The Fight for Free Pride

The grassroots community event Free Pride is entering its second year of providing an alternative to mainstream Pride. Last year, in protest of Glasgow Pride’s entry fee, a group of LGBTQ+ individuals from around Glasgow came together to put on a free and inclusive alterative. Held in the Art School, it was centered on live music and talks from various people and organisations that are normally marginalized or ignored in the LGBTQ+ community. With a focus on re-politicizing Pride, it was a breath of fresh air compared to mainstream Pride, which seems to have devolved into an excuse to just get drunk while covered in rainbows and corporate sponsorship.

With Pride Glasgow putting up their entry fees and scrapping their previously free Youth Zone, it seems like the emphasis of Pride continues to head towards making a profit rather than as a force for change and solidarity. With Pride originating from a riot, its de-politicization feels like the opposite of what Pride is supposed to be: a protest and an act of political resistance.

When many people are threatened or oppressed based on their sexual and gender identity, a large-scale event where LGBTQ+ people are extremely visible and proud is a radical action. While the LGBTQ+ rights movement has made incredible strides in the past few years, it feels like a slap in the face when you’re marching for the right to be out and visible with no shame or fear next to the Nando’s representative carrying flags saying ‘Nando’s: worth coming out for’. Coming out of the closet is so difficult and dangerous to so many people, yet companies are making light of and appropriating real life struggles for some cheap advertising in an attempt to look ‘progessive’. The fact that banks and companies who only care about LGBTQ+ people one day a year (and when its profitable) are allowed to march alongside or in front of groups and organisations that are run by and for the LGBTQ+ community shows what Pride Glasgow really cares about. Groups like Free Pride in Glasgow are so important because they take the spotlight away from the banks and corporations at Pride and put them back on those who really matter: the people.

I was marginally involved with Free Pride last year as mostly an extra pair of hands and a volunteer on the day, so I got to see a lot of the behind the scenes and creation of the group. It was a great thing to be a part of, and really inspiring to see a group of like-minded people work together to create such a impressive event from scratch. As someone fairly new to activism, it gives me a boost to think about how it is possible to make positive change in a local community and contribute to something where you can see tangible results.

At the event we had so many comments from people expressing how grateful they were that there was a safe space with an emphasis on accessibility and inclusivity for LGBTQ+ people. It’s so important to engage with real people in activism, as often when discussing the grand scheme of things, the people that are affected by these issues are often forgotten or only talked about in the abstract. A powerful part of Free Pride is actually seeing the positive change we were enacting, even if it is on a small, local scale.

This year I’ve gotten a lot more involved in Free Pride, and in doing so have gotten a closer look into the event planning itself. From a totally biased perspective it looks like it’s going to be a fantastic event, with a great line-up of talks, stalls, and live acts. Similarly, there continues to be a really strong emphasis on accessibility and making sure everyone feels involved and included, with more BSL interpreters, space for families, and a completely accessible venue.

What I love about Free Pride is the commitment to actually making events available to all, rather than just a token gesture towards accepting everyone but then not doing anything to help because it’s too hard. Luckily this year we’re in a better position to improve Free Pride, because we now have the experience and resources to create the kind of Pride we really want: one that puts LGBTQ+ people over corporate interests; that promotes and listens to marginalized voices; and that is dedicated to building a free and radical space that everyone is welcome in.

[Jo Reid]

Free Pride Event Page – 2PM on 20th August @ The Art School
Image taken from event page.

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