Inclusive Pride Events. Pride, by which we mean both the parades and all the other events, narrative, creations and discussions taking place in Pride month, are of vital importance. They may reasonably be criticized not being political enough, or for reducing the meaning of Pride to festivities and celebration, but we also need to acknowledge that these festivities are important enough for our communities: for communities that often struggle to survive instead of appreciating and celebrating their own existence. For communities that need to rely on each other, on care and solidarity and yes, that kind of positivity too, in order to flourish in an overall hostile society.
Pride can potentially offer fertile grounds for political discussion and advocacy, as well as spaces to support each other, communicate and work through liberation by connecting as different individuals with entirely different journeys. Nurturing understanding and empathy are two of the most vital elements of Pride, and they lead to the only natural requirement: inclusion.
How can we achieve inclusion in Pride? Aren’t Pride events and the Parade already inclusive by default, by encouraging diverse expressions and liberated behavior?
Well, not exactly. While Pride may indeed offer one of the most welcoming spaces for certain types of people and identities, it may still operate as exclusionary for other experiences that do not correspond to the mainstream narrative, of the white, cis, able-bodied LG people, who can afford to pay entrance and participation fees for various events.
While most Pride events may be doing an excellent job in offering platforms for communication, artistic expression and celebration by those more privileged, they still fail to be accessible to poor communities, victims of racism and islamophobia, victims of transphobia, and people with disabilities.
When trying to organise inclusive pride events and parade, we need to think in terms of intersectionality: that is, taking into consideration the ways in which different parts of a person’s identity such as class, race, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, etc. contribute in shaping the multiple oppressions that person may face, even within the different communities in which they participate.
Making Pride inclusive for people of all incomes
Many Pride events in the US and other parts of the world require entrance and participation fee. Considering the high unemployment and poverty rates that affect the LGBTQ+ Community, setting high entrance fees excludes a big part of the community that is not privileged enough financially to afford an event that should offer a platform for free expression and participation.
One such example is that of this year’s Cape Town Gay Pride Parade, the theme of which was “I am what I am”, but many people still felt that it wasnt inclusive enough. Andrew Howard, board member at the Pride Shelter in Oranjezicht, criticized the high fee for the after party as being very expensive for some people. So did Lindy-Lee Prince, a UCT student based in Mowbray.
Another such example this year was Birmingham Pride, that had an admission fee of 16.5£ for one day.
There are countless such examples. It makes sense that Pride events are very costly and they somehow need to be funded – aside from their sponsors – but their participation fees should be reduced to an affordable amount.
Another very important issue, is to make sure that the companies who offer to sponsor the Pride parade and events are truly LGBTQ+ friendly, and do not simply participate in pink-washing.
Inclusive Pride for people of all racial and religious backgrounds
With racism, islamophobia and the far right on the rise in the US and Europe, Pride needs now more than ever to be inclusive of people of color and to people of all religious backgrounds. However, that most often is not the case. A failure of thinking intersectionally leads to a Pride that is problematically mostly white and fails to acknowledge how racial oppression, homophobia and transphobia most of the times go together.
More often than not, there is the assumption that if you are gay, that is, if you have potentially experienced one type of oppression, then you automatically understand all oppressions.
That’s not true. White gay people may have experienced homophobia, but they have not experienced systemic racism, like masculine gay men who may have experienced homophobia but have not experienced misogyny in the way a woman does every day.
Racism in the LGBTQ+ Community can appear disguised in little things, in the form of fetishization, stereotypes, or racial “preferences”, or when people are accused as divisive when trying to address the issues that affect them. Casual racism of this kind needs to be identified and challenged in a community that wishes to be inclusive.
It is important to organize Pride events on Intersectionality and racial issues, in which communication and advocacy for and by people of color will take place, and allies will be educated on how to participate in a supportive way in a diverse and inclusionary movement.
Stonewall’s Acting Chief Executive Ruth Hunt said:
“Black and minority ethnic people can face homophobia and biphobia at home but rejection and racism from our community making Pride feel unsafe. And trans people can still be mocked and shunned because they dare to affirm their true self.”
Making Pride inclusive for all Trans people
The reason we have Pride month today, is that trans activists who took part in the Stonewall riots and fought for our rights before us motivated it. It is unacceptable to not be absolutely inclusive for trans people, and to not give them the credit for their battles. However, many Pride events still fail to focus on Trans experiences and narratives, use cisnormative, genital-related and binary language, fail to have gender neutral bathrooms, and underrepresent Trans people in the committees that organize the events.
There is a big problem of Trans exclusion at Pride events worldwide.
We need more Pride events that focus on the needs and demands of the Trans community, on educating on the issues they face and on gender identities that fall out of the gender binary, as well as workshops for allies and how they can support. We need to hear more about what Trans people go through and to give them the space they deserve in this community the creation of which we should mostly credit to their fights.
Sometimes when many members of a community don’t go through certain difficulties, they forget to think about them and properly include the people who face them. If we want a more inclusive Pride, this needs to change. Everyone’s struggles are different, but if we don’t give sometimes to hear and consider all of them, our movement will just keep catering to the needs of the loudest crowds.
Making Pride inclusive for all bodies
Pride marketing and promotion techniques internationally, often depict queer people in unrealistic ways, perpetuating society’s oppressive beauty standards. Muscular gay men, thin, able-bodied and mostly white bodies, when in reality there still exists a lot of fatphobia, transphobia, ableism and racism within the community.
Pride, as a festival built on inclusion and representation, needs to be more diverse in the depiction of everyday queer people, and not participate in the enforcement of harmful beauty stereotypes.
Making Pride less ableist
Pride events and the parade are not always accessible to people with disabilities, and that’s a serious problem. Many LGBTQ+ people also live with disabilities, both physical and mental, but they are often othered within their very communities, both because of the lack of accessible infrastructure, and because of the ignorant treatment they receive by other people.
We often neglect educating ourselves and others on disability issues within the LGBTQ+ Community, and that creates countless problems for disabled people.
Some of the things that can be done to make Pride events more accessible to disabled people as described in this article, are having a sign language Interpreter for all the speeches, provide subtitles for movie and documentary projections, wheelchair ramps and disabled restrooms at all the spaces where events are held, and letting people know whether the events are accessible or not.
Making Pride political
Pride started off as intensely political – the anniversary of violent riots against police brutality and institutional violence, homophobia and transphobia. Therefore, it’s awesome to celebrate our existences and all the way we’ve made in Pride, but these celebrations should not lose their political tone, because the lives we live, the problems we face and the demands we voice are political. Things aren’t great yet – far from it. We’ve still got a long long way to go.
For many LGBTQ+ people who wish to participate to the Pride parades every year, the presence of uniformed police may be extremely triggering, and that’s a political issue that’s often part of debate.
Although LGBTQ+ policemen obviously have every right to participate in the parade, it’s less likely that police as an organized institution should be welcome. Many white, cis LGBT people may not have such strong feelings about the presence of the police at the parade, and may even see it with a positive eye as a form of diversity and support from the side of the police, but trans, queer, and especially people of color who belong in the community, do not forget the institutional violence they may face all the other days of the year.
Therefore, not welcoming the presence of uniformed police in Pride makes sense, if we aim to make it more inclusionary for minorities which are more vulnerable to oppression.
In general, if we wish to make Pride more inclusive, there are several things we can do to make everyone feel welcome, especially people whose problems and experiences aren’t voiced loudly enough within the mainstream narrative.
All we have to do is listen to each other!