London Trans+ Pride Organisers On Why Showing Up Is More Important Than Ever

For London Trans+ Pride, Politics Editor Prishita Maheshwari-Aplin speaks with organisers Janeway, Mars and Lulu-Belle on finding community, championing change and the importance of protest.

PHOTOGRAPHY El Hogg

Pink and blue flags waving in the warm breeze, glittered faces and sequined dresses glimmering in the sunshine, and passionate calls for Trans Rights echoing all around –  London Trans+ Pride is truly both a celebration and a protest. This annual event provides healing through rage, love, and direct action for all who sit outside of society’s restrictive boxes and binaries. It allows those who may not always feel safe being visible as their true selves to spread their wings and envelop one another in a communal hug that warms the heart and feeds the soul. For so many – in London, in the UK, and beyond – London Trans+ Pride is life-changing. And this year is likely to be even bigger and brighter.

Born in 2019 out of frustration towards a wider Pride movement that often centres gay assimilation and pinkwashed rainbow capitalism, Trans+ Pride has grown exponentially – with 10,000 people present in 2021. Having attended each year since its inception, I’m filled with utter joy when I think of the event’s grassroots origins, and the inspiring group of friends who have kept its ethos aligned and its flame burning since. Within the current socio-political context, Pride marches like this are not only important – they’re crucial.

All can seem hopeless when confronted with the squirming mass of negativity that lines the walls of our news sites and social media feeds. It goes without saying that we must not be oblivious to the realities currently facing marginalised communities worldwide. Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill – which bans teachers from discussing LGBTQ+ experiences in schools, mirroring the UK’s horrific Section 28 – came into effect on 1 July; conversion therapy continues to be legal in the UK, with the Government intending to exclude trans and non-binary people from any future bans; and elite swimming’s governing body FINA has voted to prohibit trans women from competing in women’s races. 

I can’t wait for the very vocal bigoted minority to be drowned out by the cheers, hoots, and supportive proclamations of queer euphoria that will ring out from Hype Park to Soho Square this Saturday.

Prishita Maheshwari-Aplin

Trans, non-binary, and GNC individuals around the world also continue to face daily abuse and violence – reported hate crimes against trans people in the UK have increased by 16% since last year, and at least 19 trans+ people have been killed just in the United States in 2022 so far, majority of them Black and Latinx women. And, far too often, we mourn members of our community who have taken their own lives – broken down by the endless waiting lists for gender-affirming healthcare.

But, events like Trans+ Pride remind us of our strength in the face of such hardship. They remind us that all our struggles are interconnected and that we can channel our collective rage to bring about tangible and sustainable change. This mass gathering of trans+ people and our allies is representative of the power of a cohesive movement. And with recent research showing that a majority of Britons (63%) would support a trans family member, this hypothetical reality may not be so far off. Personally, I can’t wait for the very vocal bigoted minority to be drowned out by the cheers, hoots, and supportive proclamations of queer euphoria that will ring out from Hype Park to Soho Square this Saturday.

Ahead of this year’s London Trans+ Pride march on 9 July 2022, I sat down with some of the organisers for an open conversation about the past, present, and future.

Prishita: Hello all, and thank you so much for speaking with me today! I’m sure everyone is really excited for Trans Pride, not least because we need some joy after recent global events. What d’you think is the importance of celebrating Trans Pride this year?

Lulu-Belle: The state of affairs for trans people everywhere, but especially in the UK, is horrific. We’re still fighting for legal recognition for non-binary people, non-consensual surgeries are still being done on intersex babies based on a binary idea of male and female, and there’s rampant transphobia in the press as well as inadequate access to healthcare. It’s important for us to show our rage and our courage, and to support and love each other. Because we deserve better.

Mars: To be trans, intersex, or gender variant in any capacity in the 2020s, to me, is an experience of having one’s humanity taken into question. It’s to be used frequently without your input or your consent. It’s to have the language to describe yourself without having access to communities. We’re currently the butt of virtually every joke or argument. To reduce a trans or non-binary individual to an idea or a concept isn’t the same as hitting them in the face, but it’s equally as dehumanising, you know? Trans Pride is for all those gender outcasts who don’t have the luxury of going back to a comfortable life and a comfortable world that cares about them, their health, and their ability to get around unharmed once Pride Month is over.

Trans Pride is for all those gender outcasts who don’t have the luxury of going back to a comfortable life and a comfortable world that cares about them, their health, and their ability to get around unharmed once Pride Month is over.

Mars

Janeway: We’re providing an alternative to the corporate Pride that we currently have in London. Even this year, they said the police wouldn’t be marching, but they were anyway. Most of the event is just stalls with people selling products like rainbow bucket hats and flower necklaces, which is not exactly the protest spirit of Pride. We want to convey that we’re fighting for our rights, not attending a ticketed event that’s focused on corporations. I don’t think that’s what the founders of the Pride march had in mind in 1969.

P: They truly didn’t! Talking a little more about the experiences of trans people right now, we’ve been seeing the impacts of a wider gender-critical movement play out in legislation worldwide for a few years now. But recently, when Roe vs Wade was overturned in the US, people were surprised – as if there aren’t inherent links between attacks on all our bodily autonomies. What’re your thoughts on this?

Mars: It’s the same powers that are working towards disempowering and dehumanising women and other people of marginalised genders. The parameters of bodily autonomy for women have been set up usually by men, and that systemic hatred and neglect filter down – to trans people, trans women, and especially trans women of colour. Conservatism will never help anyone in the long run because it’s a practice that is functionally exclusionary. Once you find yourself on the outermost ring of the outgroups, you’re the next to go as that circle tightens – even if you were previously accepted.

