Monday, 28 July 2014

A tale of two celebrations

    A long hot day in the park on Saturday, this time promoting the Dawn Skinner Fund at Brighton Trans Pride. A small park right on the beach, and perfect weather for it. Met a lot of people, was very pleased to bump into Lucy, got our message in front of a lot of eyeballs. A successful day for the Dawn Fund.
    This was our second outing in as many weeks, having previously been up to Manchester for Sparkle and its mirror FtM event, Buff. There's an interesting comparison to be made between the two, one that tells you something about the differences in LGBT culture across the UK and the uneasy relationship our community has with its own diversity.
    Manchester is a much more in-your-face city than Brighton, and this is reflected in its gay quarter. Wandering along the main drag - is that an appropriate word in this context? - in Kemptown I had the feeling of a slightly bohemian British small town, while a walk along Canal Street in Manchester feels more in common with Las Vegas. So the cities' respective trans pride celebrations reflect these differences, Sparkle is big, brash, and colourful while Brighton Trans Pride was much more serious, political, and dare I say it, conventional. There were none of the drag queens, LGs or French Maids in Brighton that you might see at Sparkle, instead the field was full of earnest young queer activists. In that I think Brighton did much better on the diversity front, it was very encouraging to see a healthy mix of people with MtF, FtM, genderqueer and other identities together in a community that is normally so segmented.
    It's interesting to watch the reactions among the more conventional parts of the trans community when you mention you are going to Sparkle. You'll see plenty of uneasiness, and in some cases outright internalised transphobia as they struggle with the idea of proximity to the outrageously dressed wing. In some people I sense there are some uncomfortable reminders of earlier points in their gestation as a trans person, in others I'm afraid I start to see just a little bit of intolerance.
    It's a shame, I see the more out-there parts of Sparkle as a pageant, an exercise in street theatre. Sit down on the bench next to the Alan Turing statue, and enjoy the show! If you do that, you'll notice something; unseen among the actors half the crowd are very conventional. Sackville Park has become an extended closet for the day, and holds no danger of outing for anyone.
    There is plenty of room for events to cater for the different ends of our community and I'm very glad to see Brighton Pride survive to a second year. I hope the Dawn Fund will be back next year.
    I still worry slightly though that our community's Pride celebrations are at the polar opposites in style.  We may not all follow identical paths, but we travel the same road.


  1. I was sorry to miss Brighton this weekend, but was unsure about what to expect if I had been able to go, I am assured that it was a good day enjoyed by all who went, and useful contacts were made between various groups who were not previously in contact. I'm not sure that would be possible at a larger event, but will keep my opinions to myself (yeh sure!) until I have some more personal experience.

    Of course trans people are primarily people, so it should not be surprising if some of us are a little socially conservative, when at Pride London I had to keep telling myself that if I require acceptance from other people, then in urn I have to make the effort to accept others myself. However I do think that there is something to be said for not frightening the horses!

  2. I was delighted to see you again!

    Never having attended Sparkle - never having been to Manchester for that matter - I can't really comment on the difference. Certainly we are earnest in Brighton. And by the sound of it, Sparkle might well be more fun!