Ariana Grande has been set to headline Manchester Pride this upcoming Aug. 23-26, an event meant to celebrate LGBTQ pride and liberation.
Grande has spent previous time in Manchester as a performer, notably the 2017 concert that was a target of a terrorist attack killing 22 people, and the subsequent One Love Manchester charity concert held to raise money for those affected by the attack.
The announcement left some within the community confused. Why is Ariana Grande, a woman who identifies as heterosexual and cisgendered, headlining an event meant to bring together LGBT people and celebrate the triumphs and hardships the community faces even to this day?
Furthermore, ticket prices for the event have gone up from £30 in 2018 to £71 in 2019. As twitter user @raininjulyvinyl puts it, “idk …. ariana headlining pride when she’s straight (as far as we’re all aware) …. and doubling the price of tickets …. kinda smells like exploitation of the lgbt community to me …..”
To her credit, Grande did respond on twitter, stating that she did not set the ticket prices, and the event coordinators did. She went on to say that she would love to share the stage with other LGBTQ artists, instead of “claiming to be the hero,” and subsequently stealing the light from the heart of the event.
“The relationships I have with my lgbtq fans, friends, and family makes me so happy,” Grande said. “I want to celebrate and support this community, regardless of my identity or how people label me…lgbtq representation is incredibly important, and I’m always proud to share the stage with lgbtq artists!”
As previously stated, Grande is perceived as straight and cis, and that is a major talking point driving the controversy. For years LGBTQ women have felt pushed out of the community, and instead feel the focus has been on the men in the community, which many be attributed to misogynistic attitudes prevalent in some factions of the Gay community.
This focus on gay men may be why a lot of “gay culture” is focused on straight female pop singers. Gay men have taken to calling them “gay icons,” and as Norwalk resident and gay man Daniel Moreno explains, it’s all about the “confidence and strong personality” that these pop artists display that draws gay men to them.
So what about gay icons that the women can relate to? Artist Hozier and Marvel’s Thor have been named as “lesbian icons,” but some lesbian’s say that’s erasure. Lesbians feel that by naming straight men as their “icons” they’re being underrepresented, and feel as though their identities are still connected to men.
Anaheim resident and lesbian Hayley Marquez has stated that her and her wife have been to Santa Ana Pride a couple of times. During their time there, neither of them had seen the lesbian pride flag represented anywhere.
“There wasn’t a single lesbian flag there,” Marquez said. “Nothing, not a thing about lesbians, really…we’ve been twice and I haven’t seen anything.”
In 2016 the LGBTQ female dating app Her conducted a study to find how comfortable their user base was going to pride. The findings showed 31 percent did not feel comfortable at pride.
Looking into those numbers, 43 percent of bisexual women and 53 percent of self-identified queer women felt uncomfortable at pride, and 35 percent had never even been to pride.
This leads to the discussion of who are the LGBTQ artists that could headline, or even share the stage with Grande? Some have suggested Troye Sivan, who did a duet with Grande in 2018, would be a good fit, or even Panic! At The Disco.
Panic! Frontman Brendon Urie came out last year as pansexual, and would be favorite for those who miss Panic! In their 2006 early stages and those who prefer their newer sound.
Keeping with the theme of LGBTQ female empowerment, King Princess, Hayley Kiyoko, Janelle Monae would also be big names to add to the line up.
Hopefully Manchester Pride does listen to the community and add more LGBTQ artists to the line up, and hopefully this entire ordeal will start a much needed conversation about being more welcoming towards lesbians and bi women into pride. But ultimately, Pride should not be about the celebrities headlining.
Pride is a celebration rooted in the oppression and anger that an entire community felt, and is now a celebration of those struggles the community has overcome, and a chance to recharge and get ready for the fights that are still being fought on a daily basis. Pride is a time to join together, and shouldn’t be used to drive parts of the community away.