The parade is always my favourite bit of Pride, not only because it’s usually the only free and largely dry bit of Pride to enjoy but because it’s the one part where community groups and individuals have centre stage. Rainbow Noir has walked in the parade for the last two years, alongside The LGBT Centre where we have our monthly meetings. Each year we have grown in numbers for the parade, from 3 people in 2014, to our biggest year this Pride with 16 people walking, including young people from the local BME youth group, allies and many of our Rainbow Noir family spread throughout the parade with various other groups.
Here are some of my thoughts on the parade and the days leading up to Manchester Pride.
The lead up to Pride is always pretty stressful – making banners, organising meeting spots, printing tshirts etc but this year was particularly frustrating. A few days before Pride a friend of mine alerted me to a band called Queens Of Pop (QoP) playing in one of the bars within the Pride event. If you haven’t heard of them before, you can see their shameful work here (content warnings for black face, racism, transphobia, mysogny, classism). They are a truly disgusting form of ‘entertainment’ and sadly, a group who are adored within mainstream LGBT nightlife venues up and down the UK. People of Manchester successfully campaigned to remove them from Pride in 2013 so I was shocked to see that they were back again. There were a group of people in Manchester who brought attention to this, calling out Bar Pop the bar hosting them and Manchester Pride for allowing this to happen in a venue within their event (although Manchester Pride themselves were not involved in the booking). People took to Facebook to raise their concerns too, only to be met by an entourage of white gay fans defending the act and telling us to get a sense of humour; apparently, QoP take the mick out of everyone and so we really shouldn’t be so upset. The owner of Bar Pop (a white, cis, gay man) also defended hosting the act; telling us that QoP have “been at it for years and aren’t racist”. Shutting down our voices yet again and sending a message loud and clear about who the mainstream LGBT scene is really for.
This set a strange tone for the weekend but on the other hand also made our drive to be bigger and more visible in the parade than ever before even greater and to bring our messages to the people of Manchester about the ingrained racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia within ‘the scene’.
I have mixed feelings about the parade itself. It was really amazing to be surrounded by our beautiful Rainbow Noir family, friends and allies; to dance around to our music and enjoy the vibe of each other’s presence and excitement. Our Rainbow Noir family is so diverse in culture, heritage, age, gender and it was a special moment to see us all in our beauty, unified together as one for Manchester Pride. There were lots of really overwhelming responses from the crowds too as we passed – people who raised their fists with us, nodding, cheering and clapping us along and there were moments where I felt a true sense of understanding and solidarity which really moved me.
Despite the joy our parade block shared with each other and the crowds, there were also moments where the reactions to us were quite uncomfortable. Several people mentioned that they could see people mouthing ‘Black Lives Matter’ and our other messages with looks of confusion and disdain. For some watching the parade, us bringing politics to Pride and talking about race was a step too far – we weren’t the jolly people on the Coronation Street float smiling, waving and dancing about without a care in the world; we were bringing the real and gritty politics of our lives and our community, unapologetically to the forefront and demanding that people listen.
At other parts in the parade there was also complete silence. No clapping or smiling, just people glaring as we went by. Other groups in the parade mentioned that they got the same reaction at points and that it felt quieter than previous prides. To me this really symbolises how complacent people are with where we are at right now with LGBT equality. People think we have marriage equality and supposed equal standing within equality law in the UK and therefore have nothing left to fight for, or rather, moan about. Action for Trans Health staged a protest around Greater Manchester Police’s parade entry to raise awareness to the poor treatment of trans prisoners and were told by the crowds that they were ‘ruining the parade for them and their children’. It seems for many people, Pride is simply a glittery, camp and joyous show to watch and then continue on after with Saturday shopping, spending no time at all reflecting on any of the ways that they might be complicit in the marginalising of our communities.
Scrolling through Flickr for photos from the day further cemented my thoughts on people’s apolitical feelings about Pride; finding very few photos of Rainbow Noir and our political messages amongst the hundreds that have been uploaded, despite being snapped by lots of photographers on the day. Pride is a protest. Of course it’s a chance for us to celebrate; showing off our strength, beauty and our pride but to me and many others, it is and will always be a political event. Our lives by the way in which society others us are by their very nature political and so how can we have Pride without our politics?
Ranting aside, the parade this year for us was something special. Looking back at the photos fills me with so much pride. We were so loud and bold and beautiful and bought the true essence of Pride to the streets of Manchester. I am so proud of everyone who walked with us and those who cheered us on from the side lines. One of the biggest parts of the parade for me and I think, one of the biggest reasons I feel our presence is so important, is the reactions from LGBT people of colour and allies as we passed. So many people of colour including children, young people and elders, whooped, clapped and jumped for joy as we passed them by. Their elation at seeing us in the parade; at seeing and feeling themselves represented within an event like Pride and within a community which often marginalises and discriminates against people like us, was really moving and will always be a drive for us to keep Rainbow Noir, our community, networks and activism alive.
Chloe is an organiser for the voluntary social and peer support group Rainbow Noir. The group started up in 2013 and meets monthly in central Manchester. The group is for anyone who identifies as LGBTQI and a person of colour. Check out their Twitter and Facebook page for more information on how to get involved, to keep up to date with news about LGBTQI people of colour and support their work.
All the pictures featured in this article we provided by Rainbow Noir