Friday, 2 September 2016

Missing the Target

I was a only a smidge surprised when Manchester's Pride march was disrupted by protestors last weekend. In days of yore such things were right-wing monoculturalists who hate queers and don't like a large visible representation of the LGBT (or, back then, gay) community being allowed on the streets.

This time it was another bunch of right-wing monoculturalists, though with very much the same disdain for anyone who lives differently from themselves.

So the parade was blocked with what was on the surface a protest about treatment of transgender people in prisons, which is a good and worthy thing to complain about because there are many stages in the law and order side of life where trans experience is particularly harsh when compared to that of cis people.

Underneath though were two undercurrents. The first the "no prisons" message (a lovely hippy idea if you think that humans are somehow different from all other life forms on the planet, and dire if you think about behaviour in the real world) which reflects a huge degree of privilege on the part of those campaigning for it. To think: if we have no prisons, I'll be safe, life will be better, you have to have a strong degree of personal safety and security in many ways. The second, the general anti-Pride campaign that pops up under a fresh guise with the same faces regularly in its hatred of a queer event daring to raise money hand-over-fist for LGBT and HIV causes in the city and the region. There's a lot wrong with Manchester Pride, don't get me wrong, and if you do want to do something about that the solution is to either get stuck in and fix it or to build a better party.

But if for the time being we pretend that the demo really was about trans prisoners and how they are treated, this was a protest that missed its real target by a mile. What got disrupted was not something like GALIPS but the Greater Manchester Police. Attacking GMP coppers-on-the-beat for the work of the Prison Service is like blaming the guy who picks litter up at your local train station for the latest inflation-busting rise in fares.

Even within GMP though, if you're outraged by transphobia or LGBTphobia in policing, the people who choose to give up their Saturday to come along to a Pride march, get rained on and calloused on a long slow parade, are not the queerphobes in the service. They're the LGBT members and the most supportive of the cishetero allies. The cis, straight, partners of LGBT people. The people who see shared struggles and want to help others facing challenges. The people on the inside of the tent pissing in, who are most likely and most able to effect change within the force.

Whether you are angry at LGBTphobia from within the police or from your local Co-Op, sticking it to the people from those organisations who turn up at Pride just reduces the chance of change. It misses the target by a mile, and slows rather than accelerates change.

But I suppose, if you want to avoid change because you'd rather have a 'front' organisation and campaign to recruit people with, that is exactly the tactic you'd pick.

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