Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Pride Celebrations in Brighton

I'm contemplating my promise to turn up and support Trans Pride this coming Saturday afternoon with mixed feelings. But I will drive in, somehow find a space to leave Fiona (regardless of expense), and go along to the little park where it's mostly being held.

There will be some local friends there, but also some from much further away. It will be very nice to say hello to people I may not have seen for a year or longer. I'm going mainly for these reunions.

But in the background will be an intense (and noisy) programme of trans-related events - music, poetry, speeches, films. A photo exhibition too - somewhere else, at the Town Hall I think. All of it will be serious and worthy, celebrating in some way the emerging position of trans people in today's society - which is a fine thing of course - but also highlighting all their ongoing difficulties and setbacks, the continued existence of which is not fine at all.

I'm far from the centre of all this. I'm a bystander on the periphery, as detached from it as any ordinary member of the public. I gather from some people that things are getting better. That for trans people a tipping-point is approaching, beyond which the balance will swing so that it will be normal to discover oneself to be trans, normal to hear about it all the time, normal for families and schools and all wider society to be full of helpful acceptance. Just as anyone presently affected by a radically life-changing illness or accident automatically gets help, including all kinds of rehabilitation services (at least in theory). Of course the money isn't really there to fund the complete utopian package, and may never be. But even a transformation in ordinary people's attitudes would be progress enough for many.  

Meanwhile, there are these events. What are they for? What do the public at large see? Will the ordinary residents of Brighton, and the tourists down from London or elsewhere, feel at one with the trans people in the park? Will I?

It's sad to say it, but I am pretty certain that I will, inevitably, see myself as an outsider, someone looking in from a different world. It will be hard to make any kind of personal connection, except the sort one makes for the sake of friendship. I won't be able to wear a rainbow wristband, nor indeed make any gesture of solidarity, without feeling rather self-conscious and - to be honest - a bit of a fraud.

My world, the world of an older woman in a Sussex village, a woman who isn't a gender victim, who goes where she pleases, who has independence, who has to placate nobody, is a long way removed from the world of a vulnerable young trans person without money or a proper home, who has to live on a knife edge. And I'm certain that any gesture of empathy on my side would be received with polite scepticism. What, you? (They might say) You with your house out of town, and your big car, and your pensions, and your endless holidays, and your nice clothes, and your wine-and-nibbles pilates friends? What do you understand about us? Those precise words have never been said to me yet. But the occasion on which they will be looms. And I don't want to push my luck.

I can't help feeling that my turning up at these Pride events, even if it's mainly to hang around the Clare Project stall and sip wine with a few people I know, and listen to Alice reading her latest impassioned poem on stage, runs the risk of being misinterpreted. Why (I can see it being said) am I dressed so 'normally'? Why am I taking photographs as if this were the Notting Hill Carnival, or some similar spectacle? Why am I behaving like a tourist? Am I in fact no more than a casual tourist who has wandered in off the street, drawn in by sheer curiosity and a fondness for unconventional scenes? And if I am not part of the trans community, not experiencing the pain that underlies all the partying, then (it will be said) thank you for your passing interest, but you are clearly not one of us.

It would be an odd feeling to be politely but firmly excluded. Pushed away. Not kept out, but not really wanted. And once it happened, I probably wouldn't make any further effort to attend.

Perhaps, as I wander from stall to stall on Saturday, and watch whatever is happening on the stage, I will come to the conclusion that I should firmly exclude myself before I'm asked to leave.

It would save a fortune in Brighton parking charges.


  1. I'll be there in Slightly Red Jenny mode, handing out trade union whistles. Paying back for their being there for me when I needed them.

    It's interesting to juxtapose the UK's two trans Pride events, Sparkle and TPB. The former is out there and doesn't care, while the latter probably takes itself a little too seriously.

    I'd say to anyone with respect to Pride events, don't take them too seriously. They're there to provide visibility, but they're also there for anyone - trans, cis, or fading into the scenery - to have an entertaining and enlightening time. I know a lot of people who are very uncomfortable about Sparkle because of the outrageous TVs, DQs etc, but they miss the point that it's a spectacle and it's perfectly OK to be a spectator.

    Incidentally, your lens would probably catch the essence of Sparkle very well, were you to make it up to Manchester one year.

  2. Thanks for the compliment on my photojournalist capabilities, Jenny!

    I agree that I'm probably being too introspective where Brighton's Trans Pride is concerned. Nobody will be tut-tutting over my appearance, and I'm sure that in reality I will be as welcome as anyone else. I will look out for you. Please keep a whistle for me!



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