Free Pride to Welcome Drag Performers

There was never a ban on drag queens and kings attending Free Pride.

There was a decision to not book any drag acts, which has been overturned. Free Pride now welcomes drag performers of all genders and gender identities.

Free Pride is inherently challenging; we have known that from the start. As a small organisation, we disagree with the highly commercialised and depoliticised nature of mainstream Pride. Our aim continues to be to create a safe, accessible space for the most marginalised LGBTQIA people.

This issue was picked up by many famous LGBTQIA bloggers, spreading this local issue internationally. Sadly, this attracted not just fair criticism, but also an immense amount of harassing, abusive behavior. This harassment took the form of rather nasty insults and threats which were aimed at free pride organisers. This kind of abusive behavior is unacceptable.

The original decision was made because many trans members of Free Pride have had negative experiences with drag acts veering towards racism, misogyny and transphobia; the lack of contact with the drag community contributed.

We made a mistake, and we apologise.

Drag is an art form, a form of expression and performance, a community with a rich history. The most useful comments and advice that we have been sent from around the world have been from trans people of colour and working class trans people who support drag and have let us know that, without it, they might not have had access to trans/queer culture at all. We are extremely grateful to those individuals who have contacted us to explain this.

Drag, like all forms of art and performance, can entertain us and challenge us. But it also has the capacity to perpetuate oppression such as misogyny, transphobia and racism. Free Pride is a safe and accessible space for all of us to join and celebrate.

We hope to learn from this in order to foster the kind of community we want to see. We believe there is a greater need for dialogue within, and indeed between the trans and drag communities. We look forward to creating spaces where these dialogues take place with mutual compassion and respect.

Thank you for reading, and we hope you’ll join us.

12 thoughts on “Free Pride to Welcome Drag Performers

  1. Wonderful statement, thank you! You have said exactly what needed to be said. I can only wish you the best for the event itself.

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  2. Thank you for hearing valuable feedback, reversing your decision, apologizing and acknowleding a lesson learned. Now the focus is where it belongs, in asking those performing to step up with content that thoughtful and enlightened as well as entertaining.

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  3. Your hearts were obviously in the right place. Although I disagreed with the initial decision, and am glad at the change of heart, it’s awful to hear about the cruel comments aimed at this organization. Please know those mean sprits don’t speak for everyone.

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  4. So glad that the decision has been overturned and the way in which you expressed that decision. I’m saddened that hardworking organizers were harassed and pleased that so many across the world were able to share their stories and experience and knowledge in a positive way.
    Nigel. Canada.

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  5. As someone who fairly and reasonably criticised the original decision, I am glad to see it reversed. But I don’t condone any of the abusive or threatening behaviour that you’ve received. Sadly, there will always be a minority that behaves like this. I too am opposed to the increasingly commercial nature of pride events. I don’t go to Manchester Pride because they charge. I didn’t go to Liverpool Pride last year, because they started charging. I will be going to Leeds Pride because it’s free, and I went to Sparkle, which is free too. If I were nearer to Glasgow, I would be attending your event now that you’ve reversed the decision on drag performers. Keep up the good work, and always be prepared to listen to public opinion, but never bow to abusive behaviour.

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  6. hey thanks for doing the right thing. Back in 96 when London pride changed from Lesbian and Gay Pride to recognise what had been lost from the original Gay pride – that of intrinsic inclusion of bisexual and transgender in our history – it was in a context where transgender people were people who challenge ‘traditional’ assumptions about gender and this imcludes transvesties, drag kings, cross-dressers, gender fuck, femme men, androgynes, butch women, drag queens, and f2M and m2F transexuals. This was before mainstream media did to transgender what the daily mail did to women’s suffrage movement – reduced it to a small aspect of its huge diversity and called them suffragettes (after cigarettes – cigars for ladies).

    Of course, the straight acting, gender insecure transexuals love the idea that transgender is only about them, hey when you have just lost a lifetime of cis privilege its any port in a storm! Especially if it privileges you over an identities that you might once of had such as cross-dresser, transvestite, drag king or queen. Its alos notable how fast many transexuals go stealth and give up the transgender identity as soon as they can regain cis privileges.

    The simple reality is that you put your head into a very very old fight around the dividing lines around sex/uality/gender about who can be in what group and how “namer/holder of power” gets to define which group has privilege over the other. Btw that was what about that definition of transgender was all about. recognising the internecine battles about who could and could not be in what group and have what power. It was about recognising that when the communist/fascist/religious totalitarian groups come to beat us down they don’t care about the nuanced differences that we can see – they see only a bunch of fucking queers who challenge their insecurities around gender, and need to be destroyed lest they point out the truth “that their is no such thing as wo/man” that sex/uality/gender is a conflation of process’s and traits that come from an earlier religious paradigm

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  7. As a non-binary person I was also irritated by the impression in the coverage that trans or NB people are generally intolerant about drag. Of course there is a long tradition of drag in prides.

    With regard to Stonewall though I dare say it is hard to know back then who were drag queens and who were trans, as they were all generally persecuted by the police back then for being seen as breaking rules on not on cross-dressing (like butch lesbians were too), and you can’t really tell from the old photos because they don’t look like our typical modern idea of a drag queen.

    But it’s also generally true that a number of clubs with a strong drag element have over the years provided welcoming places for people to explore their gender identities and expression in various ways, whether more from a drag point of view, or a trans/non-binary one.

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  8. I do not think it is ever okay to threaten or harass someone over a simple disagreement, and I’m sorry you’ve had to deal with that. Like, sincerely very very sorry.

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  9. Thank you for seeing scene plus the full pitcher of drag as a art form .in my gay opion they Are two different subject s . but I can see how The non l . g .b.t community can Get mixed up maybe it up too both side s too. Explain too the non l.g.b.t. and others if so need s be .’ history ‘ it can be a great teacher ??? Let the people see the people behind the flags .and how far they came since stonewall for example .and how it was a becon of change of the strugel s of the l.g b.t in my opinion .lets not turn oure head s on history with intural fights. It not the way forward of course in my gay opion of course

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