Manning is a hero, make her sentence zero

Sentenced to thirty-five years in prison for leaking information that exposed US imperialist wars and vastly contributed towards the Tunisian people’s movement against their violent dictator, the world watched as Chelsea Manning came out as a trans woman, was refused physical transition in prison, and suffered multiple suicide attempts as a result of the harrowing experience of being a trans woman unjustly imprisoned. We protested, screamed her name at Pride marches and wrote countless letters of solidarity to her.

 

This week, just three days before the end of his presidency, President Obama commuted Chelsea’s sentence. Instead of finishing the brutal sentence originally imposed, Chelsea now has only five more months to go before she is released and can recover from the trauma she has endured in prison, both the damage of the prison industrial complex itself and the withholding of her agency to hormonally transition. Although there’s much cheering and flag waving for Obama’s intervention, it’s important to remember that it was his administration that put her there in the first place.  Our cheers, love and thanks should be pointed toward the people that fought for Chelsea’s rights and pressured Obama to commute. They are the ones who protested, they are the ones invoking her name at Pride, they are the ones that remembered her. Celebrate those that signed petitions, sent her money, shared her articles and tweets and never forgot her when denouncing the structures that put her away.

 

Whilst her new found freedom is certainly a victory, we must not forget those whose sentences have not been commuted, those who have yet to endured years in prison for simply existing – particularly trans women of colour and sex workers, who are often awarded long and cruel sentences. We must not forget that they are often placed in male prisons, assaulted by the men they are forced to live with, ridiculed by the guards and like Chelsea Manning, denied their autonomy and their right to safely physically transition. We must remember those who do not have people fighting directly for their right to live, and all those incarcerated in the prison industrial complex.

 

We at Free Pride shout solidarity with Chelsea Manning, and celebrate her freedom.  Whilst it’s exciting to envision the potentials that lie ahead in her public advocacy of trans rights and critique of the prison system, we have to remember not to make her our poster child; after enduring the horror of the last few years, most of all, we want her to live her life, heal, and be free.

 

Words by Oli and Isobel

West Lothian Pride 2016

Our volunteers were invited to attend West Lothian Pride last Saturday for a day of stalls, singing and chanting. Here is our write up of the event.

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We arrived at the Howden Park Centre in Livingston at 11.30am, where representatives from various LGBTQ+ organisations were already setting up stalls and banners. There were quite a few community focussed organisations in attendance, including Pink Saltire and the Scottish Transgender Alliance. The first couple of hours was spent setting up stalls and chatting to people. Our volunteers sold badges and offered polaroid pictures for people to take home as souvenirs of the day. There were lots of people from the local area in attendance, and it was great to get to talk to so many people who were excited about the event, which is only currently in its second year. Members of the Glitter Cannons, an LGBTQI+ youth group and primary organisers of the event, arrived with colourful paints, flowers and pride flags to be passed out on the march.

At 1.30PM, we left the centre and moved on to West Lothian College, where the march began at 2pm. Around 200 people waved flags and chanted, whilst passing cars blew their horns and waved, shouting messages of support and encouragement. Free Pride marched behind our own banner and joined in with the chants, thoroughly enjoying the atmosphere. What was really amazing and positive about the event was the energy and enthusiasm which had been poured into it by the main organisers, and especially by the Glitter Cannons themselves. Made up largely of children in their mid-teens, it was incredible to see so many young people, some of whom could only have been around 13 or 14, being so completely brash about their identities. I saw hair spray dyed in the colour of the bi flag; faces painted in trans colours; I saw one person wearing the Ace flag as a cape. Given free rein of the megaphone, chants were bellowed and whistles were blown in a parade which, although small, demanded unashamedly to be heard.

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“L-G-B-T
No Rest Until We’re Free”

Back at the Howden Park Center there was face painting, stalls and celebrations, as well as an impromptu musical performance from Mr Gay Scotland himself, who snubbed the Mr Gay Europe competition in Stockholm to spend a day at West Lothian Pride instead. This was followed by a demonstration from the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, where everyone present was given an insight into an important legacy of LGBTQ+ culture, as well as a short lesson in polari. By the time we had packed up our things and prepared to catch the train back to Glasgow, the stage had become an open mic, and the hall was full of revellers of all ages dancing and singing, celebrating Pride.

This was only the second West Lothian Pride, and there’s still lots of room for it to grow and develop. But the confidence and self-assurance of the young people organising it just demonstrates why community pride and LGBTQ+ movements are so important to building and uniting our community and making it stronger.

Anyone between 13 and 26 can join the Glitter Cannons, so if you’re interested in finding out more then be sure to like them on Facebook. There will be information on the page about plans to organise Pride for next year, which people of all ages are welcome to get involved with.

By Róisin Caird

Free Pride: 2016!

11947478_1466527587006531_8072790516251536237_nThis time last year, myself and a whole team of equally enthusiastic and exhausted volunteers were frantically making preparations for our first ever Free Pride event. We’d only known each other a few months, none of us had ever organised such a large scale event, and none of us had any idea what Free Pride might actually look like on the day. Would anyone actually come? Would we be able to pull off a full day and night of activities? How many rainbow flags is too many rainbow flags?

But we needn’t have worried, because when the day finally rolled round we were overwhelmed by the crowds that showed up to support us and to share in our vision of a free, accessible and radical pride. From 2pm-3am, the Art School was filled with love, defiance and a whole lot of fun.

In all of the chaos of planning and organising, I almost forgot to stop and appreciate what we had created. It was only as the event ended and I stood surrounded by people I could now call my friends, covered in glitter and sweat and ready to sleep for a solid 48 hours, that the enormity of what we had created sunk in.

Throughout the day, and for months after the event, strangers came up to us to tell us this was the first pride event they felt welcome at, the first pride event where they felt heard and supported and included. People spoke of the importance of having their identities validated, their accessibility needs cared for, and the necessity of a Pride event that was completely free to attend.

11951802_1466691366990153_2285957152817356405_nFree Pride grew out of dissatisfaction with the mainstream ‘gay rights’ movement and the increasingly commercial Pride Glasgow. As a community, we felt we could do more, be more. We wanted to provide an alternative and show that a free, inclusive and radical Pride was possible- and we did just that! But for me, and for many others, Free Pride has become more than just a one-off event. In Free Pride I’ve found a community that I truly feel part of, a supportive place from which to challenge the mainstream and build something better.

Throughout the year we’ve gone to protests, held club nights and film screenings and community events, brought people together and campaigned for change. Free Pride is only at the very beginning of what will hopefully be a long and productive journey, and that’s exciting! We want Free Pride to keep growing, to make real tangible change, and to provide an inclusive and supportive community for everyone who feels alienated or excluded from pink-washed and commercial LGBT rights movements.

This year, we’ve made Free Pride even bigger and better- we have more stalls, more space, a new and improved quiet area and a whole host of exciting workshops, performance and activities for you all. We can’t wait for Free Pride 2016, and we hope you’ll join us there to be part of what we hope will be a truly radical, inclusive and special Pride celebration.

Ciara Maguire, Free Pride Chair