Has Pride become problematic?

This week Ariana Grande was announced as the headline act for Manchester’s Pride Festival, which will take place in August. 

Controversy over the festival line up has been rife online, as many have criticised the lack of openly LGBT+ acts on the bill. Manchester Pride organisers have already faced criticism over this year’s high ticket prices, as many fear the price of the event will lead it to be less inclusive.

The line up for Manchester’s Pride celebrations has opened a wider debate online surrounding the true purpose of Pride celebrations.

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(Credit: Manchester Pride)

Ariana Grande responded to criticism on Twitter, first addressing the fact that she had no impact or say on the ticket price, and secondly to express her excitement to be headlining the event for a community that has been special to her and supportive of her throughout her career.

Grande made the valid point that straight allies such as Kylie Minogue and Cher have previously performed at Pride events, as a way of showing their personal support for the LGBT+ community.

The problem is surely not that straight artists are performing at Pride events, but that straight artists are often chosen over LGBT+ artists due to popularity and the need to sell tickets. This leads to questions over the purpose of Pride today and what the event has come to mean.

It is a complicated debate as Pride events often aim to raise money for LGBT+ charities, so of course ticket sales are important. But are they more important than giving a platform to LGBT+ artists and performers?

Pride is supposed to be a chance to celebrate equality, inclusiveness and all the progress made against discrimination of the LGBT+ community. It is also a defiant, public sign of solidarity against the prejudice that continues today. It is important to question whether the commercialisation of Pride, as it grows in size in cities across the UK every year, has had an impact on its true purpose.

Olly Alexander, frontman of pop group Years & Years who are also on the bill for this year’s Manchester Pride, took to Twitter to weigh in on the debate. As an openly gay artist, Olly agreed that he would love to see more LGBT+ acts at Pride events, yet he also picks up on how “problematic” Pride has become.

Has celebrating Pride in such a commercial way, with companies and shops stocking and pushing rainbow items for just one month each year, made it less meaningful?

Olly makes the valuable argument that if an effort was made to support LGBT+ artists all year round, it would be more likely that we’d find them at the top of the bill at Pride events, because they would be popular enough to sell the tickets. This argument could definitely be applied to many other aspects of Pride as, in order for Pride to have the meaning it intends to, thought needs to be given to the LGBT+ community all year round.

Arguably, an incredibly famous, straight artist like Ariana Grande performing at Pride is a sign of, and a testament to, the progress that has been made towards equality. No matter how commercialised it has become, Pride is so famous that it cannot be separated from being an LGBT+ event. Therefore, huge stars performing openly and proudly in support of the LGBT+ community, no matter what their own sexual orientation may be, is proof of the huge progress towards equality that has been made since the first Pride celebration in 1972.

Grande’s wish to “celebrate and support this community, regardless of my identity” is exactly the kind of attitude that should be welcomed, and her suggestion that there is “room for us to talk about these issues without equating a performance *for* an LGBTQ audience with an exploitation of the LGBTQ community” is also incredibly valid.

When questioning whether someone is celebrating or exploiting a group they are not part of, it’s necessary to consider the intention or motivation behind their actions. It’s pretty clear that Ariana Grande genuinely wants to perform at Pride in solidarity with the LGBT+ community in Manchester. It’s also worth noting that Ariana’s link to the city,  since 22 people were killed in a terrorist attack at her concert in Manchester Arena in 2017, undoubtedly drives her wish to return and perform at Manchester Pride.

Is it not incredibly beneficial that artists who are well known and have a voice stand up for causes they believe in? Stars like Ariana Grande have a responsibility to actively stand up for causes they support, because they have a platform to. I don’t think that their support should be rejected at any point, because it all adds to the advance towards equality.

Tickets for Manchester’s Pride Festival are available on Ticketmaster.

