PHM at Manchester Pride

A guest blog by Jenny White, a Community Curator for our Never Going Underground  exhibition

If you’re watching Manchester Pride Parade on Saturday give us a wave. Staff and volunteers from People’s History Museum are out on the streets serving LGBT+ heritage realness.

The Never Going Underground exhibition has a number of items exploring Pride’s journey from political activism to a corporate sponsor’s dream. Leaflets, banners and photos highlight ongoing issues around diversity, accessibility, and inclusion; and contrasting attitudes to police and the armed forces taking part in parades. We also bagged an interview with Peter Tatchell who as a member of the Gay Liberation Front helped organise the first London pride back in 1972.

LGBT+ people are drawn from wildly different backgrounds and there can be a real clash of aims and priorities over Pride season. 

1979 Wages Due Lesbian leaflet

How Gay is Gay? flyer, LSE Library’s collections

This Wages Due Lesbians leaflet from 1979 questions who Gay Pride and the ‘gay’ scene is for. It’s a question still very relevant today with racism, sexism and transphobia very much alive and kicking within LGBT+ communities. Over the past few months activist Chardine Taylor Stone has continued to challenge the programming of blackface artists at LGBT+ prides across the country. It’s fantastic that this year there has finally been a positive outcome to Rainbow Noir’s call for Manchester Pride to be a Queens of Pop free zone.

knitted pluses

Also on display in the Never Going Underground exhibition are a set of @aceknitaholic’s craftivist pluses. They’re used to yarnbomb community stalls at Pride events that miss the ‘+’ from LGBT+ and to start a dialogue with stall holders to promote inclusion and recognition of other sexual and gender minorities outside the ‘LGBT’ spectrum.

There are photos and flyers from the first Peckham Pride organised in 2016 by Movement for Justice and Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants. We recorded an interview with one of the organisers, Karen Doyle, who tells us about the aim to promote solidarity between LGBT+ people and migrants, and to celebrate local resistance against immigration raids and detention centres.

We’ve a Campbell’s soup costume which was worn at London Pride 2008. Activists were calling for a boycott of Heinz products after the firm pulled a gay themed advert instead of holding their ground against complaints.

Everyone has an opinion on the involvement of big business in Pride. Some people hate corporations using rainbow imagery and messages about ‘freedom’ to market goods. Others think it’s no bad thing that big corporations are spreading tolerance, making LGBT employees feel valued, and making a positive contribution – Asda’s LGBT network for example organises family friendly areas at a number of Prides. Personally I think if it annoys the bigots it must be doing some good:

homophobes starving

Each summer disgruntled cisgender heterosexuals take to social media asking ‘why do the gays need pride?’, ‘why can’t we have a straight pride?’. But it’s a no brainer.

Vile homophobic and transphobic attacks in Manchester are still all too common. In February I gave a talk at an LGBT+ History Month event in Bournemouth, where Christian activists sat in on the whole day’s talks in protest at us spreading gay propaganda. Last year a teaching assistant successfully took legal action against her school after they criticised her for expressing homophobic views to pupils. Conservative activists are currently voicing opposition to updating the humiliating and outdated process transgender people currently have to undergo to change their legal gender. A spokesperson for Grassroots Conservatives labelled transgender people “deeply troubled”, and compared gender dysphoria with anorexia “it’s not actually respectful or loving to affirm that person in a belief that is false, that doesn’t tie up with reality.” Meanwhile in July a Labour councillor branded gay pride marchers paedophiles.

Pride is a celebration of difference, an opportunity to confront homophobia, bi-phobia transphobia, as well as a chance to party. 

If you haven’t checked out the Heritage Lottery Funded Never Going Underground exhibition, get your skates on – the final day is Sunday 3 September.

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