6 Sep 2009

When Pride is a Protest

In the UK, Pride is an event where lgbt people can get together and celebrate the fact they are lgbt and the advancements that we have achieved in gaining equality over the years. We can take a break from our campaigning and activism and have a party in a relatively safe and secure space with other lgbt people and our family and friends. By doing so we are protesting against the hetero-normative, daily activities that are usually going on around us.

And there is a cost to pay for some of these events particularly if entertainment, facilities and security is laid on. But where else can you go for a full day's concert and only pay a tenner? Some of the organisers could be a bit more choosy with their sponsors and consider more ethical rules making sure that the sponsors recognise trade unions, have good employment and diversity policies which they actually put in to practice, have good fair trade records, are not corrupt and this is a genuine campaign that we can pursue.
I have attended a number of Pride events over the years both in the UK and abroad. In some countries, where Pride marches are banned and LGBT people face protests, hostility and violence for taking part in a Pride event which I have witnessed then 'Pride is a Protest'.
However, the Pride is a Protest group and campaign is a bit confused in my opinion. They claim to be a global, autonomous activist movement that aims to put the politics back into pride! They state that they campaign against profiteering, exploitation and commercialisation of queer and LGBT community events and festivals and organise their own grass routes events.
On their site under Manchester Pride Investigation, select the link and it takes you direct to the website of G7. Surprise, surprise, he had to be in it somewhere. And they also have connections with Reclaim the Scene which claims to be a grass-roots collective of people from all walks of life, tackling all that's bad about the scene, celebrating what's good and making Manchester Pride one we can all be proud of.

This year leaflets were produced titled 'Reclaim the Scene' which contained information lifted from the G7 website. These were distributed at Manchester Pride containing the logos of NUS, UNISON and the Queer Youth Network.

The NUS apparently passed a motion joining UNISON in their support of 'Pride is a Protest'. The May 09 newsletter of Pride is a Protest states:

"NUS LGBT Campaign national “Pride is a Protest” Motion passed 'Following the lead after UNISON’s LGBT group voted to support the Pride is a Protest movement the National Union of Students LGBT campaign voted in favour of a motion last weekend at their annual conference in Nottingham to proactively declare “Pride is a Protest” and will be marching around the country with placards that read “Pride not Profit” (censored by Manchester last year). Trade union types who oppose a commercialised model of pride organisations who have put so much hard work into ensuring what could well be the biggest representative bodies now formerly support the spirit of “Pride is a Protest” within their own campaigns for this year. Remember – Pride is a Protest is an autonomous collective and there is a multitude of individuals and groups who share our ethos and will no doubt be very visible and vibrant this year at events around the country.NUS LGBT Conference 2009 Final Motions:http://resource.nusonline.co.uk/media/resource/CD7%20Final%20Motions.pdf

The NUS represents the needs and wishes of over 7 million students though 600 higher and further institutions. UNISON is Britain and Europe's biggest public sector union with more than 1.3 million members.Both LGBT campaigns are fully recognised bodies within each union. Their membership combined is almost as people who voted Labour in the last general election. Although democratically elected and accountable (give or take a bit of paperwork and the odd heated debate!) this news is a credit to all the many years of unsupported, frontline and grassroots action and campaigning that until recently has been ignored.Well done to all those people involved in the more structured political areas of public life to ensure the LGBT community has an even louder voice when calling for grassroots, community-focused pride festivals.'
Well the author of this ought to get their facts rights. At the UNISON LGBT Conference, where the motion was passed, whilst it was carried, it was not carried unanimously. The number of delegates at that conference was 209 and 38 of those will not have had voting rights in any event as they will have been members of the National LGBT Committee. The motion is only LGBT Conference policy and does not binf the whole of the union. For it to be UNISON policy, it would have to be carried at the annual National Delegate Conference.
The actual motion carried at the 2008 LGBT Conference calls on the National LGBT Committee to:

1 Organise mobilisation of unison members and delegations at pride events to openly oppose and challenge any attempts by pride organisers to vet, doctor or censor LGBT liberation activists organising at pride events, and to stand in solidarity with such activists. This should include distributing material condemning such actions on stalls, and encouraging unison members in all sectors to display materials highlighting and condemning such actions in their delegations to pride parades, where they are present;
2 Where they exist, organise linking up with 'pride is a protest' initiatives at pride events and marching alongside our fellow LGBT activists, putting forward the UNISON agenda in line with the policy and campaigning priorities put forward by LGBT conference;
3 Produce materials aimed at young workers for distribution at pride events setting out the work Unison has done, and is doing, to further the LGBT liberation agenda, as well as highlighting the benefits of trade union membership.
It is important to note that the instruction in point 2 states UNISON should link up with 'Pride is a Protest' initiatives putting forward the UNISON agenda in line with the policy and campaigning priorities put forward by LGBT Conference.

