Manchester Pride faces racial prejudice claims

By Ben Hunte
LGBT correspondent

Image source, Rainbow Noir
Image caption,
Manchester-based charity LGBT Foundation said racist behaviour was "unacceptable"

Manchester Pride has been accused of racial prejudice after some LGBT people of colour claimed they experienced racism over the weekend.

Eight black and Asian people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender told the BBC of issues with staff in and around the Gay Village.

They said they were refused entry to bars, not served in clubs and had staff follow them around in event spaces.

Manchester Pride's chief executive said he was "angry" but "not surprised".

BAME LGBT people also said they were touched and harassed by other pride-goers, with one person justifying their actions by saying "I love black men".

Some names of the individuals - who are not connected - have been changed as they are not "out" about their sexuality or gender identity.

Image source, Tolu Ajayi & Chloe Cousins - Rainbow Noir
Image caption,
Tolu Ajayi and Chloe Cousins from Rainbow Noir - a support group for LGBT people of colour in Manchester


Sebastian works in one of London's biggest gay nightclubs, but grew up in Manchester.

He believes the way he was treated during the pride weekend could have been related to the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing.

"At work I'm constantly around nightclub security. I know how security and bar staff work in clubs," he said.

"I'm very patient with people and I can handle bad customer service, but that is not what happened at Manchester Pride.

"Staff were actively pulling black people aside, they were actively not serving us properly. The security staff went out of their way to make us really uncomfortable.

"It may be a side-effect from the bombing in Manchester, and this is now how they treat anyone who looks like what they picture as a terrorist, but you cannot label every single ethnic minority a terrorist."

Image source, Rainbow Noir
Image caption,
Manchester Pride chief executive Michael Fletcher said he was "angry" but "not surprised" to hear of racist incidents at the event


Harvey Kennedy works for an LGBT organisation in Manchester and separately teaches businesses how to engage with LGBT people of colour in the services that they offer.

But he said as soon as his work lanyard was removed, problems getting into spaces started.

"I'm a black man and I was wearing a T-shirt and shorts just like everybody else.

"Did I have anything illegal on me? No. Did I have a gun, or a bomb? No. But somehow, without reason, my skin colour became a barrier to my entry.

"While others were enjoying themselves, partying to their heart's content, many were unaware of the challenges their fellow LGBT people of colour were facing, in many cases, right next to them."

Image source, Harvey Kennedy
Image caption,
Harvey Kennedy had difficulties getting into places at Manchester Pride


Ryan, a black transgender student, says he had to "out" himself as transgender in order to be served.

"Myself and my black friend, both trans men, were refused drinks at two bars because we were told we looked too straight," he said.

"In one of them the person on the bar told us to our faces 'I don't believe that you are transgender guys'.

"How can we as an LGBT community push for homophobes and transphobes to change their ways if we're still fighting with each other about something as basic as race?"


Sam is not open about their sexuality, but was out at the weekend celebrating their first Pride event.

They said the treatment they received from security staff on the Canal Street entry gate made them too uncomfortable to want to return.

Sam said: "I don't feel that I'll be going back to Manchester Pride.

"Yes, there were a lot of people and a lot of activities, but everywhere I went it just felt like eyes were on me. I felt visible for the wrong reasons."

Image source, Getty Images

The event's chief executive Mark Fletcher said he was "sad to say" he was "all too aware of discrimination that is still facing LGBT BAME people in alleged LGBT safe spaces in Manchester".

He said the event had developed an "all equals" charter which would help businesses "recognise and take action against discrimination".

"We also now hold listening groups with BAME people to gain essential feedback on what more we can do to address the issues and ensure that our events are as inclusive as possible," Mr Fletcher added.

Tolu Ajayi from Rainbow Noir, a social and peer support group for LGBT people of colour in Manchester, said BAME people were more visible than ever at Manchester Pride, but it was still not enough.

"We need our equalities organisations, club nights and bars to combat the racism encountered by our members; we need to invest in the necessary diversity training for door staff and security, and involve people of colour in decision making for events," he said.

"We celebrate the space we have been given, and the allies who are standing with us, but we must not stop challenging and addressing a still largely unwelcoming LGBT culture for black and brown communities on the ground at Pride events.

"We must do better for LGBT people of colour."

Rob Cookson, deputy chief executive of LGBT Foundation, a national charity based in Manchester, said racist behaviour was "unacceptable" and "must change".

He said: "LGBT Foundation is keen to work in partnership with a range of stakeholders, including the Gay Village and Manchester Pride, to develop steps to reduce the prejudice and discrimination that many LGBT BAME people have told us they experience on a regular basis."

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