CultureSomething to be proud of.

Something to be proud of.

We’re proud to reveal Liberate’s striking new photography – featuring an array of local minorities and allies this Summer – ahead of promoting Channel Islands Pride this coming September. Speaking to Christian May, Director of Channel Islands Pride, Jersey, he explains how Jersey is leading the conversation and challenging the norms of Pride around the world.

 Words : Christian May, Director of Channel Islands Pride, Jersey 2023    Photography : Nicky Kill

“It Gets Better” was one of the most pervasive and persuasive charity campaigns of the past decade, designed to reassure young LGBTQ people that the bullying and intolerance they experience while growing up will not follow them into later life.

And its hugely important. Young LGBTQ+ people are three times more likely to self-harm and twice as likely to contemplate suicide as their non-LGBTQ+ peers, according to a UK survey conducted in 2021.

And for the greatest part it is true. It does get better.

I’ve seen Jersey, our community, and local attitudes to LGBTQ+ Islanders change more than I anticipated possible in the eight years since Liberate was formed, and we hosted the first Channel Islands Pride parade.

Growing up as young gay man in Jersey there were few openly gay role models, either locally or in the media. When it was released, in 1999, Queer as Folk was met with outrage for its blunt depiction of homosexual life and relationships. Now it is seen as a ground-breaking precursor to ‘It’s a Sin’ and the many openly LGBTQ programmes that followed. How far we’ve come. 

I never expected that Pride would become an annual event across both Jersey and Guernsey. I never imagined it would become an integral part of the Island’s festival line-up and attract numbers that only the Battle of Flowers or Air Display could previously expect. But, if I’m being truthful, the tagline for the campaign should really be “It Gets Better… But especially if you’re a masculine, middle class, white, gay man.”

Too often we unintentionally forget the lesbian, the bisexual, the trans, and the queer aspects of LGBTQ+. We ignore those who don’t conform to the attractive, gym-ready aesthetic that pervades social media, or gender stereotypes. And while they are more likely to be the subject of discrimination or violence, we downplay the issues important to LGBTQ+ people of colour. 

Mainstream media portrayals have played a massive part in helping to foster increased acceptance of our community but are equally guilty of this subconscious erasure. Whether its ‘Heartstopper’ or ‘Red, White and Royal Blue’, the focal characters tend to be attractive, white, gay men, with an entourage of supporting women and minority characters. The risk we face as an organisation is that Pride focuses only on the interests of white gay men and fails to be representative of, and welcoming to, the whole community.

Prides around the world have become increasingly commercialised, and a focal point for ‘pink-washing’ by businesses with less-than-spotless records on discrimination. What began as protests in New York and in London against police violence has become, in many cases, sterilised pop concerts. This is particularly concerning in countries like the US, where the reality of regular attacks against trans men and women, and the reactionary treatment of drag queens, can be unintentionally masked by the colour and spectacle of Pride month.    When we at Liberate plan Channel Islands Pride, we must ask ourselves ‘How can we behave differently and be aware of these risks?’

In 2023, the theme of Channel Islands Pride is ‘Free To Be’. Free to be yourself. Free to love. Free to express yourself, however YOU choose.  You won’t see images of white gay men in our Pride advertising, and in the pictures that will be the focus of the Exhibition in the 2023 Pride Village. What you will see are images of the real individuals that make up the LGBTQ+ Jersey community and its allies; people with disabilities, trans men, drag artistes, bisexual women, and men and women of colour.  The fantastic photography of Nicky Kill highlights the real diversity alive within our community, and each model has provided a “Message to my younger self”, giving meaning and their own truth to ‘It Gets Better’. Getting this right is not only good for Pride, but good for the Island as a whole.  

We have worked closely with Visit Jersey over the last year to develop an ongoing campaign focused on making the Island an LGBTQ destination of choice, where diversity is welcomed. We are committed to building and supporting our local visitor economy and making Pride continually beneficial for the whole Island.  Intrinsic to that offering is a Pride celebration that everyone can be a part of. Not a paid concert, where you can spend up to £250 for a VVIP ticket, or where you can watch but not participate in the parade. In Jersey EVERYONE is free to take part in the Pride Parade on Saturday 16th September, and everyone can watch the Pride Celebrations in People’s Park and Victoria Park, for FREE. Around that day we have also built a festival of fundraising events to support the ongoing work of Liberate. So, what can Islanders and visitors expect from this year’s Pride? Boat parties with national drag stars. A Pride Idols concert for families in People’s Park. Brunch, Drag Bingo, makeup tutorials and more. On the Main Stage, as well as our headliners FIVE, we are delighted to welcome Ellie Prohan; a Middle Eatsern LGBTQ female DJ and advocate for minorities. We are bringing lesbian spoken-word poetry to our cabaret stage, and bisexual DJs to our dance night.   

In the Pride Village there will be areas focused on supporting LGBTQ young people, as well as entertainment for families, and quiet zones for the neurodiverse members of the audience.  Our Charitable and Wellbeing Zones will bring together the largest group of volunteer organisations on the Island, alongside Health, Education and Emergency Services.

All of this is only possible because of the continued generosity of the many corporate sponsors who support Pride, and continued funding from the Government of Jersey. We are especially grateful to the Government, to Jersey Electricity (our Headline Sponsor), Mourant (our Parade Sponsor), and all the organisations who have given their time and contributions to Pride. We are lucky that each and every one is committed to hands-on involvement in Pride and building real diversity and equality into their practices.

Channel Islands Pride has the opportunity to put Jersey and Guernsey on the map as destinations that give Pride back to the community, focus on diversity, and provide high quality local and international entertainment. A Pride that is not afraid to talk about issues, and to remember the roots of protest behind the celebration.

If we can do that, we can ensure that when we say “It Gets Better”, we mean it. For everyone.

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