Trans Pride Dublin: Its past, present and future

This Pride season, Dublin will play host to Trans Pride for the second time, GCN speaks to two of its organisers about the reasons for its creation and their aims for its future.

The Trans Pride march making its way through Dublin City centre

Ollie Bell and Clara Barry are organising this second Trans Pride as a reaction to what they see as the transformation of Dublin Pride into a sensational, corporatised party-like event often tokenised by those same corporations.

“We wanted to have a Pride that went back to the radical roots of protest,” Ollie says, “[one] that wasn’t over-corporatised, that wasn’t pushing the community activists to the back of the Parade, a protest that would kickstart a movement for trans rights.”

Ollie continued, “Of course we can celebrate all the gains that we have achieved, but it’s not a party, it’s a protest because we have so much more that we need to fight for.”

The struggle for LGBT+ rights did not stop after our win for Marriage Equality, it did not stop with the Gender Recognition Act, nor did it stop last month, when WHO (World Health Organisation) announced that transgender health issues would no longer be classified as a mental disorder. For the organisers behind Trans Pride, the fight for equality is that exactly – a fight against the status quo, the established norms and the socio-economic structures of society which actively work against queer liberation. 

Trans Pride therefore embodies the grassroots element that was fundamental to the origins of LGBT+ protest; ordinary people and community groups united in collective action, propelled by the belief that there is still so much more to fight for and so many more gains to be achieved.

The first Trans Pride Parade took place last year, on July 28, and had over 1000 people in attendance. Ollie believes that the number and diversity of groups present indicated that a profound underlying mood existed across many sections of society, a feeling that the Irish Pride movement was in need of a transgressive revival.

“There were trade unions that marched that didn’t march at Dublin Pride, there were feminist groups, there were community groups, there were anti-racist groups… We had a speaker from Direct Provision, we had trans activists from Belfast and also young trans activists from BeLonG To. It was good to see all these people coming together, and see that these movements aren’t little separate movements, that an injury to one is an injury to all and coming together we can really make a change.”

This year, Trans Pride aims to be bigger, better and more political, and establish the event as an annual demonstration – all trans, non-binary, intersex and cisgender people are encouraged to mobilise and take part, as well as community groups and organisations. 

“We have definitely reached out to more trade unions, we’re always trying to involve community groups more, we’re trying to get people moving within their own communities because we’re only three [organisers] at the end of the day.”

This year’s theme is Breaking The Binary, which aims to reflect the message that neither sex nor gender are binary, but exist on a spectrum. The traditional gender binary which is deeply embedded into the contemporary milieu has always impeded the progress of the LGBT+ movement, and hampered any person who has attempted to navigate the prevailing norms of gender, sex and sexuality. Trans Pride intends to highlight the struggles faced by trans people and the needs of the community at large, particularly with regards to healthcare.

“Even as things are moving forward for trans people, I do still very much feel that it’s very focused on the binary, even with the Gender Recognition Act. It’s very simple to move from one binary to another, but when you’re not in that binary, it’s a whole other added layer of impenetrability in the bureaucracy and in the system, especially in terms of healthcare,” Clara asserts.

“It’s an ongoing struggle because the doctors that oversee these sort of things aren’t going to change their minds, so we really have to push that trans healthcare should be an informed consent model, it shouldn’t be based on this medicalised thing that treats you like you have a mental disorder.”  

The gender binary affects not just trans and non-binary people, but all of those who diverge from the typical assumptions of what male and female bodies should look like. As well as being an organiser of Trans Pride, Clara Barry is also a founder of the newly established Intersex Ireland and will be speaking on behalf of the organisation at Trans Pride.

“We haven’t even had what happened to trans with the World Health Organisation, we haven’t had that happen for us yet. It’s still classed as a medical condition by WHO even though most intersex people and intersex communities are very much trying to de-medicalise, de-pathologise, push the message that intersex variations are just that – they’re normal, often healthy variations on sex. They’re actually just as common as people with red hair.

“The thing is that intersex people have a very similar experience to trans people in many ways, it comes down to being a fundamental human rights issue. Intersex people often have surgery performed on them that they don’t consent to as children because we don’t fit these ideas of what we should look like in one body or the other, these very strict markers of male or female, and again, that’s where Breaking The Binary comes into it, that affects intersex people as well.”

The oppression of LGBT+ people and the trans and intersex communities in particular is not limited to the struggle for adequate legislation and improvements in the bureaucratic realm of society, it also concerns the issue of the social erasure of people who deviate from the binary for whichever reason. The demands of Trans Pride include and traverse the legal and the jurisdictive, one of the predominant aims of the event is to dismantle the rigid gender roles embedded in social institutions and question the oppressive power structures holding them in place.

“We feel like it’s really important this year to march the main streets for Trans Pride to show that we’re here, we’re queer, get used to it. We’re not gonna hide away, we’re out here, we’re loud and we’re proud, and we’re gonna fight for our rights.”

A full list of the demands of Trans Pride is on their Facebook page: “Everyone is welcome at Trans Pride. People ask: ‘Oh, I’m cis am I allowed to go?’ Yes, if you support trans rights – go. Bring the message to your trade union, your universities, your work places, your community groups and get them to march at Trans Pride. We really want cis allies and other LGB+ allies to show their solidarity, and to really show that this is a fight for all, that a win for trans people is a win for all, and that you don’t have to fit in these stereotypical boxes.”

Trans Pride takes place on July 6 at 2pm on the 27th anniversary of the death of Marsha P Johnson – a central figure in the Stonewall Riots. Beginning in the Garden of Remembrance, it will continue down the original Pride route via O’Connell Bridge, Westmoreland Street and Nassau Street, actively avoiding any backstreets, ending in Merrion Square where there will be additional speakers.

© 2019 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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