There’s something different in the air this week, and its not just the rainbow flags which seem to be decking every pub in Soho. Unmistakably, its the run up to Pride: Every willing surface in London has been splashed with colour, Twitter is ablaze with chit-chat, Buzzfeed is nearly wetting itself and on opening Time Out, you’re greeted with two drag queens kissing. But amongst all the Pride coverage, there is often something lacking. Many of the pictures we see look alike (toned, white boys), most of the interviews we see are with high profile celebrities (often straight) and much of the discussion is centred around a new kind of Pride (an apolitical party.) Attempting to look deeper into the queer community and what they believe ‘being proud’ means, we at the project have decided to run a series of ‘Alternate Pride’ posts. Starting today and running until Sunday, we hope to take a look at how the voices we often don’t hear will be celebrating this weekend.
And what a start we have. Today, we are privileged to be able to share an interview with the organisers of Queer Picnic, an alternate queer outing this Saturday being held in Burgess Park. Below, the team behind the day out explain to us their feelings on Pride and what it means for queer people in 2015. Thank you very much to everyone that contributed, your words are immensely educational for all of us within the community.
What is Queer Picnic? Why have you set it up? Why is an alternative to mainstream Pride important?
Queer picnic is exactly what it says on the tin, it’s a picnic for queer people. I think what’s important to note is the difference between ‘queer’ and ‘gay’, ‘lesbian’ or ‘bi’ or other labels, is that queer specifically talks about critiquing norms, challenging dominant power structures or things we’d taken for granted and one of those dominant power structures at the moment in terms of LGBTQIA+ people is pride. It’s what most people associate with when they think about gay protests, gay activism and gay spaces but actually it’s a space which perpetuates a lot of the same systems which degrades, dehumanizes and oppresses us in a lot of ways and it excludes us.
An important thing to note, is that your sexuality and your gender is not something that is defined by how much money you have or how white you are or your physical ability to get into certain places. Pride does set parameters around those. I am aware that pride does try very hard to be accessible to people with disabilities, has things like black pride and the Pride day itself is accessible in some ways like its free (this year they’re suggesting a donation of £3) but for a lot of reasons like the high level of police presence, lots of ticketed events which costs a lot of money to get into and the kind of affiliation it comes with.
To be a part of it you need to be marching alongside corporations which are in a lot of ways diametrically opposed to the gay struggle, the companies which are very much invested in the arms trade and companies which are very much invested in land grabbing and dismantling and destabalising African and Latin American and Asian communities and it’s not something we personally want to be a part of. Its capitalism, it’s a struggle that has been commodified. Barclays has nothing to do with any kind of queer struggle, Tescos, Sainsburys, and all these other companies that I’d forgotten were taking part. I was reading up on it last year when we did something similar.
People have got quite up in arms that the UKIP were scheduled to march but that doesn’t really surprise me in any shape or form when you’ve got the Conservative Party being represented in the march. We’ve got people like Theresa May in the Conservative Party who sends LGBTQI+ activists to face absolutely awful conditions. It’s beyond homophobic because it’s denying basic human rights to LGBTQI+ people. The Conservative Party who are basically dismantling the human rights bill, who are destroying much needed services for LGBTQI+ people. Queer and trans (QT) people are more likely to be homeless, queer and trans people are more likely to need youth services, queer and trans people especially QT people of colour are more likely to need mental health support for various reasons. This is everything the Tories are literally destroying and making it more difficult for people who are already facing various issues that are hard to deal with.
So we don’t want to march in a parade which is lead by a bank that supports the arm trades and is complicit in the murder of and commodification of war and we don’t want to be a part of a system which is basically a commodification of a struggle for human rights and we don’t want to march alongside a party that spits on disabled people and children, the NHS, the working class and all the other people we should be collectively supporting and that’s what queer picnic is trying to do. To make a space for people that are people of colour, people who are trans, for people who have children, for people who don’t have income, all of these things are why we’re doing it. And the picnic is exactly what it says; it’s a picnic, outside, in the sun, in the park.
What do you think the main issues are for the Queer Community at the moment?
This is a very broad question but we think mainly it’s the divide between mainstream gay culture and the queer community where all the venues, all the events, all the written material, all the books, all the music, all the media, everything you see is for and about white gay men and it’s not necessarily for the queer community. So even with in our ‘community’, we don’t see our voices anywhere which we think is very problematic for the younger people growing up at the moment.
In other words, one of the main issue being representation of QTIPOC people, trans, disabled and/or working class people. People of colour are not a minority, there are more people of colour than there are white people in the world. Like in London , we represent such a huge population , only 46% of the London demographic is white, so there’s more people of colour than there are white people, and yet we have Pride events where there will be one QT (queer and/or trans) person of colour speaking or there will be a cabaret event with one artist of colour like this year’s Pride, they’ve got Dean Atta. Who is an incredible poet, who actually in a way tackles these issues and his poetry is brilliant but it’s interesting that he’s the only person of colour who will be on a stage of 24 performers. It’s really problematic, when you are a queer POC and/or other further marginalised groups of queers and you never see yourself represented, you never see anyone you can relate to, or even see someone like you.
We have a problem in the UK with looking to America for examples of African American culture, we get so much influence from it but there’s actually people of African and Caribbean decent, Asian, Desi, Hispanic and all other queer people of colour who are from all diasporas in the UK and are doing incredible things whether it be activism or archiving or historians or artists or musicians or performers. They’re all doing incredible work in our community and have a lot to say about how our country works and how we can work together and change it and yet we don’t see those voices, we hear again and again the same fucking peter tatchell, same problematic white people who take up too much space.
Oh also btw there was a trans panel the other day on “How to be happy and transgender” and they had Peter Tatchell who is a transphobic bigot and Owen Jones who is a CIS white man and they were both on the panel on ‘how to be happy and transgender’ in the UK, that’s what were talking about, why are they taking up that space, how can they possibly tell us what it feels like to be trans and happy?
It’s because they’re conditioned to take up space. What it does when white people are always speaking on issues that they can’t relate to- when white CIS men are speaking on issues of feminism, racism, homophobia and transphobia and everything else, what it does is it implicitly sends this message to young people that only white male voices are important.
And that they’re the only people that can save you but that is not true.
And it sends messages to people of colour that our voices are less important and its really fucking problematic because I’ve encountered far too many of these white men that speak in this way and I am definitely guilty of it as well, as part of decolonizing as a male, my voice is more important and it’s important that we have spaces where CIS Men and white people take a step back and listen to other people and I’m tired of seeing white men speaking at protests about racism, misogony, sexism and all these things because I’d much rather like to hear from people that have a lived experience of it.
We don’t need people to speak for us. We don’t need you to save us. We need you to support us while we speak for ourselves. Someone the other day said at a conference, “the most political and incredible thing a white person can do is to shut up and let other people speak for once.”The best form of activism for a white person is to hold back and let other people’s voices be heard. Same goes for men, CIS people and straight people.
If you want to attend Queer Picnic, you can check them out on Facebook here. Feel free to support the day by going along, looking out for each other and bringing happy vibes, games and food.