Just when you thought Manchester Pride was making strides towards diversity and inclusivity, they then take two steps backwards.
Manchester Pride is considered one of the biggest and best annual events in the UK. Spread over the August bank holiday weekend and mainly situated within the famous Manchester Gay Village, the event hosts tens of thousands of visitors each year.
While the parade itself is free to attend, the festival and entry into the Gay Village are ticketed. This is not surprising nor new. The weekend is a massive spectacle and has included headlining acts such as Rita Ora, Clean Bandit and Jake Shears in previous years.
Yet last week, Pride celebrators took to twitter to express their shock that the price of weekender tickets had more than doubled within a year from £34.50 to £70.95 (including booking fees).
Access to the Gay Village alone cost £16.50 for the whole weekend and all single day tickets were priced between £11 and £37.95.
While some welcomed the new prices, seeing them as a sign of big headlining acts and an exciting rejuvenated programme, others called out the event for its commercialisation of what originally started as a march against LGBT+ inequality.
CEO of Manchester Pride, Mark Fletcher, defends the pricing arguing they have revitalised the weekend, adding in new events such as a Manchester Pride Live Festival.
He argues: “we’re presenting the biggest line up of artists we’ve ever had, for less than the price of a single concert ticket”. It is rumoured that Ariana Grande will be headlining the Manchester Pride Live Festival although no acts have currently been announced.
Manchester Pride is not the only event accused of losing the meaning of Pride. Brighton Pride 2018 felt more like a Britney concert at points than a celebration of LGBT+. London Pride, though free to enter and enjoy, have faced criticism for including airlines in their parade that openly and unapologetically deport queer immigrants back to anti-LGBT+ countries.
As the western world becomes generally much more accepting of LGBT+ people, it was expected that pride would become less about protest and more of a celebration. Nonetheless, life is not better for all LGBT+ people. A second wave of anti-gay purges have just happened in Chechnya, Malaysia has been accused of state-sponsored homophobia and many countries in the world still won’t give basic rights to its LGBT+ population.
Furthermore, life is not necessarily better for all western LGBT+ people and this is where Manchester Pride’s hypocrisy lies.
In January, it was announced that Manchester Pride were adopting a new variation of the Pride flag as their official flag, one that includes the colours black and brown alongside the established 6. The addition of these colours is meant to recognise queer people of colour within the community and their often overlooked contribution.
The decision proved divisive. While some celebrated the clear recognition of the struggles queer people of colour face daily, others felt the new colours were unnecessary and made the flag look ugly.
Officially, Manchester Pride adopted the brown and black variation of the Pride flag to acknowledge the racism within the LGBT+ community and to establish that queer people of colour were welcome at Pride.
However, racism is an elusive concept. It plays out in many different and subtle ways and is highly intertwined with other social concepts such as class, gender and sexuality.
For the event’s organisers to claim that all are welcome at Pride no matter their colour and, at the same time, considerably increase ticket prices, is a massive slap in the face to queer people of colour. It ignores the massive class differences between the racial groups and suggests that the organisers’ show of diversity and inclusivity was merely that. A show.
Poverty and homelessness are already serious issues within the LGBT+ community. According to The Albert Kennedy Trust, nearly a quarter of the UK’s homeless youth population identify as LGBT+ and in 2017 alone, more than 10,000 LGBT+ youths aged 16 to 25 were made homeless.
To ticket an event aimed at celebrating being LGBT+, in itself excludes a large section of the LGBT+ community who don’t have extraneous money to spend. Furthermore, when one looks at the differences between racial groups within the LGBT+ community, issues of poverty and homelessness are even more widespread amongst queer people of colour.
CEO Mark Fletcher counters any criticism arguing that there will be more events for women and BAME guests this year than ever before and that a limited number of tickets will be “made available for those facing financial hardship”. Despite this, it still feels like a large amount of the community is being alienated.
The National Black Justice Coalition estimates that in the US nearly one third of the children from Black, male, same-sex parents and over one quarter of the children from Black female, same-sex parents, are raised in poverty. This compares to the 14% of children in poverty with White, male, same sex parents and the 13% with Black, opposite-sex parents. Additionally, within the US Black community, 34% of trans people live in extreme poverty in comparison to the 9% of cis-gendered (non-trans) people.
Queer people of colour are also far more likely to face rejection or struggle with their sexuality. When taking a survey, Asians are 4.4 times more likely than White British people to click the ‘prefer not to say’ box on questions regarding sexuality.
Additionally, queer people of colour are much more likely to contract HIV and much less likely to find treatment. According to The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2017, Black people accounted for 13% of the US population but 43% of the US population living with HIV. These figures are despite the fact that Black gay and bisexual men are more likely to engage in safe sex than their White peers.
If Manchester Pride mean what they are suggesting by including black and brown on their official flag, then they also need to follow through with actions that support and include all races and all classes. Actions speak louder than words and Pride was invented for the purpose of speaking out and acting upon the issues facing the LGBT+ community.
It just so happens that 2019 marks 50 years since Stonewall, the riots that sparked half-a century of gay liberation movements which in turn, gave us the rights many of us have now. While Pride is fun and we should of course celebrate, it’s important to remember that the Stonewall riots were not started by privileged kids with glittered up faces, drinking Pimms at a ticketed festival headlined by Britney.
The riots were started by those who were outcasts even within the LGBT+ community: the trans, the femmes, the homeless and the people of colour. They were excluded then but lets make sure we’re not excluding them now.
Manchester Pride were contacted for comment but gave no response.