P: Absolutely, I completely agree. So, right now, when the Governments and the media are creating so much division, how do you think we can encourage people to see the parallels between our struggles and come together in solidarity to protect all our freedoms?

Janeway: There are no marginalised groups that don’t benefit from each other’s work. I think we can provide historical precedent, for example with the Civil Rights movement and the feminist movement, and explain that the fight for equality doesn’t just provide equality for one marginalised group, but for all marginalised groups.

There are no marginalised groups that don’t benefit from each other’s work.

Janeway

Lulu-Belle: We know that once they come for trans people, they automatically move onto lesbians, gays, and bisexual people – to women, people of colour, disabled people. We all share the same cause, and none of us are safe. I don’t know how to make people realise that apart from just continuing to talk about it. And showing up! It’s through being present at protests and meet-ups that we stand unified in solidarity with one another.

P: It’s so important to keep showing up – that’s what our queer elders did to kick off the LGBTQ+ movement and bring us to where we are today. They took to the streets, and shouted and fought for all our freedoms. As you know, this year marks 50 years since the first-ever Pride march in the UK, which was a protest led by the Gay Liberation Front. What do you wish people knew about our history and trans people’s involvement in the history of the queer movement?

Janeway: We’re going through essentially the exact same thing that they [gay people] went through in the 1980s. The headlines are spreading the same messages now for trans people – we’ve got the child panic, the bathroom panic. They’re trying to whip up the same moral dilemmas to push back progress.

Mars: Trans people were not tolerated, and are still not tolerated, no matter how domesticated and palatable the rest of the queer community may be. We’re following in the footsteps of our queer pioneers, who were not pioneers because they were anyone especially rich or famous, but because they just went out and did things. Our history is DIY, and it’s important for us to keep our ethos as close to that spirit as possible. 

Our history is DIY, and it’s important for us to keep our ethos as close to that spirit as possible. 

Mars

P: It’s really important to carry on that legacy and remember our grassroots, isn’t it? I think, over the past couple of years, more people have become aware of the need to return Pride to its protest origins. Despite the level of systemic marginalisation we’re seeing at the moment, I think that it really is a very transphobic vocal minority. Things seem to be changing. Where do you hope we will be – as a community and as a wider society – in another 50 years?

Lulu-Belle: For trans people to be treated with respect, kindness, and dignity, and to have access to basic healthcare. Right now, so many amazing and inspirational people are held back from reaching their full potential because of the society we’ve built, and the hysteria around trans people. I just want to see trans people being able to live normal lives – to thrive and succeed – without the daily threat of violence.

Mars: I’d like to see a London where having a separate Trans- focussed Pride doesn’t seem as essential; where we don’t seem as alienated from the rest of the community. But I think it’s still important for trans people to be able to come together and share space, joy, and physical energy. Even if the sensible reasoning behind it is: “Hey, we’re all sick of this bad shit!”

 I just want to see trans people being able to live normal lives – to thrive and succeed – without the daily threat of violence.

Lulu-Belle

P: It is important! Trans Pride, for me, is always such a beautifully joyous day of connection. I’d love to hear about some of your favourite moments from past Trans Pride. 

Janeway: Last year, I was walking from the front to the back of the parade and I just kept walking and walking, trying to reach the end of the parade – but it just wouldn’t come! It was only then that I realised, “Hey, we brought these 10,000 people here”. And I just started crying.

Lulu-Belle: For me, it was speaking to the trans people there from all across the country who would tell me, “Oh, I’m too scared to leave my house in the tiny town that I’m from”. But there they were, looking gorgeous and feeling themselves surrounded by trans people. It’s special to see the absolute joy on everybody’s faces! And it’s really inspiring to see so many young trans people questioning their own gender identity. It’s giving them so much more freedom than we had even 10 or 15 years ago.

It’s really inspiring to see so many young trans people questioning their own gender identity.

Lulu-Belle

P: The difference it would’ve made to my life to have been able to see and attend Trans Pride as a young person blows me away sometimes, and it’s so beautiful that you’re providing that for the next generation. This brings us nicely to my final question. What advice would you give to younger LGBTQ+ people at the moment who might want to get into organising but are feeling deflated by the state of the world and the news cycle?

Mars: It seems impossible to consider that an individual’s singular actions can change the course of generations upon generations of busted systems that are actively harmful to people. But there’s so much more happening that goes unseen. You can make a difference to the lives of the individual people that you meet, connect with, and that you touch through whatever it is that you’re doing.

It’s about being the change you want to see, rather than waiting for it to come along. Otherwise you might be waiting a hell of a long time. So, if something’s pissing you off, change it.

Lulu-Belle

Lulu-Belle: If you’re feeling this way, it’s likely that your friends are, too. Speak to them, be honest and vulnerable, and use your rage as fuel. We’re just a small group of friends who have come together and done this thing. You can, too! It’s about being the change you want to see, rather than waiting for it to come along. Otherwise, you might be waiting a hell of a long time. So, if something’s pissing you off, change it.

Prishita Maheshwari-Aplin
Prishita Maheshwari-Aplin

Our Politics Editor, Prishita (they/them) is a writer, editor, and LGBTQ+ community organiser. They’re currently a Trustee with Voices4 London and sit on the Advisory Board for Split Banana, a social enterprise redesigning relationship and sex-ed by bringing in the perspectives of groups traditionally excluded from the curriculum. Prishita has been published or featured in METAL, gal-dem, Hunger, and Dazed, amongst others. They also featured in ‘Soul of a Movement’, a film by British creative directors Carson McColl and Gareth Pugh that documents some of the British LGBTQ+ activists, artists and allies carrying the revolutionary fire of the Stonewall Uprising today.
Prishita‘s writing is represented by The Good Literary Agency, and they’re also a signed model and social human with CRUMB.

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