Last month, Rhammel Afflick resigned as Director of Communications for Pride in London. Pride in London is the organisation behind the capital city’s annual LGBT+ Pride celebrations. “As custodians of the pride movement,” Afflick wrote in an article explaining his decision, “we must be willing to disrupt the cycle of discrimination faced by LGBT+ communities. To be clear, that means we must be prepared to not only state our values but uphold them when it matters.”
Within a matter of days, the entire Community Advisory Board (CAB) also resigned. According to Ozzy Amir, former chair of the CAB, “the straw that broke the camel’s back” for many of them was the decision to allow the inclusion of the Metropolitan Police in future Pride parades. Complaints had been made in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests last summer, requesting police to be excluded from the core parade, and calls were reiterated recently in the wake of the disastrous scenes at the Sarah Everard vigil in Clapham. The very purpose of the Community Advisory Board, consisting of ten individuals from across the LGBTQ spectrum, was “to advise the directors on questions of inclusivity and help the body meet its commitment to openness and transparency.”
Accusations and understandings of institutional racism, particularly within the police, have obviously been brought to light over the past year with the resurgence of the international Black Lives Matter movement. As the advisory board noted in its statement: “The CAB believes Pride in London has reneged on its support of Black Lives Matter and its commitments to ‘listen to, advocate for and platform Black LGBT+ people’.”
“Pride in London did not uphold its public commitment when it mattered most and failed to set even the most basic conditions on continued police involvement—like an acknowledgement of institutional racism,” they wrote. “As decision-makers, you have failed to back words with action, and failed the Black and POC communities you’ve purported to champion.” Amir added: “The rot runs deep and it’s past time for this board of directors to go.”
In response, five of the board of directors did in fact resign with immediate effect, including both co-chairs Michael Salter-Church and Alison Camps. Their statement wasn’t particularly well-received, though, entrenching the narrative that the board is out of touch. “Since Pride in London was founded by Michael Salter-Church in 2012,” their statement read, “literally from nothing, it has developed into one of the biggest Prides in the world and is London’s third-biggest annual event and the world’s largest LGBT+ fundraising event.”
“The Black and people of colour community were owed an apology,” noted Amir. “Yet nowhere in this self-congratulatory statement will you see the words ‘sorry’.” Many took umbrage with the phrase “literally from nothing” when all Pride events—indeed, the very notion of LGBT+ Pride—is built on the work of our forebears, including many trans and non-binary people, sex workers, and people of colour. In the UK, the Pride movement gained traction as a protest against Thatcher’s Section 29 and her government’s ineffectual and prejudiced response to the AIDS crisis. Several community groups, including the Pride Trust and London Mardi Gras, preceded Pride in London.
This is far from its first controversy. In fact, in its relatively short history, Pride in London has had more than its fair share. The Community Advisory Board published a report following the 2017 event, which criticised the “bi-erasure” of that year’s events. The group’s chair at the time, Adrian Hyyrylainen-Trett, explained that “There has been significant disquiet across the LGBT+ communities, around Pride’s corporate nature, lack of inclusion [and] bad handling of sensitive intersectionality issues.”
What can be done? It’s not until September this year, instead of late June or early July as usual, to allow a buffer in case the government’s roadmap to reopening is delayed, which may seem inevitable to some. Pride in London is primarily a fundraising event, so a total boycott seems unnecessarily reactionary—yet, so much of these Pride events, particularly the focal march, has become so corporate that it’s practically unrecognisable as the radical intervention it once was. The former CAB members took aim at Pride in London’s volunteering base, writing, “If you wish to volunteer for an organisation that: values your lived experiences, backs its publicly stated values with action… Look elsewhere.”
Compared with the festival components of the other big British Pride events—Ariana Grande at Manchester’s and Kylie Minogue at Brighton’s one in 2019—London is relatively small fry, although they do make sure to keep the entire core programme free for all. No doubt this year’s will be bigger than ever, in large part to make up for last year’s lack of events, but a lot of the fun is to be found in the smaller, unofficial events, and by simply strutting the streets of Soho.