The Pride is a Protest Group also talk about the rip off wristbands for Manchester Pride sending you to a website called of all things Gay Mafia Watch which harps back to 2007. The Gay Mafia Watch says they are an anonymous, independent and impartial group of observers who felt the need for there to be a “watchdog” asking questions and raising standards within the LGBT Media sector. They watch Britain’s Gay Mafia who they claim are made up of an elite class of businessmen, entrepreneurs and politicians in cahoots with Multinational Corporations and dodgy underground figures. They state that the Gay Mafia as a term has many historic and contemporary connotations but the mafia-style, aggressive culture of the gay scene, the media and even a number of corrupt non-profit bodies is more visible than ever.
Maybe they have been watching too many episodes of The Godfather or even playing Mafia Wars for too long on Face book.


G said...

You haven't suggested it, but I'm
happy to state for the record that g7uk.com has no connection whatsoever with the Gay Mafia Watch website and in the past I have made clear my feelings about several pieces of content on that site.

Any website can link to any other. It doesn't mean there are any other connections.

However, over recent weeks I've come to realise that there is much confusion about who is involved in what. I had some involvement with Pride Is A Protest in 2008, but I feel that I'm very much on the fringes.

It's good to know what links there are between certain people and groups and I'll be writing more about this on my site soon as part of my review of Pride and the events surrounding it, including Reclaim the Scene.

Gay Mafia said...

Lou you are obviously confused about what constitutes purely an external link on a website and a direct link to another real-life group of people in another form.

"Gay Mafia Watch" is compiled by different contributors on a wide range of issues - not just highlighting people's concerns around commercial pride.

Of course you may be correct in saying some of our readers and contributors may indeed have been involved in other campaigns you mention but that is to be expected there's always a few degrees of separation between activists circles so be wary of incorrectly joining -the-dots when you clearly do not have all the facts at hand to be able to do so correctly. I for one have never even seen “the Godfather” and I think you'll find our site has been around quite some time longer than the “mafia wars” application on Facebook. Other than that you don't seem to have any other tangible arguments to be putting Gay Mafia Watch down in such a flimsy manner.

The articles on Gay Mafia Watch the UNISON leaflet quite rightly refers to articles on our site more recently – in particularly how monies were distributed wrongly to the Lesbian and Gay Foundation on multiple occasions (against Pride's own rules) in 2008 – in our articles which explore “Where the wristband money really went!” in both 2007 and 2008.

In response to your blog post on the subject at hand, do you have any genuine criticisms of the pride is a protest campaigns other than your objection to the UNISON motion being (democratically) passed - despite having a small minority of people objecting to it?

Something we can at least agree on is the need for bloggers to be highlighting what's going on behind the scenes, but don't forget you'll only get half the story online in the virtual world. All of the organisations you mention seem to have open meetings and democratic structures which are fair and transparent so and if you have something constructive to add maybe you could go along and contribute directly – but keep up the good work on your blog in the mean time.

Louise said...

Thanks for the clarifications.

Louise said...

I am soory that I seem to have upset you with my jibes about Mafia Wars and The Godfather and apologise. Thank you for the clarification on Gay Mafia Watch.

The 'UNISON' Leaflet, I understand was a joint leaflet not whooly attributable to UNISON. If you know more, please tell.

Many thanks for your suggestion that if I have something constructive to add, I could always go along and make my contribution. As co-chair of UNISON's National LGBT Committee, I also try my best to. I am also active in a number of other organisations.

Gay Mafia said...

Thank you for accepting the clarifcations Louise.

Which other organisations are you involved with out of interest? It is good to know you are in touch with your UNISON members as they seem to be on the ball with this.

Although you may be unhappy the motion passed (by a significant majority it seems) despite your opposition, UNISON LGBT have obviously democratically agreed to support a "pride is a protest" policy.

I am sure the publishers of this leaflet (who have also been smart enough to attribute Gay Mafia Watch's investigations) will be able to give you more information on that as we were not directly informed of its existence until we were handed a copy during Manchester Pride.

Louise said...

I am not unhappy with the motion as I think the motion is very clear about UNISON's involvement. I just don't think the lealfet fulfils the objective of the third instruction.

I don't think there is a publisher credited on the leaflet or I can't make it out with my failing eyesight.

As for the rganisations I am involved, I would prefer not to say publicly but I am sure with a little delving, it is easy to find out.