I take a lot of pride in being myself. I’m comfortable with who I am.
After the eventful shenanigans of Sparkle in Manchester earlier this month, I was glad to have another transgender event to head to last weekend. Trans Pride Brighton is an event that has now reached its fifth year. This years event was attended by 2,500 participants and the protest march went off without a hitch. There was a variety of acts on the stage, from speakers to poets, bands to choirs, a host of entertainment and messages were to be found. This was certainly different to other pride parades and the focus on the T in LGBT was refreshing.
Knowing before hand that the march was a protest for equality of trans people, I was a little apprehensive as what to expect. Everyone has the right to peaceful protest and there are many ways to raise awareness for important causes or issues. My way has always been through advocacy instead of activism, but if I support the cause I do not judge the method out of hand without first experiencing it. The march started outside a local pub and made its way along the high street towards the seafront. The peaceful protest was accompanied by police and some of the roads leading along the the route were blocked off to make way for everyone to safely march. The organisers and local authorities should be commended for their work in making this happen. The level of organisation was excellent and you could see from the enjoyment of the participants that everything had been thought of. The fact that stewards were placed to direct traffic and barriers up in dangerous areas was testament to professionalism of all involved.
One part of the march that stood out for me was the variety of people who came along. There was not just trans people but many allies and families joined in. This made it very special to witness due to how inclusive and diverse the event felt throughout the day. Some marchers did make some chants which was good to hear but most marched along mingling amongst themselves. There was a host of local trans groups in attendance, ranging from support groups to activists and everything in between. The varying groups brought along lots of banners and flags displaying all kinds of messages, motives and slogans. The parade banners were important in bringing a broader message around trans issues, the most notable for me was how many people were advocating for an end to non-binary invisibility. There is almost always lots more attention given to transwomen and transmen in the media and even within the community itself. Seeing so much awareness being raised for the non-binary folk was wonderful. It is easy to forget that being trans is not always transitioning from one gender to another, but for many gender does not start and end with male and female.
Many locals turned out to watch the march or happened to be passing by and showed their support. I was pleasantly surprised by how interested they seemed in the messages and a few cars honked their horns in support. It would be great to know a little more about how the Brighton locals feel about the protest march. It is always hard to gauge the impact of an event like this without getting out there and asking people. There were plenty of media cameras following along, but from what I could tell most of these were LGBT charities, advocacy groups and news sites. I do hope that there was some mainstream media presence that reported on the event as all the effort that has gone into it deserves the publicity. It would also help to keep the awareness alive and get trans issues out to a wider audience.
The march turned up towards the park and it took a little while to get everyone in safely which went someway to show just how many people had joined in. There was a wonderful accompanying drummer band welcoming entrants in with volunteers collecting much needed funds in buckets. Upon entering the park there was an array of stalls at one end with food and the stage down the other. The stalls consisted of LGBT charities and advocacy groups as well as local trans support groups. The variety of stalls really showed the strength within the community and anyone that was not familiar with trans issues would have been able to learn an awful lot. It was lovely to see some familiar faces from groups I have worked with in the past and to find out about groups I may not have come into contact with. It was not just the stalls that provided surprises for me personally, there were plenty of friends from up and down the country that had made their way to the event. It was wonderful to see so many folk who know each other getting together to support this event as it shows the unity we have as a community.
Moving through the park and away from the stalls the food stands were accompanied by a beer tent run by the same pub where the march started. It is good to see local support for the event and I hope in the future more local businesses will lend their support. The stage was colourful and stood out on the green background of the park. Large speakers were set up either side with enough space out in front for everyone to have a decent view of proceedings.
The speakers and entertainment was just as varied as the stalls. Some of the speakers were giving speeches of hope and visions of a brighter, more inclusive, future. Others were less positive and in my opinion some of the protest messages went a little far. I do not wish to go into much detail but one speaker spoke out against the police and how they discriminated trans people. While I have no issue with someone having this view if they feel like that, a family that was near me decided to leave as they felt it was hostile. I tend to agree with their assessment of the speech and it sent a message that non-trans people were not welcome. Maybe it was misplaced, maybe it was trying to prove something. What I do know is that it created a bit of an atmosphere that did not highlight the goodness within the trans community but instead created division that was uncalled for. It could possibly be my views on advocacy over activism coming to the fore but the people making those speeches do not speak for me. On a positive note, many of the speakers were moving and really brought to life what it means to be trans. The messages were hopeful, enlightening and full of warmth. It was at these times during the day that I felt a desire inside me to connect with those around me. Embracing my community with emotion and overwhelming empathy. Being one together can lead to a better future, one of equality, fairness and happiness.
One of the main themes I took from the speeches was to not eradicate those within the community who identify as non-binary, genderqueer, genderfluid, androgynous, intergender, agender or any of the gender expressions that people identify with. It is always very easy to see the transgender community as simply as women transitioning to men and men transitioning to women. It is not hard to see that mainstream media focuses on on the gender binary and set aside a whole section of transgender people. This needs to to change and it is events like Trans Pride that are paving the way with raising awareness and helping non-binary issues being visible. Looking inward I realise how important it is not allow the invisibility or denial of non-binary people to be allowed. They are just as important and just as bigger part of the community. We owe it to ourselves to be united and move forward hand in hand, strength with strength.
The other great noteworthy aspect of my experience in Brighton was the amount of younger people involved. It was lovely to see teenagers and young adults in abundance everywhere I looked. This gives me hope for the future that so many are involved. I have no way of knowing if they identified on the trans spectrum or if they were allies but it did not matter, just knowing there is so much support coming from the next generation is comforting. The entertainment on offer was what you would expect from an event like this, the choir were my favourite and it was wonderful when they asked if members of the audience wanted to jump on stage to join them. There was a couple of bands that had a lot of heart if being a little rusty but all in all thoroughly enjoyable.
There is no commercial sponsorship for this pride event so implore any readers to donate to the cause. The Trans Pride website has a link which enables you to part with some pennies. Looking forward to next years event already and a huge shout out to all the volunteers and trustees who made the day not only very welcoming but educational as well. Thank you and best of luck with planning for 2018.