Now, I broach this with some trepidation because I have been met with some considerable hostility when I've voiced my opinion about this subject this summer. In fact, I've been bullied into (a short) silence and lost a number of friendships over it. But, anyway, let us start at the beginning...
I went to Sparkle at the beginning of July. I went on the Friday and the Sunday but not the Saturday.
On Friday, I met up with some friends and we went for a meal and, in truth, saw very little of Sparkle.
On the Sunday I arrived in the afternoon, met up with some friends and went to the Sparkle Closing Meal.
Over the weekend, having had a look at the program of events and judging from my own experience of this year's Sparkle, I concluded that Sparkle had come up short of my expectations of something that bills itself as the "National Transgender Celebration" because I felt it only gave token regard to the full Transgender spectrum and concentrated almost exclusively on the female spectrum.
In doing so, I exempted my friends from blame (knowing how hard they'd worked on things) and pointed to what I call the "Tranniati" - the clique who lord it over everyone else - as those I held responsible.
That did not stop all but one of my friends who had been involved in organising it from taking what I said very personally indeed.
I was shocked at the level of abuse I received and I ended a number of friendships because of it because, in my world, friends don't treat each other like that.
To go further, I thought it incredibly unprofessional of them.
In the professional world, if you're ill and can't fulfil your obligations, you ask for help and get someone else to take up the slack. In the professional world you don't personally abuse your customers when they complain. In the professional world, if a customer says that things aren't as they expected, you don't reply, "Well, if you think you can do any better, come and do it yourself!".
The reason why should be obvious: If you upset your customers, they tend to go elsewhere.
That is certainly the case with me - I have been upset, I am still upset, and I will not be going back to Sparkle next year.
The second of the two Prides that I felt was exclusionary was this weekend's Liverpool Pride.
The reason why can be pointed almost entirely at it's decision to charge for 99% of it.
I am certain that in some people's minds they think LGBT people are affluent (e.g. "The Pink Pound") but, actually, this is a myth. Research has shown time and time again that poverty is at higher rates amongst LGBT people than the rest of society.
To me, this is logical. Even in this country, LGBT people are likely to face prejudice on a daily basis. Prejudice that causes them to be kicked out of their homes by their families (and sometimes by their unscrupulous landlord) and prejudice that prevents them from getting a job.
In fact, poverty is at such a scale amongst LGBT people that it is being investigated by The World Bank!
And, yet, the organisers of nearly every Pride in this country are charging LGBT people to attend their own Pride - an event that should be about all LGBT people coming together in unity and celebration!
And the prices aren't cheap either!
Brighton Pride charges £17.50, Manchester Pride charges £15 (for a day ticket), and Liverpool Pride now charges £11! How are the homeless and unemployed meant to afford those prices?!! Especially if they're having to pay for the whole family!
When I asked Liverpool Pride why it was now charging for what was a free event, I got the following two answers:
- It needs to pay the police to provide security for the event.
Now I can understand that the police need to be paid for their work but to me this is a smokescreen because the public weren't asked to pay for the police when the Giants visited Liverpool last week and, according to the BBC (28/7/2014), millions of people lined the streets! Neither were they asked to pay for the police when tens of thousands of people turned up for the Mersey River Festival every day for the three days of it's duration! In fact, if you cast your net further afield to The Notting Hill Carnival - the largest street festival in Europe with a duration of two days - and discover that is free also, you begin to wonder why LGBT people are being singled out to pay for police stewardship of their event. Surely, it couldn't be homophobia in this day and age???
- It needs to charge to attract the big names that come.
I can understand that in this day and age celebrities don't tend to work for free but, again, this is a smokescreen because they also say that Pride needs to have the big names on the bill to get people to come.
That is palpable nonsense! I know of no Pride that was boycotted because there weren't any celebrities on the bill... but I do know plenty of Prides that have been boycotted because they charged for the event!
It also conveniently overlooks the fact that the Mersey River Festival provided three days of named entertainment for free and, again if we look at The Notting Hill Carnival, that provides two days with the world's biggest names on the bill every year for free!
So the excuses offered for why Liverpool Pride had to charge this year just don't add up.
Instead, perhaps we need to ask why, as reported to me, Liverpool City Council cut it's funding for Pride this year if it is supposedly proud to have a Pride in it's city? Why are they happy to dish out money to other events but not Pride?
Another factor to consider is that charging for Pride also leads to segregation.
This was all too palpable at this year's Liverpool Pride. The community area was in the free zone and everything else was behind barriers in the paid for zone. That was segregation in action. In fact, the segregation was intensified this year by splitting the Trans stuff off into a "Genderbread Tent", so that the end result, it felt like to me and others, was that the T was effectively lopped off from the LGB at what was supposed to be a LGBT Pride!
As mentioned before, Pride should be about all LGBT people coming together in unity and celebration - not split up into various factions depending on their finances and gender identity!
Charging for Pride also leads to "otherism".
Pride should be an opportunity for us to further relationships with the society we live in, thereby increasing understanding of one another and removing whatever stigmas there may be.
Whereas charging for Pride and putting it behind barriers and eight foot fences makes people think Pride is a private event for LGBT people only; they feel unwelcome and decide not to come. And the end result of that is that they don't see that we're much the same as them, celebrate in the same way and whatever stereotype has formed in their minds is not challenged or eradicated.
By charging for Prides we are missing a golden opportunity to further LGBT rights and instead pushing LGBT people back into the closet! It is nothing at all to gloat about!!
So to the Pride that I was proud to be part of...
Two weekends ago I went to Trans Pride in Brighton. It was the country's second Trans Pride (the first being the year before) and Europe's first ever Trans Pride march!
I attended on the Saturday and the Sunday. On Saturday we had the march, which had 450 people attend it and was awesome, and then the main event was a festival (with 1900 attendees) in one of the city's parks with community tents in the same area as the entertainment. Afterwards, there was an after Pride party at a community arts venue which got so busy we spilled out onto the streets!
Then on the Sunday we had a beach party and a pool party...
None of the events were hidden away from the public behind eight foot fences and all of it was free or donation based (aka free if you couldn't afford anything).
We were out in the community at community venues and I really don't understand why all Prides aren't like this.
If you want LGBT people to be accepted into society then you don't exclude society from LGBT events!
And if you want Pride to be an event for all LGBT people to come together in unity and celebration, as I do, then you make the events inclusive and do nothing to exclude anyone!
What, exactly, is so hard to grasp?