Last week actress Maxine Peake reprised her Manchester International Festival role to perform the Percy Bysshe Shelley’s protest poem The Masque of Anarchy (http://bit.ly/WpgO2p). The poem commemorates the death of 15 pro-democracy campaigners at St Peter’s Fields, Manchester, in 1819. So bloody was the attack by the 15th King’s Hussars that the incident became known as the Peterloo Massacre. Recalcitrant in the face of such violence and intimidation Manchester has an awesome history of radical politics. The Cotton Famine, Fifth Pan-African Congress, and Section 28 Rally, three examples among a sheer multitude are testament to this political lineage, the impact of which has been both local and global. Manchester Pride maintains this crucial heritage with an annual celebration of LGBT culture and unequivocal promotion of equality.
This weekend sees the culmination of Manchester Pride 2013, one highlight of which will be the variegated parade processing through the city centre on Saturday afternoon. The parade, fringe events and bank holiday festivities serve as a reminder of the vital contribution the LGBT community makes to the political, cultural, academic and economic life of the city. They also provide an invaluable platform to challenge discrimination in an inherent Mancunian fashion. This year Manchester Pride Trustees have dedicated the impending festivities to the LGBT community of St Petersburg, Manchester’s twin city, following the introduction of anti-LGBT legislation by the Russian government.
Cultural relativism has been invoked to explain the introduction of this legislation. The anthropological architect of cultural relativism Franz Boas (1858-1942) scrutinised Western ethnocentrism in an attempt to better understand Canadian First Peoples. Could criticism of the Russian government be a perpetration of the same bias Boas confronted? I would argue not, as I don’t view the criticism as a veiled claim to Western universality. The promotion of LGBT rights is not exclusively centred in the West; Latin America is increasingly a place of innovation in this endeavour. Manchester is twinned with Puerto Cabezas in Nicaragua, a country which in 2008 repealed anti-LGBT legislation.
The weekend festivities are a wonderful opportunity to share and experience Manchester’s LGBT culture. Unfortunately, this is not an inalienable right afforded to LGBT people globally as cultural relativism is cited to prohibit LGBT expression. As Diana Ayton-Shenker wrote ‘claiming cultural relativism as an excuse to violate or deny human rights is an abuse of the right to culture.’ (http://bit.ly/ed3lyY).