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.
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! ;)