Alex Blaze

TransLondon backs out of Pride celebration

Filed By Alex Blaze | May 28, 2009 5:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: bathroom, bathroom issue, England, london, pride, pride london, transgender, transsexual, united kingdom

TransLondon, the largest trans org in London, voted a week ago to boycott Pride in that city. Apparently, the pride organization thought this would be a good way to have a trans float in the parade:

The 2009 pride participation is, so we are told, to consist of a float at the very back of the parade which would pander to the most tired and inaccurate media stereotypes of trans people. Trans women would, in Pride's vision, be dressed in sequins, high heels and fairy wings and, apparently as an afterthought, a few trans men would be invited to pose in football strips. The Pride representative explained that the trans float would complement a float at the front of the march with members of the cast of the West End musical, "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert". In her vision, onlookers would be delighted to see "Priscilla at the front and Priscilla at the back". As a coup de grace, a visible cordon of security stewards would surround the trans float, ostensibly "for our own protection".

They also say that the process was undemocratic:

During the meeting on May 19th 2009, members heard how the democratic and transparent structure used in 2008 to co-ordinate participation of trans groups and the funds made available for transgender attendees, through the elected [email protected] committee, has been abolished by Pride London for 2009. Instead, Pride London have imposed their own unelected "representative" for the trans strand. Furthermore, requests for information about funding, how decisions were made and who participated in the decision-making process, have been rebuffed.

Last year, the elected [email protected] Committee consulted repeatedly with over a dozen groups and hundreds of individuals over before arranging travel bursaries for trans people to attend from around the country, hosting a breakfast for marchers on the day, commissioning artwork from a local queer artist as a rallying point for trans marchers, producing banners and bunting, arranging trans performers for all of the Pride stages including the main stage in Trafalgar Square and publicising the arrangements widely. In stark contrast, the meeting heard of how Pride London's appointed trans "representative" for 2009 has simply imposed Pride's vision for trans participation in the march and rally.

I think that speaks for itself. The chair of Pride London responded:

A lot of this is misdirected. Christina [Alley, co-organiser of TransLondon and elected member of [email protected] 2008] is unhappy about the direction of this year's Pride in terms of funding.[...]

Regarding the objection to the float, the idea for it came from the trans community. What Christina said is a grotesque parody of what the float actually is. It's diminishing the hard work put in by the trans community.

Since I haven't seen the float, I don't know whose description is closer. But since 65% of people at the TransLondon meeting voted to boycott and another 31% voted to pull out and march independently, it seems rather inaccurate to pin this all on Christina Alley.

They also apparently had a bathroom incident last year at Pride London, which should be completely unacceptable at an LGBT event:

Official stewards who were running the toilets at Trafalgar Square announced that I, and any other transgender or transsexual woman, had to use the disabled toilets and was not allowed to use the regular women's toilets. I pointed out to the stewards that I transitioned and had surgery before they were born; I was more polite than a polite thing. No dice.

I went and fetched a posse of transwomen and transmen and we made a collective fuss. Their response - and remember these were official stewards AT PRIDE - was to radio in "we're being attacked by a mob of trannies! send backup". They were joined by a policeman, who was a LGBT liaison officer, who claimed that we had to be able to show our Gender Recognition Certificates if we wanted to use the women's loos and got quite upset when I explained to him that I had been involved in drafting the Act and that it did not take away rights that existed before it. At one point he threatened to arrest us for demonstrating on private property - those loos belong to Westminster Council, so you are not allowed to make a fuss there.

At one point it was claimed that they had instituted this policy a few minutes earlier because a man had attacked a woman; at another they said it was official Health and Safety policy. I don't think it was particularly to do with how much I do or don't pass - I think I got read in part because I am so tall and turned up in the queue among a particularly short group of lesbians.

The Pride committee responded that security was subcontracted and that they were wrong, but this seems like the sort of thing that they should have discussed in advance with their subcontractors. Not everyone they hire is going to be up to speed on being respectful to trans people, but the Pride organizers, who definitely know that throughout the day someone who's trans will want to use the bathroom, can definitely see it coming.

This sort of thing shouldn't happen in this day and age, but, well, here we are. Maybe their near-unanimous vote to protest in some way will change things for next year. Or maybe the gays who run Pride London will just be happy that the trans folk aren't showing up.

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Sadly, this happens all too often, but what's telling, truly, is that those who don't see the problem are part of it.

And happy birthday, Alex :D

Paige Listerud | May 28, 2009 8:07 PM

I think the only thing for TransLondon to do is plan a counter-demonstration right along the parade route and pass out fliers to completely explain their position. Then plan an action blocking usage of all available public toilets at the end rally site. "Nobody gets to pee until our rights are respected!"

Oooooooh, yes - believe me, it's been considered. Manchester, on the other hand, will have a transguy presence with us looking as we usually do. Though whether that's a good thing . . . x

Queer people who are not gay or lesbian get this sort of treatment all of the time. The thing that is the most bothersome is that these transpeople are being treated this way by those who should theoretically know better.