 

A book launch celebrating all things queer

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Michael Lee Richardson and Ryan Vance. (Photo Credit: Sebastian Faugstad)

“I tuck myself under the spathe
as if it were my mother’s pleated skirt.
Corpse-flower. Corpse-stiff and sweet,
the rotted grunt of its scent
enfolding me like a red womb,
holding me tight, safe against the spadix”

Poet Rachel Plummer reads one of her poems in front of eager listeners, Titan Arum. She is one of the contributing writers who have come to St Andrews Brewing Company in Edinburgh for the book launch of We Were Always Here. The world outside the windows is dark and frightening but in here, in this room warmed up by candlelight, diversity is fully accepted and there is no fear.

It is crowded. Glasses filled with beer and wine rest on the wooden tables that match the walls in the bar. On one of the tables there are stacks with the pink anthology, in which the words across the pages are written by people who identify themselves as queer. Other than Rachel Plummer, the contributors Andrés Ordorica, Jay G Ying and Christina Neuwirth are also here tonight.

“I’m going to finish with a poem about the Loch Ness Monster,” Rachel says, as she stands closer to the microphone. She explains that she thinks the monster is non-binary. On the top of her head, a leopard hat can be seen as part of the evening’s animal print theme. She lets go of the microphone and leaves the stage, but the hat stays on for the rest of the night.

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Poet Rachel Plummer. (Photo credit: Linnéa Lind)

“When I was in primary school, I had a fantastic teacher. I really loved poetry and he gave me a poem to read and to memorise. I just loved him so much that I started to write my own versions and my own poems. I haven’t stopped since,” she says while adjusting the leopard on her head.

Rachel has received a commission from LGBT Youth Scotland to write children’s poems based on traditional Scottish folk stories. She says that her sexual orientation often comes through in her poetry.

“I have two children. When I used to tell stories to my daughter I would swap the genders as I read them. Then I thought that maybe other people would be interested in these versions of these stories. That’s how I got into writing children’s poetry.”

When Rachel was young, she did not have many friends and would read many books.
“I felt really different to everybody else and that’s partly because of the queerness and the difference. I read a lot to escape from that. The whole thing made me feel kind of monstrous and I thought that maybe I was the only one in the world who felt like that,” she reveals, “I would really like to put my poetry in the hands of children who feel like that and show them that they are allowed to exist.”

The editors of the anthology, Ryan Vance and Michael Lee Richardson, share their excitement and often laugh with the listeners. Together, they run Queer Words Project Scotland for emerging queer writers. The anthology We Were Always Here is the result of queer literary pieces that were chosen among many submissions.

“A part of the project is to widen the margins a bit and creating a space for people that don’t always get an opportunity and a space,” says Michael Lee Richardson.

The book cover may be delightful and cheery in its pink shade, but the content deals with serious issues such as homophobia and sexual abuse.

“There is a lot of work in the book that reflects on how difficult it is to just get by sometimes. If you read it from cover to cover, there are a few shifts in tone. The pieces go from sweet heart-warming narratives about people finding their place in the world, to shocking moments of thinking that this is horrific, and it’s really refreshing to see queer people allowed to be monsters. We can’t be the best at everything and good all the time, we’re human,” says Ryan Vince.

Today is the first day of the LGBT History Month, which occurs in February each year in Scotland. Read more about it here.

LGBT History Month in Edinburgh

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Edinburgh is honouring LGBT history month with a variety of events, representatives and workshops. Explore queer arts, queer artists, queer history, queer communities and queer representation as it takes over Edinburgh this February.

 

1.February – Intersex Talk: Alex Gardner (LGBTQI+ activist) is having an event about how things are sitting in Scotland, followed by a Q&A session. They are bisexual, trans, intersex, a parent and also a disabled survivor of DV. Their activism encompasses all these elements. They are the current convener for Trans Pride Scotland and also volunteer with the Equality Network working towards intersex rights for Scotland. Location: Leith Community Education Centre, 12A Newkirkgate.

2. February – Queering This Map Of Our City: Community map-making workshop for LGBTQI+ people. Explore and share the places and spaces that matter to you, past and present.  Make new connections and discoveries and be a part of creating a new queer map of Edinburgh. Location: City Art Centre, 2 Market St.

