Earlier this week, organizers of Glasgow’s Free Pride decided to ban drag performers from the festivities, feeling that they “would make some of those who were transgender or questioning their gender uncomfortable.”
Their stance upset a lot of people, who felt the organization’s motivations were short-sighted, misguided, and exclusionary. Perhaps that’s why organizers have done an abrupt about-face.
Drag queens will, in fact, be allowed to perform at the event.
Yesterday, they posted the following letter:
FREE PRIDE TO WELCOME DRAG PERFORMERS
There was never a ban on drag queens and kings attending Free Pride.
There was a decision to not book any drag acts, which has been overturned. Free Pride now welcomes drag performers of all genders and gender identities.
Free Pride is inherently challenging; we have known that from the start. As a small organisation, we disagree with the highly commercialised and depoliticised nature of mainstream Pride. Our aim continues to be to create a safe, accessible space for the most marginalised LGBTQIA people.
This issue was picked up by many famous LGBTQIA bloggers, spreading this local issue internationally. Sadly, this attracted not just fair criticism, but also an immense amount of harassing, abusive behavior. This harassment took the form of rather nasty insults and threats which were aimed at free pride organisers. This kind of abusive behavior is unacceptable.
The original decision was made because many trans members of Free Pride have had negative experiences with drag acts veering towards racism, misogyny and transphobia; the lack of contact with the drag community contributed.
We made a mistake, and we apologise.
Drag is an art form, a form of expression and performance, a community with a rich history. The most useful comments and advice that we have been sent from around the world have been from trans people of colour and working class trans people who support drag and have let us know that, without it, they might not have had access to trans/queer culture at all. We are extremely grateful to those individuals who have contacted us to explain this.
Drag, like all forms of art and performance, can entertain us and challenge us. But it also has the capacity to perpetuate oppression such as misogyny, transphobia and racism. Free Pride is a safe and accessible space for all of us to join and celebrate.
We hope to learn from this in order to foster the kind of community we want to see. We believe there is a greater need for dialogue within, and indeed between the trans and drag communities. We look forward to creating spaces where these dialogues take place with mutual compassion and respect.
Thank you for reading, and we hope you’ll join us.