28, Gay, Mancunian – but not going to Manchester Pride!

So, here we are again – it’s the August bank holiday which, in Manchester at least, and to the LGBT community across the country, only means one thing – Manchester Pride.

MP

As a proud Mancunian, and someone who has not only been ‘out’ for 12 years, but who has also been to every Manchester Pride (or differently named equivalent) in the last 10 (and helped out with one), one thing that I can say for sure – this year, I’m hanging up my sparkly pink cowboy hat, and getting out of Dodge for the weekend.

As far as the concept of ‘Pride’ goes, as I’ve grown older (I’m only 28), I’ve found that the whole notion of it has become more and more perverse and not in keeping with the values that I hold.

Manchester Pride in particular is the one that gets my goat – I think that it has become far to big for itself and not at all in keeping with the original values of the pride events. In a bid to try to raise more money for LGBT charities (which one has to applaud), it’s become a massive four-day extravaganza,  however, in doing so, it appears to have run in to massive overheads, and accordingly the total amount which has gone to LGBT charities is way lower than I would have expected it to be, given the fact that you are charged to get in, that there are collection buckets everywhere, they charge to be in the Parade, and various other fundraising activities. Such a seemingly inefficient way of raising money, I simply cannot condone. This year, I have just donated the equivalent ticket price directly to two of the beneficiaries of Manchester Pride.

If you go down to the gay village on any night of the week at the moment, you will see that it is absolutely on its arse, with bankruptcy, a lost identity and low customer numbers all but some of the problems. People in Manchester don’t really seem to want a dedicated gay space any more, and we’ve moved beyond that – you’ll find us in bars, pubs and clubs across the city these days. I don’t think that the village, as a whole, will have much life in ten years time, to be honest. It’s therefore a little odd to see so many people flocking to it over one bank holiday weekend, at a time, when they’d otherwise never support it.

What it is important for people to realise, reading this post, is that I am not attacking the values of Pride here – simply, our lives would be very different had the Pride Marches of the past not occurred, and through the bravery of all of those who walked, campaigned, and supported these noble events, people such as Harvey Milk. When you think of that, and then you think of what Manchester Pride has become today, it’s simply impossible to marry the two themes up. Today, we live in a very different World, thanks to the efforts of those who went before – they wanted a World where we were treated equally and being gay was a non-issue, today, I think we’re pretty close to as good as it is going to get/that, in the UK at least, and so I don’t quite understand why we force ourselves out of mainstream and shout that, still, we want more – especially in a city that is so incredibly tolerant, welcoming and understanding of the gay community.

The themes used for the Parades are more and more irrelevant, and nobody particularly seems to follow them anyway/they appear to be optional, and last year, I was furious with just how much advertising went on during the Parade last year (in Manchester, you’re guaranteed a captive audience of around 250,000 people lining the route), and that smaller LGBT causes and businesses were forced to the side lines in comparison. I wrote a post about it here immediately after returning, please, give it a read.

For me, Pride is about having a ‘march’ and not a ‘parade’.

They’re two very different things :

    • March: an organized procession of demonstrators who are supporting or protesting something 
    • Parade: to exhibit ostentatiously

I honestly think that Manchester Pride has completely lost its way.

How are images of men parading about in pup suits through the streets of Manchester, in full view of families and young kids, really doing anything positive for our cause? Of course, I’m all for freedom of expression and whatnot (and I’m definitely no prude, that’s for sure!!), but honestly, ask yourself, if a straight person was doing that, would it be acceptable? Probably not.

This year, the cause of gay marriage has been thrust in to the headlines, whether we liked it or not (I for one, did). Not one pride event this year that I’m aware of has even acknowledged that. People turn up to these events in shorts, t-shirts, and with the intention of getting pissed and scoring round the back of a dive bar. If you really cared about Pride, surely you’d be there in a wedding suit, and making a big noise outside local political office and whatnot? We demand attention from people living in the cities that we stage events in, without giving them a reason to want to support us, or highlight what struggles that we are currently facing.

