Transgender Community Made History at Leeds LGBT Pride 2018

Historically the transgender community has been the ugly step sibling at Pride festivals.

We have been pushed to one side and kept, essentially, out of sight and out of mind of most of the revellers.

We have been made to feel unsafe and unwelcome at an event that is supposed to uplift and empower us.

It has been a long and harrowing experience for a community whose ancestors were instrumental in the creation of the modern LGBT+ rights movement.

And then, earlier this month, something radical happened.

On Sunday the 5th of August, two leaders from the trans and non-binary community were invited to speak in front of 12,000 people. The crowd cheered and shouted and held fists high for diversity and unity and strength in a moment of solidarity with an oft maligned group.

On Sunday the 5th of August, four transgender organisations were invited to lead the parade from the very front and they did. More than 400 marchers made their presence known in the most boisterous of ways; with flags and with voices and with their very bodies. It was an act of demonstration as much as it was a celebration, a flagrant and necessary reminder of trans people’s presence and importance after the events of London Pride (where the parade was hijacked by anti-trans campaigners).

We reached the end of the parade route at Lower Briggate, the main party destination for the LGBT+ community in Leeds, and as I looked back over the people who had marched with us I saw something I had never seen before.

The street was filled with flags and banners and handmade, hand-painted signs declaring the trans communities presence and importance. Some banners were professional, some scathing, some funny, but all of them were telling people the same thing: We are here, we will not be silent, we will be noticed. For a day, we were.

It is impossible to think that anyone could have come to watch that parade and not seen us in all our strength and numbers and not know, at least for the minutes that it took us to pass them, that the trans community has a strength and determination they may not have imagined.

However, if someone looked at reporting of the event, they would be surprised to learn we had marched at all. No video of the parade and no article about the day mentioned our block or our speakers or the solidarity we shared with the rest of the LGB+ community for a few glorious hours. This was a historic moment for us, as a community and as a city.

To have the weight of that be ignored in any reporting of the day is almost as hurtful as if it had never happened at all.

Sophia Thomas (She/Her) Director of TransLeeds