Moreover, the Black Trans Lives Matter march that I went to last year, which was organised on the same day as the cancelled parade, was an amazing experience—much more of a politically minded protest, less of a party, but nonetheless had a community spirit that felt so heartening, despite the unprecedented circumstances. I’d like to see more of this grassroots, activist focused work—that is both disruptive and engaging, but with a purpose.
There are some wonderful alternative organisations to support. UK Black Pride (UKBP) is a national event that is now usually timed to coincide with Pride in London’s main weekend. Co-founded in 2005 by the legendary and inspirational Phyllis Akua Opoku-Gyimah, aka Lady Phyll, UKBP is now Europe’s “largest celebration for African, Asian, Middle Eastern, Latin American and Caribbean- heritage LGBTQ people”. In 2018, Stonewall—Europe’s largest LGBT rights charity—withdrew its support from Pride in London over its lack of diversity, instead partnering with and throwing its institutional support behind UK Black Pride. In the years since, efforts have been made to closer coordinate the two events, but this recent news makes it seem like little has really changed.
“If there was ever going to be a moment for renewed energy and excitement in listening to Black LGBT+ voices, it should be now,” Afflick wrote. “Change is needed. And if not now, when?”
Last weekend, London held it’s first-ever Trans+ Pride, and it was both a protest against discrimination and the lack of basic human rights of trans folks, and a celebration of the community, its achievements, resilience, and hard work. The event was organised by trans activist and entrepreneur Lucia Blayke and turned out to be a great success.
“It’s a big job and to be honest, I have absolutely no experience or resources” joked Blayke while speaking to Screen Shot. Lucia was overwhelmed with the responses and said the best part for her was helping trans people “feel so much stronger and comfortable in themselves,” by bringing the community together. Screen Shot also spoke to London-based model, trans activist, and fashion queen Olivia Nutton, aka @glam_clam, who also attended Trans+ Pride, and said that the event helped her feel a “sense of community and how together everyone was.”
It is poignant that London, considered the 4th most LGBTQ+ friendly city in the world, only held its first trans pride in 2019. It certainly feels overdue, but this also serves as a strong reminder that there is still a long journey ahead of us before we reach full inclusivity. Sadly, all members of the trans community experience discrimination, prejudice, and harassment in one form or another, which is why Trans+ Pride is so monumentally important.
It is a march for healthcare, social housing, education, workplace employment laws, representation, trans refugees, and “it is a definite long list,” says Nutton. All of these are still lacking in the U.K., something that is evident in the scarcity of GPs trained in transgender health issues, the long waiting lists for appointments at gender identity clinics (there are only seven of those in the whole of England), as well as the fear of transgender refugees of being deported back to their countries of origin, where they risk their lives for being who they are.
The idea behind the Trans+ Pride was partly a response to the hijacking of Pride in London in 2018 by a group of anti-trans campaigners, when the organisers of Pride failed to remove protesters from Get The L Out, a TERF lesbian group advocating against transgenderism. Blayke says that “trans people are not being included as much and are being invalidated for the way they express their gender, even within the LGBT community.” Transgender people are actively excluded from what is supposed to be their own community, so it is only natural that they would have to go and form their own—which is what Blayke did when she created Trans+ Pride.
The thing is, Pride didn’t just become more exclusionary of members of the trans community, but has also been criticised for becoming commercial and corporate, and as Nutton says, “it just turned into a party where straight people get drunk and don’t really do anything else.” Yes, it is nice to see people want to come and show their support as allies; in some ways, it is also nice to see big corporations try and take a step into the right direction. But what do companies like Barclays or Deloitte really do for LGBTQ+ communities while marching in Pride, apart from taking space away from those who need visibility most? Where are the actual companies by LGBTQ+ members who are working towards improving the lives of marginalised communities?
Essentially, these spaces have been taken away from those who are less represented, which is why Blayke made it her duty to not only bring them back but create a Pride that is “A lot less pink-washed and a lot less corporate, letting trans people be in the spotlight.” Blayke has already started planning Trans+ Pride 2020, hoping it will only get bigger and better, but dodging big corporations and sponsors in order to avoid it turning commercial. “It is a community for people to fall back on and a support system for trans people to use,” and that is what she hopes to keep it as.
So, until 2020, remember to celebrate the community and advocate for inclusivity every day, “call out transphobia in your daily lives,” and be kind to one another.