4. February, 11. February, 18. February, 25. February – Drop-In Photo Booth: Check out their display of change-making LGBT+ figures before adding your own portrait in their photo booth. Bring your own camera or smartphone and they will take your photo and provide you with the props. While you are there you will also have the privilege of stocking up on free condoms and lube too. Location: Crew 2000, 32 Cockburn Street.

4. February – Trans Femme Skills & Wellbeing Course: Take part in activities, discussions and information sessions to develop skills and confidence to express your gender identity, and respond to challenges you may be facing. Hosted by LGBT Health and Wellbeing, a peer-led course (6 sessions), designed for trans women and non-binary trans femme people early in transition. Location: LGBT Health and Wellbeing, 9 Howe St.

5. February – LGBTQ+ Art Exhibition Opening Party: The LGBT+ Campaign and Edinburgh College of Art are launching the LGBT+ History Month Queer Arts Collective exhibition. There will be dancing, performances and video installations. Location: Wee Red Bar, Edinburgh College of Art.

7. February – Being Trans & Political: Join Edinburgh Labour Students for an LGBT+ History Month event exploring experiences of being trans in politics! The panel will be discussing their own experiences from the student movement and beyond. Location: Balcony Room, Teviot Row House.

7. February – Red Ceilidh With Heriot-Watt LGBTQ+ Society In Aid Of Waverley Care: Heriot-Watt LGBTQ+ Society is inviting to their annual fundraiser ceilidh for Waverley care. The band Bridges will be leading the ceilidh and keeping everyone dancing, so don’t miss out on this great opportunity to meet up with queer students from across the city. Location: Lauriston Hall, Lauriston Street.

8. February – Travis Alabanza On Poetry & Power: The London-based performance artist, theatre maker, poet and writer who is praised as one of the most prominent emerging people in queer arts activism today will be giving a talk on poetry as a source of personal and political power, and perform some of their poetry. Location: David Hume Tower, Lecture Theatre A.

9. February – Old Way Vogue Practice With Bronze Prodigy Old Navy: Dance Base is putting on an introduction to Old Way. This is the original style of voguing, a dance-based form of expression – a culture that grew from the Black and Latino LGBT+ communities in prisons and the Harlem drag balls. Location: Dance Base, 14-16 Grassmarket.

10. February – Open-To-All Kiki At Dance Base: Dance Base is throwing a vogue ball. You don’t need any prior practice with voguing. If you’re a force on the runway, a secret bedroom voguer or just want to learn about the Kiki scene in Scotland and experience a taste of a vogue ball, this is for you. Location: Dance Base, 14-16 Grassmarket.

10. February – 147HZ CAN’T PASS: Examining the intricacies of coming out as trans nonbinary, in the format of a person and not the definition. Reclaiming the power of storyteller for those it is about. Movement, energy, spoken word and slam style poetry are the keywords for this event. Get to know the performers in close proximity as they humanize the marginalized. Location: Dance Base, Scotland’s National Centre for Dance, 14-16 Grassmarket. 

10. February – Introduction To House & Ball Culture: A talk and video presentation with Bronze Old Navy (Prodigy), Cai Tea (Revlon) and Candy Elijah Prince Tea (007) introducing house and ball culture, the Kiki scene and its context in the UK. Location: Dance Base, 14-16 Grassmarket.

12. February – The Rabbit Hole: Local Legends: The Edinburgh drag scene presents, Alice Rabbit, as she showcases her local drag talents in an unforgettable cabaret celebration. Location: CC Blooms, 23-24 Greenside Place.

13. February – LGBT+ History Month Lecture With Nigerian Activist Bisi Alimi: Edinburgh University Student association’s LGBT+ Campaign is hosting a guest lecture by Nigerian gay rights & HIV activist Bisi Alimi. Location: Debating Hall, Teviot Row House.

14. February – Film: Over The Rainbow: Call Me By Your Name: The Filmhouse hosts special Valentine’s Day screening of Luca Guadagnino’s sun-dappled, erudite and sensual 2017 film Call Me By Your Name. Location: Filmhouse, 88 Lothian Road.

