organisations which rarely get the spotlight for the amazing work they do! These include us of course, Trans Tea Room, Birmingham Non-Binary Group, Transanctuary, Outcast Stomp, and Crush LGBTQIA+.”


 

 

Camouflaged within rainbows of Pride celebrations is all-too-often the Othering of those deemed unimportant to the purposes of capitalist queerness - where the tolerance of intolerance is welcome alongside figures of violence, and sometimes even violence itself. ‘Performative queerness’, rainbow capitalism, distorts the very foundations of what it means to be queer: to abhor normativity and in so doing fight at all levels against it. 

 

Simply flying a trans flag isn’t trans allyship, nor is symbolism always a revolutionary - or even a reformist - act. 


The efforts we make, should strive to make, as trans organisations are far from surface level: to criticise the very structures upon which we’re dependent, within and without our communities. To ensure that we work with no person or body that doesn’t align with our ideals of intersectionality, safety, and mutual well-being (to name a few). To do so is not always easy, as all organisers know; but what conscience, what safety, is to be found in the harm and appropriation of communities? 

 

We urge all Prides to ensure that they are not funded by exploitative bodies and organisations - including those directly or indirectly involved in the trade of arms and/or fossil fuels; directly or indirectly involved in international crimes such as child labour, forced labour, slavery, torture, extra-judicial killing, the pillaging of natural resources; and directly or indirectly involved in the promotion of queerphobic, ethnocentric, ableist, racist, transphobic, interphobic, homophobic materials, propaganda, and/or violence with regards to this as an un-encompassing list of all atrocities committed in the name of colonialism, consumerism, and supremacy. 

 

We urge all Prides to work closely with and help to fund exploited and minoritised communities; to disinvite anti-abolitionist institutions; to apologise to communities and individuals that they have harmed; to rework their complaints processes for accessibility, care and community justice; to ensure that all staff are appropriate for their spaces, and not to be racist, transphobic, misogynistic, homophobic, ableist, and/or queerphobic. 


 

Sources


[6] Ibid.

[8] Albeit Sian Berry spoke out against this on 20th March 2024. https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/sian-berry-green-party-mp-caroline-lucas-transphobia/


By Dorian Rose.

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