Wow, that's pretty... pathetic on the part of the London Pride organizers. The infighting in LGBTQ apparently came to a head here, in a not so nice way, when it certainly didn't have to (and clearly didn't the year before) - what kind of messages are being sent to trans folks when their self-representation committee is scuttled in favor of some appointed representative? The comments from London Pride indicate that either they really aren't seeing this, or perhaps I miscapitalized PRide since it sounds like empty PR speak.

On the other end of things, I was at the Out for Work conference in DC last fall, and they made EVERY bathroom (in the conference area of a large hotel!) a gender neutral bathroom. As I have the privilege of identifying with (a variety of) my assigned sex/gender, I had never really had to deal with bathroom issues, and the way that the LGBTQ (primarily) and Ally attendees handled a remarkably equitable bathroom situation was really admirable. Not that being civil is anything beyond expected, but rather that the actual logistics went smoothly, people noticed and appreciated the (for me) gesture (for trans-folks, nod to dignity), and it was really one of the most positive and enduring learning experiences of the trip.

This kind of stuff has been on my mind a lot lately. That the organizers thought that putting the trans float last and having us wearing heels and sequins shows almost mind-boggling insensitivity. This of course brings us back to the circular argument of "We're invisible to you" vs. "You are all too sensitive" both, sadly, containing a kernel of truth.Many of our Gay and Lesbian brothers and sisters do get us(Like Bil and Alex, for example), but it's really time to have open and frank conversations about the disconnect between trans and the old line community.
Here In L.A., a community organizer named Hanna Howard received a very nice award from the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center for her activism and then had the cheek to ask during her acceptance speech why it wasn't the "L.A. Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender center". Well, why indeed? Sometimes the only way to get heard is to give the hand that's petting you a little nip, or at least show some teeth.
The boycott may do some good; we'll see.

I thought that the security cordon around this float, and this float alone, to prevent any contamination was a nice touch. That really puts them in their place.

Of course a lot of Trans people wouldn't mind being identified as stereotyped Drag Queens, just as many Gays would be fine with being represented as stereotyped leather BDSM fetishists. But that shouldn't be the only way all Gays are represented, especially if there's only a token crew-cut ultra-butch lesbian or two for political correctness.

There are lots of laws on the books protecting transgender people, yet we are being discriminated against by the G,L and B community in that country.

There is way too much animosity out there in our own GLBT community, and as long as it continues it will make all of our lives more difficult than they should be.

From prior Bilerico articles and comments to them, there continues to be a wide divergence of opinion, and even open animosity amoung transgender people. Many gays and lesbians have no understanding of us, and the divisions continue unabated.

I applaud Bilerico for its efforts to educate the GLBT community about our issues, but much work remains to be done.

To quote Rodney King, "Can't we all just get along?"

I hope so, for as long as we remain a fractured community, we will continue to lose important battles for basic civil rights, like California and ENDA.

Screw the Pride Parades and Conserva-Queer, Mattachine run HRCs and Pride London type groups.

It's past time lesbian and women of transsexual history joined the International Women's Movement and leave the patriarchal gay male dominated organizations to rot.

There, I said it...throw your rocks now.

What's terrifying, TH, is that I sorta agree with you here...

... me.


From the Talk To Action website:

Women and queers share common enemies, because we share the same goal: liberation from rigid sex roles and other oppressive restrictions on our lives. The cultural traditionalists who resist the rapid social change around them, like the Family Research Council, the American Family Association, and Concerned Women for America, scapegoat the women's and LGBT movements as the forces they claim are destroying our culture. By focusing on the vulnerable targets of those who have not yet experienced full equality, the Right's leaders have been able to use existing sexism, homophobia, and transphobia to fan the flames of prejudice for its larger agenda of seeking and maintaining political power.

Hurrah for transheretic! Please don't forget us FTMs, though! ;-)

CailleanMcM CailleanMcM | May 29, 2009 5:48 PM

To the organizers of Pride London:

I am a professor of forensics and of addiction medicine. I am a Supreme Court Forensic Psychiatrist.

Exactly what does your misogynistic and stereotypically hackneyed portrayal of trans-people have to do with me or with the thousands like me?

We are women, strong, diverse, not some pathethetically inaccurate caricature. Rest assured that the accomplished women of operative history will resolutely and evoutly avoid any association with your event and your group.

And it will be a frightfully cold day in hell before I ever submit to the kind of gender policing in the line for the restroom that you subjected women to last year at Pride.

I'm just a Rocket Scientist and PhD candidate in Computer Science, but yes, I feel much the same.

Did I mention that we're feminists too, that misogyny, sexualisation and objectivisation of women are things we care about? As do many others, who you have managed to really get brassed off by this little farce.

And that we're not going to just sit in the corner like good little girls and not worry our pretty little heads about this. This isn't 1959.

I am with Caillean and Zoe on this issue. The representations are demeaning and inherently misogynistic.

If the height of London Queer Culture is drag, then tank the Goddess tht I was still living as a straight woman when I was there. I would have been arretsted for assaulting the LGBT leadership had I been a part of the community then.