15. February – VaRIOTy: Queer Women’s Performance: For LGBTQIA women and non-binary people most comfortable in women-centred spaces. In light of LGBT history month, LGBT Health and Wellbeing are hosting an evening of performance and art. Come down to experience stand-up, poetry, movement performance and live music. Location: The Fruitmarket Gallery, 45 Market Street.

16 & 17. February – Film: Over The Rainbow: The Wild Boys: The Filmhouse is hosting a special screening of Bertrand Mandico’s audacious LGBT coming of age film. Location: Filmhouse, 88 Lothian Road.

18. February & 21. February – Heavier Than Air: A theatre play based on interview data from research conducted with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) teachers working in different educational settings in Australia. Since 2015. The authors and cast will be there to discuss the ways in which qualitative research and performing arts converge to rethink research methodologies and research communication in humanities and social sciences. Location: Lecture theatre 5, Appleton Tower.

18. February – Re-Politicising Pride With NUS UK LGBT+ Officer Rob Noon: NUS LGBT+ Officer Rob Noon will be talking about the history and politics of Pride organizing in the UK. He is this year focusing on helping students re-politicise Pride. Location: LG.11, David Hume Tower.

19. February & 22. February – Lavender Menace: The Return: To celebrate LGBT History Month 2019, the iconic Lavender Menace Bookshop will be recreated. The bookshop was opened in Edinburgh in 1982 by Sigrid Nielson and Bob Orr and was Scotland’s only LGBT bookshop. Location: LGBT Youth Scotland, 30 Commercial Street.

20. February – Film: Battle Of The Sexes: Free Schools Screening: Into Film is proudly presenting an educational screening of Battle of Sexes as part of their LGBT History Month Programme showcasing LGBTQ+ cinema. Location: Filmhouse, 88 Lothian Road.

20. February (Part 1) & 27. February (Part 2) – Make Your Mark: This LGBT history month, SX – working to improve sex, health and wellbeing of gay and bisexual men, and all men who have sex with men – are delivering a free two-part creative workshop that will look at 50 years of pride. Location: Waverley Care, 3 Mansfield Place.

21. February, 22. February & 23. February – Jock Tamson’s Bairns: Mixing scripted elements of stand up, storytelling, cabaret and drag with a variety of guest performances and audience interaction, music, spoken word, theatre, and the punters take centre stage in this semi-improvised 90-minute show. No topic is taboo, but a respect for your fellow humans is compulsory. Location: Assembly Roxy, 2 Roxburgh Pl.

21. February – Binding: Information, Safety & Diy Workshop: LGBT Health and Wellbeing are hosting an evening for trans men and non-binary transmasculine people where you learn and share information about binders, including where to find binders at a reasonable cost, binder comfort, quality and safety. Location: LifeCare Edinburgh, 2 Cheyne Street.

21. February – 23. February – The Pride Plays: Three evenings of originally written plays by LGBTQI+ writers. Pride Plays are giving the stage to voices of a community who currently feel underrepresented in Scottish theatre. Each play will be performed as a rehearsed reading, with two plays per night followed by a post-show discussion led by the director and playwright. Location: Traverse Theatre, 10 Cambridge Street.

24. February – I Have a Que(e)ry Panel On Bisexual Representation: Join Positive Change Arts Projects with the support of PrideSoc and Non-Binary Edinburgh for a night of poetry, guest speakers, and a panel including Q&A. Location: Underground, Teviot Row House.

26. February – The Rabbit Hole: Battle Of The Club Kids #2: The Rabbit Hole celebrates the club kids in a drag club night filled with insane fashion and unpredictable performance. Location: CC Blooms, 23-24 Greenside Place.

27. February – Film: The Miseducation Of Cameron Post: Into Film is proudly presenting an education screening of The Miseducation of Cameron Post as part of their LGBT history Month program showcasing LGBTQ+ cinema. Location: Filmhouse, 88 Lothian Road.

28 February – Juno Dawson: Edinburgh Univeristy Visiting Writers: Juno Dawson is a multi-award-winning author of novels for young adults. She is regularly contributing in the media on topics concerning sexuality, identity, literature and education. At this event, Juno will read from her work, talk about her writing, and take questions from the floor. She will also have her books available both for sale and signing. Location: Lighthouse – Edinburgh’s Radical Bookshop, 43-45 West Nicolson Street.

