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Friday, 10 July 2009

And not a trans person in sight.... Pride London 2009


Pride London
Originally uploaded by Downing Street

40 years on, Remember Stonewall.

So, who airbrushed the trans folk from Gordon's morning bash for [London]Pride, in 2009?

Gordon and Sarah's reception on the morning of [London] Pride 2009 was clearly enjoyed by the great, the good and the celebrity gay men and lesbians.

Maybe someone did arrange for a trans person to attend, but there isn't a face here I recognise, and yet we were there, in truth, we were there at Pride if not in Downing Street.

40 years on, Remember Stonewall

- the bar where a leather dyke was arrested for wearing 3 items of 'mens' clothing, that initiated the riots and sent Stonewall into the history books. The queens who then picked up their handbags and took to beating the police at their own game, by beating them.

40 years on. Remember Stonewall. 

It was Sylvia Rivera, trans person extraordinaire,  merely a 17-year-old Puerto Rican-Venezuelan trans woman who threw one of the first Molotov cocktails, out in Christopher Street.
 Marsha P. Johnson (left) and Sylvia Rivera (right) of the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries or STAR, 1973 Christopher Street Liberation Day March. Photo: Leonard Fink/LGBT Community Center (transadvocacy.org/?p=177, February 2012


Have you seen the grainy black and white film images of Sylvia Rivera, in that truly outrageous knitted lycra body suit, which I have always presumed was silver when she dressed that morning,.   She also had another, one I have presumed was red - but there she is  - grabbing the mic on the stage of an early Gay Activists Alliance stage at a Gay Pride march circa 1973.  If you haven't seen the film, and you are trans, then watch it now. Not only does the lycra suit grow both larger and dirtier, as the day goes on, but Sylvia grows with it. Smaller , physically, compared to it, but very so much larger in stature and shouting her lungs out for Trans Pride.

video
A few years later, shortly after the 1973 Pride March, the body of her friend, and collaborator at those early events, Marsha P Johnson was found floating in the harbour just north of Christopher St. The police investigation consisted of 2 phone calls and then they said she had committed suicide. Yet, as her injuries were to prove, she was murdered = like so many before and so many since. That a hero like Sylvia was to spend the next 25 years living on the street, or in doss houses, or sofa surfing -- well that is another story.

I remember how it felt 40 years ago to be here in this dark, dirty, chimney strewn, rain soaked, poverty filled cultural desert of slums and council houses in Manchester. And how Sylvia and people like her were far off in the dreams of my escape to a home that took many, many more years to materialise.

Twelve years ago Manchester City Council held a '25 years of service' reception for the founders of the Manchester Gay Switchboard. Not one trans person was invited other than Julia Grant who was by then a local dignitary.  But Julia hadn't been around in 1975 when a group of committed LGB AND Trans activists had collaborated to create the telephone service. Julia was not to enter the nation's consciousness until 1980, with that infamous television documentary of her struggle to get gender reassignment.  Carol, Linda,  and Stan and even little ol' me - not one of us was invited to the anniversary celebration.  It would have been easy to get in touch with me - by then I had been teaching at one of the city's universities for 10 years. Furthermore, I had by then been on tv, radio and in the news repeatedly in the battle for transgender rights.

When I demanded to know why we were not invited, I was told that nobody knew of our involvement. What a convenient way of explaining away their convenient forgetfulness. Yes, it is the case that I was not in the 1975 photograph of the founders of the switchboard - but that was because I was behind the camera. Are the rest of those people really saying they had forgotten my existence, and Carol's, Linda's, and Stan's.  If they  are,  then what does that say about the involvement of trans people with anything run by the LGB world.

Moonflower, of whom I am a big fan, writes on her blog 'Transpolical' on Wednesday, June 17, 2009, of Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnsone, Miss Major and their friends, and says
"The Stonewall Girls and Guys? They virtually all feel they've been co-opted and tossed away by the modern day movement like a used condom."
It seems that is our fate - especially when we are no longer young and beautiful, and the trans lucky mascot type whom LGB people like to have their picture taken with: "Oh - didn't I tell you, that's my tranny friend ..... uuum, now what is his/her name?".

Back in London, at Pride 2009, in fact I wasn't there. Living over 200 miles away, with train tickets costing a minimum of £61 for weekend travel, even if booked in advance, it could have contributed to breaking the bank. Being unable to walk the distance is also a big issue. Why would I want to attend Pride to sit in a bus? Take a wheelchair, someone says. As I cannot push myself in a chair, even getting on a train would be a nightmare.  If I had made it as  far as London,  transport would be impossible(no tube access, and buses that don't stop!). I would have had to beg people to push me along the march route, and much as though I would be very grateful if someone did push me, the 'they are all up there and I am down here' wheelchair position makes conversation impossible. So - now you know, why I would not and still do not go to Pride.

But, there were lots of other trans folk there Maybe I am being unfair and some trans folk did visit Gordon and Sarah's for a glass of lemonade. But more likely they didn't. But either way, we are clearly not fit to be seen in an 'official' photograph with the PM, at least not in public. However, we WERE THERE - not just in 1968 but also in 2009.

So, if anyone out there has some photo's of OUR presence at Pride 2009, and the trans people in them are happy to be seen, then let me have them, I'll make sure we are seen here, and on the Press for Change website; ww.pfc.org.uk


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