Glasgow calling to cancel, Jinkx! (Photo by Kelly O)
Glasgow calling to cancel, Jinkx! Kelly O

Free Pride was formed in Glasgow after the group that organizes the city's main pride celebration—Glasgow Pride—announced that they would have to start charging a small entrance fee for the post-parade party. This weekend, Free Pride announced that their August 22 event, which takes place on the same day as Glasgow Pride, will not only be free of charge but free of drag as well. Free Pride announced their discriminatory policy with this Orwellian tweet...

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At Free Pride we hope to create a safe space for all people within the LGBTQIA+ community. We understand that sometimes this will disappoint some people within the community, however our priority is always to put the needs of the most marginalised groups within our community first. This is why, after much discussion, the trans and non binary caucus decided not to have drag acts perform at the event. This does not mean that people of any gender can’t wear what they want to the event, we simply won’t be having any self-described drag acts perform at our Free Pride Event on the 22nd August. We hope people can understand and support our decision. However we feel it important to fully explain why we came this decision.

Free Pride aims "to represent those underrepresented in our community, including but not limited to trans and non-binary people, women, people of colour, intersex people, asexual people and people with disabilities." To that end the group's "trans and non-binary caucus" voted to ban drag acts in order to protect "transgender individuals who were uncomfortable with having drag performances at the event," and because drag acts "might make some of those who were transgender or questioning their gender uncomfortable."

Let's set aside the fact that drag is often a way for people questioning their gender to express themselves—I know several trans men who were drag kings before transitioning—and focus instead on the criteria Free Pride used to exclude drag acts:

1. Putting the needs of the most marginalized groups within the community first.

2. When individuals from a less marginalized group make individuals from a more marginalized group feel uncomfortable—or if they might make them feel uncomfortable—the individuals from the less marginalized group can and should be excluded for the comfort of individuals from the more marginalized group.

Free Pride's criteria for excluding drag acts could be used to exclude a lots of individuals and groups from performing at—or even attending—queer pride events. Leather/fetish/BDSM communities are marginalized, it's true, but individuals who've survived abusive and/or controlling relationships are arguably more marginalized and they might feel uncomfortable sharing a space with individuals who eroticize power dynamics—so, hey, queers who show up to pride events wearing harnesses and dog collars will be sent home. Why stop there? Individuals from privileged religious organizations might make individuals who've endured conversion therapy and other forms of spiritual abuse feel uncomfortable—send them home too. Taut-bodied twinks in sequined Speedos might make their more-marginalized, less-taut LGBT elders feel uncomfortable; monosexual individuals—gays and lesbians and straights—might make more marginalized bisexual individuals feel uncomfortable; middle-class individuals might make poor and working-class individuals feel uncomfortable; sexual individuals might make asexual individuals feel uncomfortable; individuals who freely choose to do sex work might make individuals who were forced into doing sex work feel uncomfortable; drunk individuals might make clean-and-sober individuals feel uncomfortable—and on and on it goes until there's no one left at pride.

The dingbats running Free Pride don't seem to understand what pride parades and protests are about: demanding that the straight majority learn to tolerate our presence. "We're here, we're queer, get used to it." But if we can't get used to each other—if certain segments of the queer community can't tolerate certain other segments of the queer community—what kind of a message does that send the straight majority?

And do we really want to suggest to the straight majority that people who make other people feel uncomfortable can and should be excluded? Free Pride is trying to make a virtue of this exclusionary bullshit by framing it as concern for more marginalized members of the queer community. I promise you this nuance will be lost on Glasgow's straight majority. The takeaway will be this: "If queer people can kick other queer people out of a pride celebration for making other queers uncomfortable... shouldn't we be able to kick out queer people who make us uncomfortable, too?"

After getting a little outraged feedback, some of which violated Free Pride's "safe space" policies (boo hoo hoo), Free Pride announced their new-and-improved policy on drag acts: Drag performers who are "trans and non-binary" will be welcome to perform at Free Pride, but the ban remains on cis drag performers. (So, hey, now their policy isn't just exclusionary—it's discriminatory, too.) Gay Times:

First of all, we would like to confirm that after a further consultation trans drag performers will be invited to perform at Free Pride on the 22nd August. If you are a trans drag performer and would like to perform on the day, please get in touch by sending a message to the Free Pride page.

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The trans caucus and Free Pride as a whole thought protecting the privacy of trans drag performers was the most important thing, but trans drag performers have let us know that letting them perform is more important to them. People appeared to understand that we attempted to communicate that trans drag performers' rights are secondary to other trans people's rights. We did not mean to send this message and apologise to trans drag performers for unintentionally doing so. Unfortunately this also appears to have offended trans drag performers. We did not in any way mean to equate cis (who are often seen as transmisogynistic by some portions of the Trans community) drag performers with trans drag performers.
We would like to explicitly state that while we attempt to include everyone, we have always, and will always aim to put the needs and voices of the most marginalised first.

Free Pride has apologized—but just to trans drag performers. Cis drag performers can go fuck themselves. And Free Pride wants everyone to feel welcome at their big celebration—except for cis drag performers, all of whom are cordially invited to go fuck themselves because "some members" of the trans community view them as problematic. Trans and non-binary drag performers, on the other hand, are incapable of being problematic.

And Free Pride wants you to know that they support equality for all—it's just that some drag queens are more equal than others.

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