Mac Finds His Pride: An unexpectedly emotional and progressive season finale

Mac Finds His Pride

Rob McElhenney and professional dancer Kylie Shea in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Image: FXX

The latest season of the hit US show It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (IASIP) was added to Netflix a couple of weeks ago. Now that everyone has had time to watch the season, I think it’s time we talk about that episode.

Warning: this article contains spoilers for season 13 of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. 

Now, that’s out of the way, let’s get into it.

If you’re unfamiliar with the show, it follows ‘The Gang,’ the narcissistic, self-centred, politically incorrect owners of a Philadelphia dive bar. I can imagine that for some, IASIP is a show that is quite hard to get into. The humour is extremely dark, often offensive, and the main characters are the worst people imaginable. There is a reason the show was originally meant to be titled ‘Jerks.’

The final episode of series 13, titled ‘Mac Finds His Pride’ starts off as a typical IASIP episode: the gang are trying to use Mac (series creator Rob McElhenney) as their token ‘gay’ to dance on the top of their gay pride float. This episode is the culmination of Mac’s thirteen series-long journey to ‘coming out.’ Unlike what you may imagine, the joke isn’t that Mac is in the closet (as bad as the gang are, they’re totally fine with Mac being gay and have been trying to get him to ‘come out’ since the beginning), it’s Mac’s homophobia.

Mac was raised Catholic by his criminal dad, Luther, who takes pleasure in belittling him (he called Mac Ronald McDonald as a joke), and his mother who never seems to care about him. All Mac wants to do is get his dad to love and respect him, and this is one of the themes in this episode. Due to Mac being raised so religious, he doesn’t want to accept that he’s gay and uses homophobia to mask it. The long-running joke of Mac’s homosexuality isn’t that he is gay, it’s a critique of bigotry and what sexual repression can do to a person.

Mac does come to accept the fact that he is gay, but as he states in this episode, he doesn’t feel very proud. Frank (Danny DeVito) has been tasked with convincing Mac to take part in the gay pride parade, and as an out of touch old man, Frank doesn’t “get it.” Frank tries to help Mac find his place as a gay man by bringing him to a BDSM club, and then a drag bar. Mac doesn’t judge the people he visits but shuns them because that’s not the gay man that he is. I’ll admit that these scenes just rehashed the joke that Frank is an out of touch old man — it wasn’t anything revolutionary.

Mac tries to explain how he feels through an analogy that he is dancing in a storm with god who is a “hot chick,” and Frank retorts that “the Catholics really f****d you up.”

Mac decides that to truly reflect who he is, he must come out to his father (who is in prison). When Mac tries to tell his dad, Luther assumes that Mac is announcing that he got a woman pregnant and is delighted at the idea of being a grandfather, while also belittling Mac at the same time. Mac cowers into his former repressed self, going along with his father’s assumption and then tries to really get a woman pregnant.

Up to this point, the episode has been fine, nothing special.  From this point on, however, the Sunny format was flipped on its head.

After some encouragement from Frank, because Mac can’t find the words to describe how he feels, he decides he needs to show how he feels. He goes to the prison to ‘come out’ to his dad through dance. I really didn’t know what to expect at this point, and when the dance started, I was confused.

McEhlhenney performs an extremely well-choreographed dance with professional dancer Kylie Shea, which depicts Mac keep trying to love the woman but can’t and has to keep pushing her away. The dance, and episode, culminates with Mac crying in her lap and her telling him it’s okay. Frank, the homophobic old man, is in tears and says ‘I get it.’

The best part of this scene for me is that while Mac is dancing, his father walks away, but Mac keeps on dancing. This is a huge moment for Mac’s character – he finally doesn’t care what his father thinks. It was such a beautiful moment to see Mac finally accept who he is after 15 years of denial and shame. There was no joke, no punchline, just raw emotion and pride. IASIP normally handles these themes through dark humour and satire, but here it just showed it as it is, and it couldn’t have worked any better. It was emotional, progressive, and tugged my heartstrings in a way I never would have expected IASIP to do.

