The Los Angeles Pride Festival, held annually at West Hollywood Park, is in full swing. But one mainstay of the event has gone missing this year. The Trans Stage has historically been a fixture of LA Pride’s Friday night festivities, and featured performances by and for the transgender community.
In a press statement released on April 12, Christopher Street West (CSW), the non-profit that produces LA Pride, stated, “In 2018, programs and events celebrating our Transgender community will be fluidly integrated into every facet of LA Pride Week, giving Transgender people the visibility and recognition they rightly deserve throughout our Pride celebrations.”
Alexandra Magallon, a trans member of the CSW Board of Directors, stated that the intention was to “…expand and evolve Transgender community programming during LA Pride Week 2018; elevate the presence and visibility of the Transgender community; and to make this programming more inclusive, relevant, accessible, and fun.”
While there will be trans performers across all three stages on Saturday and Sunday night, including rising pop star Kim Petras, the statement goes on to say that “due to Festival construction and physical limitations, there will be no hosted programming Friday night on the LA Pride Festival grounds.”
However, there is no explicit mention of the complete absence of the Trans Stage, only that “we are evolving our community programming strategy and approach this year to ensure that all members of the LGBTQ+ community have an opportunity to celebrate Pride in whatever ways allow them to #JUSTBE.”
The absence of the Trans Stage from this year’s Festival has local transgender leaders disappointed, despite the fact that this year’s Grand Marshal for the entire event is a Trans Woman.
Karina Samala, the Chair of the LA City Transgender Advisory Board who was instrumental in the creation of the Trans Stage at LA Pride, said that having trans performers spread across stages is “…not the same as our own event and own show that we had for our community, which was very successful.”
She explained that the Festival has cancelled the Trans Stage in the past, and that the transgender community spoke out against these prior cancellations. Samala went on to say that she “…will be watching and observing what they do” under new leadership, and that “hopefully they’ll still be looking after the trans community.”
Maria Roman felt “blindsided” by the move. Roman stated that they felt that “this has been an effort by the leadership at LA Pride to move in a different direction that doesn’t really highlight trans people. The Trans Night…took years for us to be able to build it up, and it’s meant something. It was one of the first times we felt we were being given a space to celebrate and highlight trans people in such a big festival.”
Roman says she is disappointed that the board has taken this new initiative, and felt that the board members had not taken into account the historic meaning of the Trans Stage: “I feel like they’ve done to us the equivalent of telling the Dykes on Bikes to walk.”
Similar sentiments on history were also expressed by Bamby Salcedo, the founder of the TransLatin@ Coalition.
She stated that “in some ways, it is a sign of the continued charge to erase the work and history of trans people, and the work that trans people have put into the movement.” Salcedo said that the organizers of Pride have not taken into account “the impact such decisions can have on a community,” and says the move is one that many people are already questioning.
On the continuation of other identity-specific spaces at the Festival despite the cancellation of the Trans Stage, Salcedo said “we continue to be marginalized even within our own community — actions speak louder than words. They can try to justify it, but the fact is that it’s done.”
Shane Ivan Nash, a prominent Trans Man and popular DJ, found the cancellation of the Trans Stage “upsetting.”
Nash explained that the stage “became a safe haven for trans folks at Pride who didn’t feel represented or respected at Pride. It offered them a chance to go to pride and be celebrated.”
Nash also pointed out that the stage offered trans people who could not afford the tickets to the Saturday and Sunday events these feelings of inclusion.
He expressed disappointment at the “dramatic drop of support for the trans community” in recent years by the board members, and finds their decision to not have the Trans Stage “an erasure of our people.”
Ultimately, the decision on having the Trans Stage return to future LA Pride Festivals is up to CSW and others involved in the organization of the Festival.
However, it seems that many within the transgender community already feel marginalized by and disappointed at the decision to not have the Trans Stage be present at this year’s event, a disappointment that reminds some of #NotMyPride.
One member of #NotMyPride who asked to remain anonymous, told the Los Angeles Blade, “It’s just one of the many things we feel certain will be addressed and fixed under new leadership. This year does not have Estevan’s stamp on it. It will be addressed.”
Estevan Montemayor, CSW’s new President, could not be reached for comment for this article (it was written on Saturday during the thick of CSWs agenda).
It should be pointed out that CSW had a successful free trans brunch the weekend before the festival and, through extensive outreach, provided 500 free tickets to trans service providers, so they could distribute tickets to their clients. CSW also showcased art by trans artists at an arts gallery that was open the entire weekend.