London Trans+ Pride shows that pride is a protest

After the biggest Trans+ Pride yet, Simran Uppal reports on a joyous day and looks ahead at the future of trans organising.

London Trans+ Pride 2023. Credit: Steve Eason/Flickr

On 8 July, rs21 members marched as part of a trade union bloc at London Trans+ Pride. According to the organisers, 35,000 people marched through London, a huge demonstration of queer resistance and community, and, if those numbers are right, the largest ever pro-trans demonstration in Britain. Alongside LGBTQ people and their friends and supporters, drawn in by word of mouth and social media, were a few blocs of activists from the organised left – groups like the London Renters Unions, NEU, PCS, WGB, Cop Watch, and South London Love, the network mobilising against the far right in Honor Oak.

London Trans+ Pride 2023. Credit: Steve Eason/Flickr

Founded in 2019, London Trans+ Pride has gone from strength to strength, drawing around 21,000 attendees last year. This year, a huge crowd assembled in Trafalgar Square, flooded Piccadilly with trans rage, trans joy, and trans chants, and then rallied in Hyde Park Corner. Vogue, Dazed, The Independent, Pink News, the BBC, and others all provided hugely positive media coverage. Despite online rumours that they might, the far right didn’t even dare show up.

Political speeches from across movements for trans rights and trans liberation were very warmly received by the crowd, including speeches from Trans Worker Solidarity and Transgender Action Block. Bekah from Trans Worker Solidarity talked about the reasons to bring together the workers movement and trans liberation struggle: ‘We can’t just retreat into our own communities and spaces. The way to fight back against our marginalisation is by forging alliances across society through solidarity with other people fighting for a better world.’

rs21 has been involved in the launch of Trans Worker Solidarity, a new group aiming to build links between trans people and striking workers. On the march, Trans Worker Solidarity handed out leaflets explaining the project, what it is aiming to do, and how to get involved. One Trans Worker Solidarity organiser said that ‘attendees were really receptive and keen to hear about it, and the flyers went quickly, with people coming up to us after our speech representing Trans Worker Solidarity on the main stage.’

Most of the chants and placards drew on the language of ‘trans rights’, sometimes connecting to the language of ‘human rights’ too. This language often points towards limited, liberal frameworks: frameworks that seek trans freedom within the state as it exists today, rather than taking a revolutionary or liberatory stance.

But some language that points towards more radical ideas – abolitionist, pro-worker, pro-migrant ideas, ideas about shared liberation – emerged too, mostly from the bloc of trade unionists and other people in the organised left. People chanted ‘No assimilation, trans liberation’, ‘No justice, no peace’, and, iconically, ‘Bottoms, tops, we all hate cops!’ These chants were received positively, and the response during speeches to the most radical ideas presented seemed as strong as the response to anything else.

London Trans+ Pride 2023. Credit: Steve Eason/Flickr

Most of the attendees appeared in their 20s and 30s, with a strong presence across generations too (plenty of babies and older people in attendance!). Trans+ Pride seems to consistently draw a strong cross-section of London and wider UK queer communities, and of other pro-trans supporters. At one point a large group of rs21 members were sitting across from a group of left new media journalists, who were sitting opposite a group of techno queers, the sort of crowd you’d normally expect to see at 4am in a smoking area in Canning Town, who were dancing next to a scattering of queer parents with their children. Mainstream media figures circled through the crowd – Munroe Bergdorf spoke, and the Heartstopper cast were photographed by various newspapers – with placards in the background covering the full spectrum of political references.

This is not what Pride in London is like any more, a place where ‘pride is a protest’ can feel like wishful thinking. At London Trans+ Pride, there was a cross-section of queers from across the city and beyond, some active on the left, some (in theory) mostly apolitical, all in a deeply politically oriented space, with a clear sense of shared purpose. There’s shared emotion here too, as in signs celebrating or mourning trans siblings. There’s shared culture, in joyful queer outfits, in the pleasure of sitting together in the sun and mingling, in silly signs quoting Kylie Minogue’s hit song of the summer, in the streams of trans and queer people striding onto the tube on our way back home. And underpinning this all is that sense of shared purpose and hunger: the sense that it was important to be in that space, and there is work to be done.

But what felt unclear was how we should be actualising that shared purpose, where that energy should be going. We’re missing a strategy to make this into a fighting force. We need to find ways to do political education, to create connections of practical solidarity, and to build power in the movement.

Events like London Trans+ Pride remind us of our collective power and determination. We need to continue to place demands on the state – for healthcare, for gender recognition reform – while having no faith that these demands will be fulfilled unless we organise to win them, and while knowing that reform within this state can not and will never be enough. Initiatives like Trans Worker Solidarity and Transgender Action Block, like London Trans+ Pride itself, are crucial steps in all of these directions. There is shared hunger, shared joy, grief, rage, and a deep will for us and the people we care about to be treated better. It’ll take all of these things, alongside solidarity, protest and organising to win trans liberation for any and all of us.

Follow @TransWorkerSolidarity on Instagram and Twitter to get involved in the project, and follow rs21 to find out about the next open meeting where we discuss and plan ways to fight for trans liberation.

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