So here we are, in the month of Pride all over the world. A month of declaring the rights of LGBTQIA+ people. A month of raising awareness, being visible and marching to change the world. To make the world a little more welcoming, a little more open, a little more understanding.
There is a lot of horror out in the world, something which I have felt keenly these last 2 weeks with 2 terror attacks in the UK. There are a lot of haters who want to tear us apart and the LGBTQIA+ community is supposed to be one of safety and acceptance for those of us who belong to it, to any part of it.
And yet those spaces which are supposed to be safe, welcoming places to be ourselves are all to often excluding the very minorities who most need to find a safe space. Take, for instance, an LGBT bar in the “rainbow” end of Leeds. In an area that is designated as the “gay” scene, with a huge rainbow painted across the bridge and the place that hosts our Pride celebrations. A bar called Fibre, that on the first Friday of every month welcomes transgender patrons as part of “First Friday”. A bar who’s owner speaks at Pride events and whom I saw speak at a vigil for Orlando victims on the need to maintain our safe spaces and stand together. Such a bar, you would think, would be incredibly open and welcoming to trans people.
But it was this bar where I was subjected to one of the MOST humiliating and embarrassing incidents a transgender person can go through. I walked down to the toilets with my two female friends and, saying “I’ll meet you here” we separated with them going into the women’s and I went in to the men’s. I walked past a staff member who seemed to be guarding the toilets. I walked past a sign that said “male” and stepped through to be faced by a wall of urinals. I walked past a man. I walked in to a stall and undid my trousers.
And then someone knocked on the stall door. I ignored it, they continued until I opened the door. It was the staff member from outside – he had watched me say goodbye to my 2 female friends and walk past him in to the men’s toilets and then decided that, at that moment, it was appropriate to follow me in and bang on the stall door to tell me “The ladies is the other one”. With men in there overhearing. Leaving me to slam the door and sit scared to piss, anxious about leaving, scared of who heard.
WHAT THE FUCK??
This isn’t the first time this has happened, however it’s the first time in an LGBT* bar. I don’t always pass as male, I know that but in this particular instance the fact I walked the opposite direction to my female friends should have indicated I didn’t want the female toilets. It was also a night for transgender people, a night which many transgender people attend. And it’s worth mentioning again, this was in a bar that flies the pride flag.
Unfortunately the worst part isn’t that I was humiliated, hyper anxious, dysphoric…It is that I wasn’t surprised. Not really. I’m not surprised that a gay bar is not welcoming or safe for trans people. Too often every letter after LG is forgotten in the LGBTQIA+ community. If you are not gay or lesbian, if you do not fit into one of their many subcategories, if you are disabled or an ethnic minority, if you are trans or intersex, bisexual or asexual or queer (yes queer the Q is not for questioning) you are not an equal. You are not truly welcome. The gay scene does not cater to the needs of the LGBTQIA+ community, that is not a secret.
It is not a secret because we have had to carve our own spaces, there are trans* nights in gay bars and nights for POC. It is not a secret because the trans women of colour who began the pride movement have been forgotten. It is not a secret because the transgender latinx people were just “gays” at Orlando.
So, here we are in the run up to Pride and lets not forget it is NOT gay pride. It is NOT just for gay people – though you would be forgiven for thinking so with the coverage you will see. Pride and those gay villages in your local town are for more than gay people, they are safe spaces for ALL LGBTQIA+ people, and we need to start making changes so they truly are safe spaces for all members of the alphabet club. It is not the responsibility of transgender people to educate you, take some initiative. Use your common sense; a person walking into a toilet, seeing people and no immediately leaving probably knows which toilet they are in.
And to Fibre, the bar that has not responded to my complaints. To the manager who said “we can’t do anything other than apologise”. You can do more, you should do more. In a world that shows our community so much hate, in a world where we are killed for our identities and nothing else, in a world where are love is illegal…we should be standing together and fighting for our space, TOGETHER.