When Pride Glasgow announced back in 2014 that the event was no longer free and would be held in a car park, we were pretty raging. With a lack of available venues due to the Commonwealth Games and no funding forthcoming from public bodies, most notably our chums at Glasgow City Council, the organisers assured us this was a unique situation. And they were right – this year, the event returns to its usual spot of Glasgow Green and we won’t be charged a fiver either, now it’ll be a tenner.
While the march remains free, its end destination will be a pay to attend event on the Green, headlined by that boy band who came fourth in the X-Factor a few years ago. Are you proud yet?
Glasgow is following a trend set by other cities, with Pride Events now often taking place behind perimeter fencing, with an array of council officials, booze merchants, the military, tat sellers and G4S guards overseeing the festivities/collectively emptying of the pockets of the LGBTIA+ community, before moving on to the next festival to do it all again.
It’s hard to imagine we’d miss a chance to slag off the Council and we’re not intending to, their lack of support for Pride is doubtless responsible for the situation which the organisers have found themselves in. Funding is given to the Glasgay festival and the council also managed to fund Pride House, a space for LGBTI athletes and visitors, during the Commonwealth Games. In other words, there’s money to make us look like we give a shit about the gays when we think there might be visitors watching but none to help LGBTIA+ Glaswegians on the one day a year we can walk the streets together in relative safety and solidarity.
Having had no funding from GCC since 2008, the organisers of Pride Glasgow had to decide whether to continue to deliver the same outcome or whether to put the resources they had towards ensuring the event remained free and as accessible as possible. The decision to deliver the same end result, a big pop concert behind a fence, whatever the cost and regardless of the consequences for our communities, suggests they’ve lost all sense of what Pride is about for many of us.
I’ve heard hundreds of tales over the years of scared weans summoning up all their courage and sneaking down to Pride, discovering for the first time they weren’t alone, being handed a piece of paper with some basic information on it that changed the course of their lives. If there’s one practical thing which Glasgow Pride must do, it’s make sure the information and community stalls aren’t fenced off. They won’t though, coz then they couldn’t charge the people who’re volunteering at them a tenner to get in.
By making Pride more exclusive, less accessible and more commercial, the organisers are sending out a message about what our community could become if we let it. The timing couldn’t be more galling, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that in the year equal marriage is enacted, Pride seems to be drifting even further away from being a protest and more towards being a cosy celebration of how far “we” (i.e. well educated white cisgendered gay men) have come. While it would be an insult to those who’ve gone before not to recognise and celebrate the progress we’ve made in such an incredibly short time, it would be a bigger insult to those who’re still lagging far behind to pretend the fight is over.
Despite the media narrative, there‘s more to this than “gay marriage” and “gay cake”, even if the Pride organisers seem to want to have their gay cake and eat it too. This year we will have to pay AND have corporate sponsorship everywhere, we can’t help but noticing the already ample promotion given to the Polo Longue, part of Stefan King’s G1 Group, whose contributions to the community include being found to have breached anti-discrimination laws and failing to pay staff the minimum wage. What’s not to be proud of? We’ve all probably got a tenner anyway, since we’re now entitled to Married Couples Allowance, right??
[CONTENT WARNING: discussion of homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, violence, suicide]
Except, thousands of Scots who happen not to conform to what everyone else has decided simply has to fit in one of two boxes don’t even have a right to their own gender. A study by LGBT Youth Scotland suggested that, of the nearly 50% of trans people who’ve experienced transphobic bullying in education, 42.3% said this had resulted in them leaving school, college or uni.
Despite the abolition of Section 28 over 15 years ago, education on sexuality much less gender identity remains shockingly poor, with a recent report highlighting that while 88% of teachers were aware of homophobia in the classroom, just 18% said they had received any training to deal with it. More than 4 in 10 teachers said they either couldn’t discuss or didn’t know whether they could discuss homosexuality in the classroom. On average, lesbian, gay and bisexual people die before straight people do, trans people die before cisgendered people do. Our society is still training people to hate us and our lives remain shorter and more violent as a result. We’re not done yet, we’re just getting started.
Across the globe, struggles are taking place in situations we can barely imagine, in direct opposition to the state. Yet we can’t muster a free event, in a country believed to be the best place to be gay in Europe, despite both corporate & state assistance. I can’t help but wonder how the many community groups, political campaigns and who knows who else can manage to pack out a public space with supporters, music and revelry for the day yet apparently Glasgow’s LGBTIA+ community cannae manage it without charging for the privilege. I doubt Stefan King or Creative Scotland contributed much to Scrap Trident, The Orange Order or the Tommy Sheridan Show, to name but a few of the free events we’ve crashed in the last few months.
As we’re cheerily encouraged to pay our tenner and #BeHappy by the pop promoters/arbitrators of all human emotion at Pride Glasgow, there’s a real danger that our diverse communities become increasingly divided between those who’re doing alright and everyone else. As many struggle against the odds just to be, they have every right to #Befuckingraging at having a financial barrier being added to their exclusion.
Far be it for me to break with the habit of relentless miserablism – but there are glimmers of hope in all this, signs of a struggle beyond the walk down the aisle. The Equality Network will be centering their Pride contribution this year on trans and intersex recognition. The Time for Inclusive Education campaign was launched last week, on the anniversary of the Stonewall riots (which happened despite a lack of council funding by the way), and aims to pressurise Holyrood into finally enacting legislation to protect and enhance the lives of our young people, by giving them statutory access to education about issues of sexuality and gender identity. In the last year, a solidarity demonstration called following the death of Leelah Alcorn brought together trans people in Glasgow and their allies, despite the usual shoddy behaviour from the council.
Perhaps most significantly, a group called Free Pride has been launched, aiming to provide a more inclusive, accessible and free to enter event on the day of Glasgow Pride and one which challenges the de-politicised and de-radicalised “main event.”
Pride should be free. Pride should be a protest. Pride should be accessible to all. Instead it has become over-commercialised and de-radicalised, and charges money to people if they want to participate. Pride belongs to LGBTQIA+ people and we want it back.
We have grown tired of mainstream Pride’s lack of inclusiveness for transgender, intersex and asexual people and other marginalized groups that make part of our LGBTQIA+ communities, including disabled people/people with disabilities and people of colour.
Free Pride Manifesto
The Free Pride event is being funded entirely by donations, so if you happen to be in a position to contribute, you can do so here.
Freeing Pride in Glasgow or anywhere is about so much more than the cost of a ticket, it’s about whether Pride can again be a useful tool in our struggle for liberation and dignity or whether it’s just another day when we’re patted on the head by huge corporate sponsors and told we should be grateful Barclays and G1 are on hand to free us of our pink pounds. While we don’t doubt there can be both liberation and dignity in burling about steaming to Union J or Texas, the chance to have a party, a protest and a pop at something a bit different can only be a good thing.
We’d be waiting a while for council funded freedom, so creating an alternative to the pay-to-gay main event could be an important first step in the long battle to free Pride.
Pride Glasgow takes place on the Saturday 22nd & Sunday 23rd August, with the main parade meeting in Glasgow Green at 12:15pm on Saturday 22nd August to march off at 1pm.
The Free Pride Event takes place at The Art School on Saturday 21st August. There is a daytime event with workshops and performances from 2pm-8pm – and a night time event with DJ & performances from 10pm-3am.