What I do want to stress, however, is that I am not against the idea of gay celebration, far from it! I do think that Manchester Pride in its current form more than has a place (for example, I loved Faceparty’s (ugh) Big Gay Out event in Finsbury Park back in something like 2005) – but I think that these events should be more akin to a festival than branded a formal pride event. You charge me money to get in, I get a wristband, there are pop stars on a stage, and the drinks are overpriced, and watered down – sounds like Glastonbury, V, or Download to me!!!

Keep the parade, keep the event exactly as it is, but please, do not tag it as a ‘pride’ event.

I appreciate that this post will likely cause some controversy and get me branded a bitter old Queen (less of the old please!!!) – however, before you stop to leave me a bitchy critical comment (though anything constructive is MORE than welcome), take a look at what you’re about to write – this weekend should be about openness and acceptance, freedom of belief and of speech, and if you’re about to try to tell me that I’m not allowed that, then you don’t understand the concept of ‘Pride’.

If you’re in Manchester this weekend, hope that you have a fantastic one – please, take the time out to have a look around our wonderful city – you’ll see that there’s so much on offer here other than four ringfenced streets!

… and just to show I’m not a total stick in the mud – THIS shall be on a loop on my iPod all weekend! ;)

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26 thoughts on “28, Gay, Mancunian – but not going to Manchester Pride!

  1. Great read! I’ve often wondered how/when/if the concept of gay pride will redefine itself as the goals upon which it was originally created are slowly met. It also speaks to a larger issue in the gay community itself about how to organize effectively.

  2. Spot on my friend, I stopped going a few years back simply due to the lack of money being raised, considering how much Pride brings into the city it’s shocking.

    Whilst I would not deny people there pissups, part of pride needs to reflect on things going on around us, the fight is not over we still face plenty of homophobia on the streets outside of the gay scenes and it’s good to remind the local community about how the global LGBT community, our brothers and sisters if you will are suffering around the world.

    I think Pride also tends to forget about the T part of LGBT far too easily.

    • Thanks a mil for your feedback, David, and for sharing my article/getting it out to a wider readership today – been great to know that it’s not just me being ‘too sensitive’ or something of a grump! :)

  3. I think the title ‘Mardi Gras’ was better suited to the event. Not sure why it was re-named ‘Pride’.
    I first ventured into the ‘gay village’ in 1987 way before it became a tourist attraction & at that time was just a handful of pubs & a couple of nightclubs. It was ‘underground’ & exclusively used by the people it was intended for. In those days I felt far more comfortable & relaxed and there was definatly more of a community.
    I hardly ever visit Canal Street these days. I hate the Blackpool promenade feel it has on weekends & being an area of choice for Stag & Hen do parties puts me off all the more. The place is now full of pick pockets & undesireable characters & to be honest down right dangerous & not a place I have Pride in visiting.

    • AMEN! :D

      Think that it was renamed Pride just as I was starting to attend these events – suspect that it was the year where it was very nearly cancelled, and at the very last minute they saved it from bankruptcy and called it Manchester Pride instead… though I may be wrong – that was something crazy like 10/11 years ago!

  4. London’s Pride was themed ‘Love & Marriage’ in response to the great work going on around equal marriage.

    • … someone should tell the rest of the country that then, as if the gay community itself hasn’t heard it outside of London, the impact has not been co-ordinated, nor effective!! :(

      Agree there’s been some fantastic work going on around equal marriage – my angle here is that it’s just a pity that Manchester Pride (and many many others) have chosen to ignore this historic and landmark event!

  5. Agree with many of your points and sentiments, but, as a Sheffielder with no gay spaceand lots of hostile attitudes in many of our social spaces, doesnt the payment to get into the village go some way to keeping that space safe?
    Also, don’t forget the vigil in sackville park which is not only great but always advertised as “what Manchester Pride is all about” and now gets national radio coverage.
    But all that said, you do raise important and very valid concerns.

    • Very valid point raised I think.

      On a personal note, I’m not too sure that it does to be honest, one of the other secondary reasons that I stopped going was that, on a Sunday especially, the place was just filled with rather undesirable people who you would never normally see around the village – gangs of straight scallies and the like. At the same time, of course there’s plenty of security about, but that year in particular, I felt very uncomfortable in what was supposed to be a ‘safe space’ – especially when this group looked like they’d been drinking non-stop since the Friday!

