22 Jul 2022
Why Trans Pride still feels grassroots
Diversifying Group team member Almaas reflects on their experience of Trans Pride in 2022
Trans pride feels like it has inherent meaning as a political assembly of people. There is a genuine sense that this is a protest rather than a party. The march is set against the backdrop of the UK falling down the rankings of LGBTQ+ friendly countries in Europe for the 3rd consecutive year, primarily due to its treatment of the trans community. Trans people marched with the knowledge the UK government reneged on its pledge to ban conversion therapy, specifically for trans people. We marched knowing that the government has refused to issue gender-neutral passports and insisted that all public sector buildings cannot contain unisex restrooms. It’s perhaps because of this context that trans pride has to be political in a way that other pride celebrations are not.
There has been a 400% increase in the reporting of trans issues by mainstream media outlets in the UK in the past 5 years. The reporting has tended to focus on divisive stories and fear-mongering such as the recurring theme that accepting trans women creates a risk of assault in women’s toilets, whilst completely ignoring the very real risk faced by trans women using men’s toilets. More attention is paid to imaginary problems involving the existence of trans people than to the very real problems associated with existing as a trans person.
An interesting dichotomy is at play with trans identity in the UK media. Wherever there is a small group of self-purported activists or a right-wing social media pundit loudly denouncing trans people you can rest assured that it will be reported on. But when thousands of trans people and allies come together to celebrate trans identity, and to demand human rights we are being refused, there is an odd silence. It’s almost as if narratives surrounding trans people in the UK are being carefully curated to create a sense of societal distrust and animosity. Reported figures for attendees of London Trans Pride vary, but estimates place the number at around 25,000. Compared to the 1.5 million of London Pride the week prior, we can see what a small percentage of the overall LGBTQ+ population that trans people and allies inhabit, a massively disproportionate amount when compared to our frequency of vilification in the news.
Besides how contextually apt it was, what struck me most about being at trans pride this year, compared to other Prides I’ve attended prior to it, was the sense of belonging I felt within this community of protesters. Within the handful of hours I spent in that crowd, I must have had at least 20 unexpected encounters with acquaintances and their friends, exchanging pleasantries and hugs, eventually losing each other as the marching ensued. I felt truly seen, understood, and among my people, this has never happened at any prior Pride march I have attended. Trans Pride truly feels like it belongs to the trans community and their allies.
In contrast to other pride events I have attended, corporate entities are not allowed to have a visible presence at trans pride, and public sector participation is heavily vetted by organisers. This is because few of these groups can be trusted to have trans people’s interests at heart, so organising as individuals uniting together feels like the most inherently ethical way to do right by the trans community. Because of this, Trans Pride has a sort of grassroots feeling to it, like it might actually be a vehicle for real change towards equality, rather than have all of its potency stripped away due to a need to appeal to marketability.
The march through London’s west-end is not officially sanctioned and therefore briefly forces traffic to a halt, a disturbance of the peace that seeks to create better outcomes for trans people by raising awareness of our existence and the issues we face. The march concludes with speakers from the community delivering powerful speeches about the joys and traumas that come with inhabiting trans identity to enthralled masses. Throughout the day there is a noticeable lack of trans pride branded wristbands, t-shirts, miscellaneous products, or official after parties that could imply our purpose for organisation is merely to consume in the name of hedonism. We came together to fight for the freedoms that are consistently denied to us, as well as to celebrate our togetherness in the face of extreme marginalisation.
Attending Trans Pride allowed me to envisage what all Pride celebrations might have been at a time when all LGBTQ+ identities faced what trans people do now. Before a time when co-opting the symbology of Pride became a standard marketing practice for the month of June due to the inherent unease our existences caused. Perhaps the corporate rainbow washing of most pride marches globally speaks to the societal acceptance some of us have gained since the time of their advent. However while trans people are so notably omitted from this acceptance, I personally have found it hard to celebrate during other Pride events.
Written by Almaas Bokhari, Customer Success Consultant