AN OPEN LETTER TO Manchester Pride
Firstly, thank you for awarding Sparkle - The National Transgender Charity and our friends from Mermaids and LwiththeT this year’s Spirit of the Parade Award. It’s a shame no one notified us beforehand so that we could have accepted this prize in person.
This is wonderful recognition for the many strands of the LGB and T communities, of all ages, who came together to remonstrate the widespread barriers to equality that gender diverse people face daily. As we walked past the tens of thousands of visitors watching the parade, who were almost all vocally supportive and cheering on our walking group, we felt so proud of our city, so overwhelmed by the crowd’s reaction, and so hopeful for the future facing the young trans people who walked with us.
Once our group had finished walking, we received word that trans hostile group Lancashire ReSisters had hijacked the front of the parade. Not only were these individuals, who were few in number, allowed to remain at the front of the parade for a short of period and distribute leaflets containing transphobic hate speech, they were not removed but escorted by Greater Manchester Police, and given validity by the lack of action by the parade’s organisers and security.
To say our walkers were dispirited and disillusioned is an understatement. Any claims by Manchester Pride of supporting all gender non-conforming individuals, not just those with a privileged platform, felt moot and disingenuous. An already marginalised community felt even more abandoned by those who should be advocating for their acceptance and inclusion.
Later that day, a photograph taken of Lancashire ReSisters in the parade was printed in the Manchester Evening News and distributed online, giving the impression that this small group of trans hostile individuals were a legitimate parade entry, compounding the feelings of dismay felt by many of us.
There has been no statement from Manchester Pride or Greater Manchester Police. There have been no explanations or apologies, especially for the complete disregard of duty of care for the young trans people walking just thirteen places behind; other trans, non-binary/genderfluid and intersex people taking part in the parade; and those watching who are currently questioning their own gender, or on their own journey to becoming their true selves.
Jay Crawford, Chair of Sparkle’s Board of Trustees said; “Our group marched their hearts out, we embraced all ages, gender identities and sexualities within our parade entry. After reaching the end, I could see those same people disheartened and their experience tainted by the seemingly condoned anti-trans demonstration at the front. I think it is fair to say that, even in 2019, we have a long way to go for true inclusion of those who are trans, non-binary and gender variant. I am utterly devastated that this group was not challenged and excused by Manchester Pride and Greater Manchester Police. If we exclude Christian protestors, then we must also exclude other anti-LGBTQIA factions too.”
“Now I am left feeling unwelcome and unsafe as a trans, disabled, queer person. Our community needs answers, without delay. To state there is a Trans Pride on Monday in Sackville Gardens is absurd and dishonest; damage limitation at its most transparent.”
CEO of Mermaids, Susie Green, added; “We were delighted to be asked to be a part of this year’s march, alongside Sparkle and L-with-the-T. Our families, children and young people gathered to take part, and the march was amazing, emotional and empowering. It was with great sadness that we then discovered that, only 13 spaces in front of us, the same circumstances that happened in London in 2018 were played out in Manchester on Saturday. We are so disappointed that this was allowed to happen and dismayed that it was so close to our vulnerable service users and their families. To learn that they were escorted and allowed to hand out offensive materials that discriminate against trans people is incredibly disheartening.”
“This year, Pride in London took huge steps to protect our families and young people from a repeat of last year, successfully and with heart. Understandably, we are left wondering why Manchester Pride didn't offer our children and young people the same level of care and support Pride in London did?”
So, thank you for the Spirit of the Parade Award but, in light of the events we’ve highlighted, this feels like an empty gesture, and an attempt to dispel any further criticism. Sparkle – The National Transgender Charity would welcome an opportunity to meet with Mark Fletcher, CEO of Manchester Pride, representatives of Greater Manchester Police, and the parade organisers, to discuss these issues further because, until this infringement is investigated fully, and a cogent plan put in place to protect every group participating in the annual Manchester Pride parade, the gender diverse community will not feel safe or valued by The Big Weekend and its organisers.