      Generally though, given the state that some people get themselves in to over Pride weekend, it’s a comfort to know that they’re being ‘looked after’ by being in a confined and heavily patrolled space.

      The vigil really should be on the Saturday night whilst the attention is focused on the Village in my opinion, not shoved to the back end of Monday night when only locals can attend, as everyone else has had to go back across the UK to get ready for work etc. Agree that it’s definitely the highlight of Pride, and a very unique and emotional event, but it’s these sort of events that Pride needs to sustain throughout the weekend, in my opinion, rather than just one event. We have hundreds of well-known gay celebrities, icons and personalities these days, and just as many fabulous but straight ‘friends’ – getting them on to the stage to talk to the community, now that’s what we need rather than the likes of Rylan Clark and X-Factor chums on a stage in a grotty carpark!

  6. I could not agree more with what’s been said here. I didn’t attend “Pride” this year, although I did see the parade and was left wondering what it was trying to promote.

    I’m all for celebration and I am far from being a prude, (I’ve been to such events behind closed doors and enjoy them) but in my humble view these public displays in their current format create more harm than good and help to re-enforce negative gay stereotypes, which many have worked so hard on to resolve.

    I was also shocked to learn how little raised actually goes to charity. Has the Charities Commission looked into this? Granted that such events take some organising and staffing but the entry fee isn’t particularly cheap. It’s more akin to a festival and if “Pride” is going to go down this route, call it what it is and not a charitable event.

  7. Perhaps we do still need marches if straight or gay people at a carnival who are playful and proud about alternative sexual identities like pup role play are shunned by the mainstream for being not “acceptable”.

    • Firstly, thanks for stopping by and leaving your comment.

      I subscribe to those communities and dedicated profile sites as much as the next, however I don’t think that, straight or gay, fetish gear has any place on the streets in a family environment.

      It’s a very provocative subject and something that makes it even easier to bash us over the head with. There would be outcry if it happened in Notting Hill, or similar.

      My personal opinion, as a member of that community, is that such gear is best saved for dedicated gear events rather than what has become a broader LGBT event which comes linked with a family orientated display that in turn is linked intrinsically by name to the gay village itself.

      Sexual orientation vs sexual preference.

      • I would like you to take a look at http://www.anubispack.com and take a look at our web site. Actually what we do is allot more than just a role play fetish. Its actually part of our every day life in very much the same was as the leather and rubber fetish guys who were also in the parade. Those we work very hard teaching workshops and training guys one to one on safe BDSM play, good practice and living a BDSM lifestyle that many want to lead but find it challenging when they feel there is very little acceptance out there for them. We also hand make rope bondage kits and design and make and sell bondage and pup play equipment specifically designed by full time 24/7 BDSM lifestyle pups.

        The gear that we wear is a way of expressing who we are and what we do. Its also easily argued that really what we do in public is also not far off of a stylised piece of fetish performance art at events such as this. We are not doing what we do in the bedroom and are not exposing ourselves, nor making any gratuitous sexual innuendo. Unlike many of the parade participants who took great delight in mock spanking each other and made all sorts of ‘Cary On’ like behaviour.

        If you are taking issue with the fact that you didn’t like how we dressed then is that not also lightly shallow of you to do so? How is it justifiable to say that its ok for a group in the parade to dress up as women and mock the crowd for supporting the “queers” on the basis that its ‘funny’ but not ok for us to dress in clothes that show who we feel like on the inside. We marched holding our own pride flag. That flag is the international puppy pride flag and is sold by us to people all over the world from our web shop and at events. That flag also has been flying outside REM Bar for 2 months before pride. We marched this year flying those flags to simply say “we are here, we are a real group of people and we are part of this community”.

