Sunday, 21 September 2008

Probed about Pride

Today I was interviewed by a student from a university down South who is looking into the interaction over the past 18 years between diverse communities, community groups, and Manchester LGBT Pride / Mardi Gras / GayFest.

It's a hot potato in some circles, both between moderate pragmatists who wonder whether the event can evolve to become less commercial in its image, and right-wing anarchoqueer hardliners. The former group are only just starting to more visibly seek reform; the latter have such a commitment to conformity that they would rather have no LGBT event in the city than keep the one we have, so they work to disrupt and undermine it rather than contribute and engage in constructive change.

Over here in the B corner, of course, we long ago noticed how excluded from 'LGBT' events we can be and got ourselves organised to create BiCon as an alternative: it's been going rather longer than Manchester Pride.

There is a Pratchett book which starts several times to emphasise that where a story begins is a matter of perspective of the teller, and that's an important factor here. In telling the tale of Little Red Riding Hood would you start when she meets the wolf, when she sets off into the woods, or go back to when grandma first wound up living all alone in a cottage in the middle of the woods away from everyone else.

If you've come to the city or become aware of local LGBT politics since 2003,and have chosen not to get educated about the past, it looks one way. There's a big monolithic Pride organisation which bankrolls lots of money into a couple of big organisations and smaller sums into a plethora of small projects. It's deeply enmeshed with the city council, and hard to see the borderlines where the council, LGF and GHT end and where the separate Pride organisation begins. And they've made the odd mistake along the way, though the main howler (charging individual people for marching on the parade) was retracted after being tried the once. It's very commercial, very much a showcase for big business emphasising its 'gay-friendly' credentials, and the focus is very very L/G, with much less T and practically nothing B.

However, if you remember back before EuroPride in 2003, it looks rather different. I'll come back and say more about that another time, but for now it would help greatly if in debating Manchester Pride's present and future, we could keep in mind its past, and not conflate LGBT pride the concept with LGBT Pride the Manchester event.

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