Can A Protest Be A Safe Space?

This month has seen more Pride Protests taking place across the country and my local pride aswell. A little recap of what Pride is, and is not:

  • Pride is a PROTEST. It was started at the Stonewall bar in 1969 when a transgender woman of colour threw a brick in protest against police brutality towards the LGBTQIA+ community.
  • Pride is POLITICAL. It is about making a noise to bring attention to the systematic oppression of LGBTQIA+ people. It is about working towards bringing change.
  • Pride is NOT a party. It is not a victory dance. We have a long long way to go and many more fights to come.
  • Pride is a safe place.

Yet somehow many people who are not part of the LGBTQIA+ community co-opt pride to make money or promote business without being sensitive to the real nature of pride or the safety of participants. One such example of this is the publication and sale of pictures of participants without their consent on public domain spaces and putting this pictures for sale. These pictures weren’t large crowd pictures, they were close up images of marchers that would easily identify them.

I see many people looking confused at why this is a problem, so let me explain. Pride protest may be a “public” display and parade, but it is also and should always be maintained as a safe space for LGBTQIA+ people. The almost daily cries for a “straight pride” make it clear that we desperately still need Pride as a protest and a safe space – the fact that large swathes of people do not recognise this need is precisely why DO need it. Many people march at pride because this is a space where they can be their true selves and be safe (mostly), however posting pictures of people without consent has the potential of outing them in places that they do not wish to be outed.

The company who I elude to here placed images on their website and on Facebook set to public. That means that anyone, anyone can access them and discover the sexual orientation or gender identity of, say, an employee, a relative, a customer…This may not seem a big deal to you, and in discussions with the company it did not seem a big deal to them – as they said “walking in the parade is being public anyway”. However, if you are not or haven’t been affected by the discrimination against and oppression of LGBTQIA+ minorities I would say that you can’t fully understand the fear of being outed in a way that is out of your control.

Outing a transgender person is a hate crime in itself, it has the potential to put that person in danger not only from verbal abuse and discrimination but also physical abuse. Cashing in on the oppression of LGBTQIA+ people is morally objectionable, it is despicable. No LGBTQIA+ person should ever be made to come out at a time that they have not chosen, or in a place they do not want to be out. Yes, marching in a pride is a statement, but marching in pride is not consent to be outed, just as walking into an underwear shop doesn’t mean you consent to your bra size, or nude photos being published. In a PUBLIC domain.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t object to photos being taken. Photograph performers or leaders, photograph people and ask them if they are happy having their photo used publicly and sold for profits. Photograph friends and put them on your private facebook page. Photograph people and send them the photos. Photograph signs, placards, banners, buildings…but don’t photograph strangers in the street and publish the images without consent. This is the biggest sticking point for me, and for the many people I know who have expressed their anger with how this was handled. It has put people in a position where they have been forced to come out as transgender, and as much as you may like to believe that this is safe, it isn’t. Transgender people are at risk of violence, of losing their jobs, of being denied healthcare.

So lets remember this. Pride is a protest, it is political and yes for many it is an act of being visible. But there are people who march and participate for whom being publicly visible isn’t an option and noone has the right to out them on any platform, especially not for money.