        We didn’t go to march because we crave acceptance, we went to march to tell people that we are a real group of gay people with in the gay community that all feel the same way. We are pups and we are proud of what we are. That right there is exactly what pride is about…

        If you have any questions about what pups are or you find it difficult to understand our lifestyle choices why dont you pop along to one of our meets that we hold every month at REM Bar on the 2nd Saturday. 1pm – 4pm and come and say hey to us. Around 20-40 people come to our meets every month just to be social and be a part of their community and to show that they are proud to be who they are. The fact that these guys come out of their own accord to do this and the added addition of the support we have from village business and the people around us is a very heavy argument to me to keep on doing what im doing. Its not easy doing what we do. Its not easy to stand there in there street on a Friday night having abuse hurled at us for standing outside in our gear and showing how proud we are to be what we are. Its not easy smiling to have your photograph taken and being friendly to the 100′s hen party that things its hilarious and take the opportunity to slap your ass because they think its what we get off on. Even when we simply walk outside sporting regular clothes and nothing more than out chain collars to say “im proud to be what i am”. Its not easy for people who feel more comfortable dressed in women’s clothing for many of the same reasons. Its not a necessity for them to do so. They do it because its what they are. How they feel comfortable living their lives and they are proud to stand up and say it.

        One last note. How did i get so good at defending what me and my friends in the pup community do? I stood there for HOURS having all of this same argument with hundreds of people that dont understand what pups are. Ive had it levelled at me that im mentally unstable, that im running a cult, heck i have even had people threaten to come and get me… because i was wearing regular clothes… and a collar. THIS is why pride is important. the more people know who we are and what we are the less we will have to face this kind of response to people seeing us in the places we feel comfortable wearing the things we feel comfortable in, acting in a manor that is us and not something we do to have to fit in with the ‘humans’.

        Hundreds of people email us every month from our website and blog pages. We talk and council people who can in some cases be pushed to their limit of feeling like a K9 inside and having to, in their words, “pretend” to be like every one else. Attitudes like yours Gari are the ones we are fighting. Fighting for our right to self expression is what protest is for. Pride is a protest. We protest because we want to stand up for our right not to be judged.

        • Approved this comment as I value the effort that has gone in to it.

          Unfortunately, you’ve completely gone off at a tangent and misinterpreted my piece. I do fully understand the whole ‘thing’, being that it’s part of a community that I identify with myself, and have for well over ten years – so perhaps it is not I who has judged too hastily? ;)

          My point was simply, I do not feel, as a member of this community, that it’s right to have images of people in what can be perceived as very provocative outfits deliberately posing in pictures with children, which I have seen in the past. It opens us up to a whole lot more Daily Mail bile, especially when images are taken out of context, which could actually hurt the cause that we are all trying to fight towards. It’s also unfortunate that Pride in itself has become more about people in general walking around on the parades with their tops off/tiny shorts etc, as that in turn only reinforces the sexual ideal of the fetish community when we appear in such parades.

  8. Hello mate, I may not agreed with everything but I sure do agree with most of it. I feel that pride should be moved out of the village and definitely that the visual should be held on the Saturday or sunday night. and also i think this will be the very last Manchester pride i will be going to also.

  9. Well thought out response to what has become a commercial festival – the case with many ‘Prides’. I have not been to one for many years as a result.

    Pride marches still have a place – outside gay friendly cities and the left media ‘Gay’ is still a very difficult thing to be. Life isn’t easy for youngsters just coming out or older men trapped in lives where Gay is not an option. Pride marches can show that Gay is ok and give inspiration for others to either change their surroundings or move as many do.

    I tend to feel that many gay men and women forget the past and live for the moment. Rights and equality are not handed out on a plate – they have to be fought for, and the fight has to be maintained, diplomatically and constantly otherwise minorities slip back into the dark spaces.

    I agree with you that we have never had it so good – I wish that the gay community would come together to use the focus that Prides have to give out a meaningful message and perhaps help fight for others equality and not just our own. Then maybe have a party afterwards to celebrate – preferably with Kylie.

  10. I don’t go to Pride anymore for many of the reasons that you have outlined. I object to the fact that it just becoming more and more of an obscene p***-up and meat market as opposed to actually and actively promoting a cause. I think it gives the wrong impression to be honest. There are still so many things to fight for, and I don’t think having it in its current form is the way to fight for things that still need someone to fight for them. It could have been used to highlight gay marriage, or make a stand against the current Russian policies, but no. Such a waste of a platform.

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