Get ready to Sparkle!
The Sparkle Weekend is a major celebration of the Trans community in the UK. In 2019, The Sparkle Weekend will be taking over Manchester on 12-14 July.
I caught up with Lee Clatworthy for a preview of what we can look forward to.
Is it accurate to describe The Sparkle Weekend as a Trans Pride event?
The Sparkle Weekend has always been a celebration of gender diversity, rather than an activist-led event like the fantastic Trans Pride events which are popping up all over the country. We believe that there’s a place for both, and we think that the act of being visible and expressing your authentic self, especially in the current media-generated trans hostile climate, is a political act in itself.
Do you have to identify as Trans in order to participate in The Sparkle Weekend?
The Sparkle Weekend is open to anyone who identifies as trans, non-binary, gender-fluid, or intersex, plus their families, friends, and allies. Allies are increasingly important in furthering Sparkle’s mission of increasing the understanding, acceptance and inclusion of gender variant people. You may not see yourself as a trans ally, but if you believe in equal human rights, including the inalienable right to express your identity and individuality, then you definitely are!
How many people attend Sparkle weekend?
The Sparkle Weekend started as a small event for the local trans community, but now we welcome visitors from all over the world – North America and Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and from across mainland Europe. It’s always a pleasure to chat to our overseas visitors, and to find out how other countries and cultures treat their gender variant citizens.
Last year we welcomed over 18,000 visitors across the two days of the Sparkle Weekend. This was just in Sackville Gardens, in the heart of Manchester’s Gay Village, where the entertainment takes place, but we’re sure that many more came to meet friends on Canal Street, or access the talks and workshops held by our partners at the LGBT Foundation.
Given it’s the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, and the key role that Trans people have played throughout the history of the Pride movement, is that something that will referenced at this year’s Sparkle weekend, or are there other political or social issues that will be the main focus?
The history of the trans community is incredibly important to us, but so is the future. There are so many issues which need to be addressed now – such as the persecution of the community by the media, the incredibly long and soul-destroying wait that trans patients face accessing NHS pathways, and the outcome of the consultation on reform of the Gender Recognition Act.
Behind the scenes and away from the Sparkle Weekend, the charity is working with businesses, public sector departments, and educational institutions to improve the culture within those organisations for stakeholders who identify as gender variant. We can reflect on the past, but there are so many more battles left to fight.
What can people expect from The Sparkle Weekend this year?
The Sparkle Weekend isn’t just about two days of fantastic entertainment in the park, provided by artists and performers from within the community and their allies, it’s also about the advice and support which is offered by the groups and charities who work with us, it’s about the invaluable talks and workshops which the LGBT Foundation deliver every year, and it’s about celebrating the community’s rich diversity in venues throughout Manchester’s Gay Village. It’s also a chance for our corporate sponsors to engage with the community and ask them face-to-face what their needs are, a chance for old friends to connect, and hopefully educate those who aren’t as aware of the issues trans, non-binary, gender-fluid, and intersex people face. It’s a party with a serious message.
What do you hope that people feel when they’re attending The Sparkle Weekend this year?
Following each Sparkle Weekend, we receive feedback from hundreds of our visitors, many of whom tell us that the event gave them the rare opportunity because of their individual circumstances to present as their true selves, or inspired them to take the next steps in affirming their gender. We also hear from many allies who have used the opportunity to reach out and be a friend to our visitors, and listen to their fears and hopes for the future. It’s these comments which make the hard work of our Trustees and volunteers worthwhile, and the reason why we continue to advocate and fight for a community which is increasingly marginalised within society.