The Channel Islands held their first ever Pride event last weekend. It was held in my home island, Jersey, and I was part of the organising committee, with responsibility for delivering the parade safely from its starting point to its end. This meant that I saw very little of the parade and my enjoyment of the day was filtered through the lens of having to think two paces ahead of what was actually happening at that moment!
Forty-eight hours later, watching it back on the videos posted on social media, the extent of our achievement moved me to tears. We had hoped for 1,000 people. In the end, we got 3,000 people, who represented a cross-section of the Channel Islands’ population and who were all overjoyed to be a part of an historic day.
A number of people before the event asked me, “Isn’t Pride a bit passé?” or “Do we really need Pride any longer, aren’t you all integrated now?” or “Isn’t Pride just an excuse for a party?” The emotion and pride evident on the faces of the crowd showed how much Pride is still relevant and meaningful. As a population within the Channel Islands, we are tolerated, which means that we rarely, if ever, experience hate crime or violence and most of us don’t deal with homophobia/transphobia on a regular basis. However, tolerance is not the same as acceptance, and that is why, even though we have come a long way, we still need Pride events.
We worked hard as a committee to make Pride a community event – started by the LGBTQ community, grown by those in the community who could see its importance and enjoyed by the whole community. We ensured that it wasn’t bought by a corporate sponsor to help their CSR stats, we didn’t bring in pop stars to headline the stage and we didn’t commercialise the event by selling off everything we could. Everyone who was there was there because they wanted, above all else, to show how proud they were of the diversity in their Islands. Showing the Islands that we are proud to be who we are and asking them to also be proud of who they are is important.
There have been debates in the UK pink press recently about whether the T should split from the LGB. As someone who regularly gets up on his feet to educate on trans issues, one of the things that I have to explain to audiences is that trans is not “über-gay” and that one’s gender and sexuality are separate facets of ourselves. Eliding the T with the LGB can be confusing for those who are not part of the community and I am aware that the T can be as badly understood and misrepresented by some in the LGBTQ community as those outside. However, as a result of last weekend’s Pride event, I am more than ever convinced that we are much better working together – and not just the T with the LGB, but other parts of the community, too.
Far from the LGBTQ shrinking to be the LGB, I think it is far more likely that, as the LGBTQ community achieve equal rights and acceptance, charities, like Liberate (the one I work for), will grow to encompass other less experienced and/or well-organised minorities who struggle with inequality. Just as the T is benefiting from the skills learned over decades by the LGB community’s fight for equality so other minorities, like the aged and differently abled, may also become the beneficiaries of these talents.
This year we were very clear with the media that the Channel Islands’ first Pride was not a “gay pride” but a celebration of equality and diversity that included all races, ages, abilities, genders and sexualities. This subtlety was lost on many journalists, but we will continue to market Pride in the Channel Islands in this way, excluding no members of our society. Personally, I look forward to the first “gay, grey, para Pride” in the Channel Islands!
More trans notes from a small island next month…