How can we have pride in an organisation or event which doesn’t represent us?
Northern Pride Events Ltd is undoubtedly a commercial success, and the volunteers work hard to put on a fantastic day. But it’s only a fantastic day for some and not for all.
I should know – I was on the committee.
Northern Pride doesn’t represent the interests of minority communities. Northern Pride doesn’t engage with those minority communities in any kind of meaningful stakeholder engagement. Northern Pride disregards the local needs of those minority communities, and they don’t understand the contemporary issues impacting them.
That’s not to say that those that are excluded won’t engage, but their engagement will be fraught and marred. This will ultimately lead to separation, marginalisation, and dissent at a time when queer communities should be coming together.
We lost the trans zone and we lost the womens’ zone. We were told by the committee that they weren’t needed
Northern Pride has removed all demarcated zones for minority communities over the years. We lost the trans zone, we lost the womens’ zone and we were told by the committee that these things weren’t needed. That we should all come together, although that “coming together” neglects to then engage with any of the minority communities – in effect, homogenising everyone.
We still live in a world where minority people want to have demarcated safe spaces where they can be themselves, with others who they share commonality. The world isn’t a safe space for them yet, and majority people have no right to decry and remove this right. This is what the removal of separate spaces by Northern Pride has done. If they truly represent the desires and needs of the wider LGBTQI community, they’d understand this. Meanwhile their sponsors, those people seeking to meet equality objectives to appease their corporate social responsibility, don’t understand what is really going on under the veneer that is sold to them.
Last year Newcastle Pride saw widespread incidents of Transphobia
Last year Newcastle Pride saw widespread incidents of Transphobia, 22 in all, they were collated after the event along with general feelings of the Trans people involved. They were read out in the Newcastle Pride Committee debrief, they were ignored, and no action was taken by a largely non trans (cisgender) committee who shook their heads.
One of the worst was a young autistic Trans women who was called a “bad drag queen” by someone assumed to be a non Trans (cisgender) gay man whilst his friends laughed and pointed at her. She was so badly upset she had to leave the event helped by a friend. That day wasn’t for them; with those words, he robbed the girl of her identity and labelled her a man for a cheap laugh. Many of the other incidents were similar, Trans people being victimised by gay men. We have an inter-community problem that requires addressing but a lack of willingness to talk openly about these issues and begin to address them is deeply problematic.
I, of course, wasn’t quiet. I challenged things, attempted to affect change, but over the course of my tenure I was bullied and harassed. When I wanted to drive change, I was blocked and obfuscated by our Chair, and when they wanted someone to blame I would be scapegoated for organisational failings.
Northern Pride has no taste for politics either, which is unfortunate as we live at a time where Trans visibility has reached a point where politics are incredibly important to trans people and their communities. They admit they themselves have a lack of knowledge when it comes to understanding contemporary trans personal and societal issues and yet they promote themselves as an authority on LGBTQI issues for their sponsors. When it comes to minority people, it really is a case of the blind leading the blind.
Trans Pride North is a new organisation that has formed to bring a large scale trans community pride event to Newcastle for all trans people of the North. We’ve ensured good intersectional representation from across the community and we’re in the process of carrying out meetings with stakeholders from across the region, the people who will come to our events to ensure that we are providing what they want and not what we think they want.
At Newcastle Pride today there will be a Alt Pride event outside the main Pride event. This is a large community picnic that has been set up by local Queer people who feel that they have been excluded; it’s not just Trans people, but people with many intersecting identities from across the LGBTQI who feel excluded by the corporate machine that is Northern Pride. That’s hugely symbolic and should give everyone pause: these people have not been engaged, not listened to.
People will always find a way to be heard. It’s in our nature, and maybe the biggest thing that Northern Pride has to learn is how to listen. Given recent events in Orlando, and the recent changes in the political climate in the UK, now more than ever is a time for people to come together.