“I’ve been a Rolls-Royce mechanic, a heavy metal DJ in Ibiza, a fishmonger and a builder!” laughs Sarah Savage. “But nothing felt right; nothing made me happy…’
The right vocation found her in the end, though. After transitioning on a Channel 4 TV show a decade ago, she discovered a passion for activism on behalf of trans and non-binary people. “Since then, I’ve been really inspired to live a life of activism, organising Trans Pride Brighton,” says Sarah, a pansexual trans woman who uses she/her pronouns. She’s never looked back. “It feels surreal to still be going after 10 years,” she laughs of the event’s landmark birthday this summer. “I’ve never stuck with anything for 10 years! It’s a triumph of cooperation and community.”
The genesis of Trans Pride Brighton took place over drinks one evening at a pub in the English queer capital. “Half a dozen of us got together and decided we wanted to have a Pride centring trans people,” remembers Sarah. “We decided to make something happen.”
“It’s a proper group effort, but what I do is make sure the group’s moving in the same direction.”
The first of its kind in Europe, Trans Pride Brighton took place just over three months later. “We were expecting a couple of hundred people – 800 turned up. it was a massive success. Now, we plan for 10,000. And we’ve done it voluntarily, with a model that centres trans people and protects from rainbow capitalism. It’s an authentic way of doing it.”
Creating the event is a full-time commitment for Sarah, who also writes children’s books about gender and identity. “My day-to-day position is entirely voluntary and at this time of year, I’m working seven days a week – no time to take a break!” she says, while paying tribute to the countless others involved. “My job, mostly, is organising volunteers, so a lot of communication. It’s a proper group effort, but what I do is make sure the group’s moving in the same direction. So, chatting with police, the council, making sure the red tape’s correctly done up. Lots of meetings, emails, and coffee!”
Being a public-facing figure of the event is “actually amazing for me”, she shares. “I take myself seriously, and so do the people I speak with.
“It’s incredibly validating. I know what a transitioner wants to feel to be comfortable. I know what they want from a Pride event because I’m part of the community. Occasionally, you get flak online. But it’s really important I show that it doesn’t bother me.”
“It feels like there’s been a step backwards in equality and acceptance the last 10 years.”
This year’s Trans Pride Brighton protest march takes place on Saturday 15 July, starting at 11am. Attendees can expect something arguably more meaningful than the party-focused revelry of other Prides. “it’s explicitly a protest march because trans and non-binary people are being attacked right now. We go along the seafront, really visible, and we stop traffic in the entire city.”
Such demonstration is necessary, given the current culture war in which Tory equalities minister Kemi Badenoch is reportedly considering changing the legal definition of the word ‘sex’ to strip trans people of rights and protections, while trans people are being attacked “under law, in the media, in almost every part of society. […] In Florida, currently they’re trying to ban drag and outlaw Pride parades,” says Sarah. “it feels like there’s been a step backwards in equality and acceptance the last 10 years. It’s really important that we stand up now and make sure Pride exists in the future
From 1pm on the same day, there will be a park event at Brunswick Square “with 50 community stalls: tiny trans organisations”, plus a stage with trans and non-binary acts to “put the T first in LGBT”. The night before, on 14 July, there’s “an amazing gala at the Brighton Dome, the most prestigious place in Brighton, with some enormous trans and non-binary stars. This morning, we booked [RuPaul’s Drag Race UK stars] Cheddar Gorgeous and Dakota Schiffer, our comperes for the evening. We’re hoping to sell all 1,700 tickets. It’s going to be a night of trans joy.”
One of Sarah’s main drivers is giving young queer people the feeling of acceptance and belonging she was once denied. “When I came out, my entire family disowned me. I haven’t spoken to any of them since she says. “Being able to have a Trans Pride event when I was young would’ve been life-changing. Creating a moment where someone feels so accepted and loved is magical and can’t be beat. That’s why Trans Pride should be in every city around the country.”
“Be loud and visible in your support of trans and non-binary people.”
Indeed, Sarah Savage’s kept tabs on the Trans Pride movement elsewhere… but has yet to attend one outside of Brighton! “I’m hoping to this year, actually!” she says. “They always take place so close to ours – I’m always a little bit busy! But there are 15 Trans Prides around the UK now. We all share information and support each other.” Such dedication to uplifting the community is precisely why Sarah has been honoured at the 2023 Attitude Pride Awards, in association with Magnum.
Asked for her message to someone who wants to start a Trans Pride in their hometown, Sarah says: “I recommend joining Trans Pride UK for great advice and support. But Trans Pride can just be a picnic in a park with some friends. It doesn’t have to be this amazing, expensive production. Trans Pride is a protest. Existing as a trans person in this society is a political act. That’s what’s important: that we have a chance to say exactly what’s bothering us and how we want the world to be better.” As for general advice for allies, Sarah Savage says: “Be loud and visible in your support of trans and non-binary people. Another thing, donate: Trans Pride is entirely community funded. We don’t take any sponsorship from corporates, and there are so many local organisations like us that people can support.” Finally, she adds: “Write to your MP. People forget trans activism takes a lot out of the individual. It’s so nice to have someone stand up for you.”
The Attitude July/August issue is available to download and order in print now.