Comment: We shouldn’t be priced out of Pride

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With an increasing number of Pride events now charging for entry, Benali Hamdache, chair of LGBTIQ Greens, writes for PinkNews about what it means for social inclusion.

Pride has clearly evolved from its first incarnations; from pitched street battles to professional parades, times have moved on, but in doing so it has left some of the community behind. As more and more Prides charge entrance can the day really be seen as an inclusive celebration of being LGBT?

Beyond the lazy myth of the ‘pink pound’, there is substantial evidence to show that large parts of the LGBT community live in poverty. Today’s Pride, with huge amounts of sponsorship and products on display, can feel like a celebration of the economic power LGBT people have accrued. Where once we were the ‘deviants’ on the fringe of society today we are the consumer with a wealth of disposable income, and this supposedly equates to acceptance in the wider community.

It’s a message that many Pride organisers seem to have accepted as they move to levy substantial fees on attending. Once a rarity, charges are now even being extended to public street parties. Attending Manchester Pride is now £12.50, Brighton Pride can be £20 and Birmingham Pride £10. Pride London even charge groups £25 to enter the parade. A free pride is now the exception rather than the rule.

At a time where we’re experiencing the biggest drop in living standards since the Victorian era it is not appropriate to make Pride more expensive. Pride was originally about our shared struggle, to fight for acceptance and inclusion as LGBT people, and making a day where fewer and fewer can afford to take part feels divisive and self-defeating.

Sometimes the false spectre of safety is raised. Many city’s prides have advanced charging as a way of preventing ‘troublemakers’ and controlling numbers. Apart from the deeply problematic linking of being less well-off with bad behaviour, there’s little evidence to suggest a safe and orderly event requires fees. Pride London has successfully demonstrated how a free Pride can work, with both Trafalgar Square’s mini festival and Soho’s street party free to attend.

Poverty in the LGBT community is not spoken about often enough. A report by the Institute for Social & Economic Research in 2013 reported that gay men are more likely than heterosexual men to be in receipt of benefits, and that homophobic, transphobic and biphobic bullying at school were impacting career prospects and therefore earnings. Brighton’s Count Me In Too survey found that 25% of trans people were unemployed and 60% earned less than £10,000.

We’re still fighting for equality; LGBT homelessness, discrimination in the workforce and bullying at school. These are all reasons why LGBT people might not have pocketfuls of pink pounds. Pride should acknowledge that, and make sure that the celebrations are as inclusive as possible. We shouldn’t be priced out of being part of our own community.

Benali Hamdache is chair of LGBTIQ Greens and co-coordinator of the Green Party in London.

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