This episode also really rooted out the fans of the show that didn’t understand that you’re meant to laugh at the gang’s ignorance, not agree with them. I have seen many comments on Twitter that said that IASIP pandered to the ‘gay agenda,’ or bowed down to ‘social justice warriors.’ If you believe that, then you really haven’t understood It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia at all.

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Edinburgh University hold an evening of remembrance for transgender people

The International Transgender Day of Remembrance takes place on the 20th November each year. It is a day to honour those who have lost their lives due to anti-transgender hatred and prejudice.

University of Edinburgh’s Staff Pride Network organised an evening with a reading by guest speaker and playwright, Elaine Gallagher, a screening of German movie Romeos (2011) and an open discussion about the issues raised in the movie with a selected panel of speakers.

The event was very well received. Photograph: Gina Maya

The day is held on 28 November in honour of Rita Hester who was murdered in 1998. The Transgender Day of Remembrance serves as a voice to raise public awareness of the general issue.

Gwendolyn Ann Smith, Transgender Day of Remembrance founder, said: “The Transgender Day of Remembrance seeks to highlight the losses we face due to anti-transgender bigotry and violence.

“I am no stranger to the need to fight for our rights, and the right to simply exist is first and foremost.

“With so many seeking to erase transgender people — sometimes in the most brutal ways possible — it is vitally important that those we lose are remembered, and that we continue to fight for justice.”

 

Organiser representative and PhD student, Gina Maya, came out in 2016 in Edinburgh and have been helping others cope with their identity through writing about her journey here in Edinburgh.

She said: “The more unfamiliar your society is with notions of transgender, the more you’ll want to – need to – fit into one of two gender identities. The more you’ll need to pass; it’s a life-or-death kind of decision.”

“I’m grateful that my friends and flatmate came, that so many people came of different generations and backgrounds.”

“Allies and cis-gendered who were just curious, trans and non-binary, undergraduates, postgraduates, the girl from Lighthouse Books, even my PhD supervisor!”

The LGBT Youth Edinburgh team. Photograph: LGBT Youth Twitter

LGBT Youth Scotland is one of the few charities working towards a safer and understanding youth community in Scotland. They offer support for younger individuals who feel isolated or afraid and teach them to love themselves for who they are.

More information about their work and sessions can be found here.


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“Radical” LGBT+ play is thrusting into Edinburgh’s Lyceum this week

Love Song to Lavender Menace is a “radical, time-travelling, disco dancing, LGBT+ love story” that brings the legend of Edinburgh’s first queer bookshop to life.

Edinburgh playwright James Ley, founder of Village Pub Theatre, decided the story of The Lavender Menace is one that needed to be told.

From strange beginnings in the cloakroom of a nightclub, Lavender Menace became a full-blown queer bookshop, and now its story is on stage in Edinburgh from the 12th until the 21st of October.

The Lavender Menace opened as a bookshop on Forth Street in 1982, trading in gay, lesbian and feminist books and quickly became a hub of LGBT culture. Founder Bob Orr teamed up with business partner Sigrid Nielson to open Lavender Menace, which served the community for over a decade. In the age of Thatcher, the store brought people together and fought for acceptance with words.

Staged at The Lyceum theatre, the play stars Matthew McVarish and Pierce Reid as shop assistants on the eve of the shop’s fifth birthday, as they look back on the difference it has made.

The space was one of the first alternatives to the typical pub and club gay scene. Mr Ley spoke to many former customers, who said it took them a few attempts to step over the threshold. Deciding to finally go in was a big step for many people three decades ago. According to one Twitter user, the shop had a sign that warned heterosexuals of a “50p surcharge.”

 

The Lyceum Theatre is the first venue the show will appear at on its UK tour.

A successful Kickstarter campaign raised over £4000 to nudge the play into a full tour, and it begins its UK tour here in Edinburgh. This isn’t shocking though, with people from all over Scotland flocking to the quirky outlet throughout the 80s.

The show is selling out fast, but you can still grab tickets for the showings from Friday the 13th until the 21st here.

Check out Twitter’s response:

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