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Authentically Proud: Steven Braines

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Authentically Proud: Steven Braines

At UKF, we believe that marking Pride Month in the most authentic way means amplifying the voices of those within the LGBTQIA+ community. This year, we asked members how this heritage moment should be honoured and celebrated. By sharing their insights and experiences, we aim to foster understanding, solidarity, and a renewed commitment to equality. Through these conversations, we aim to highlight the importance of Pride and inspire our readers to support LGBTQIA+ rights not just during June, but all year round.

In this interview, we dive into why marking heritage moments like Pride Month is crucial, exploring the significance of visibility, community, and ongoing activism. We also discuss how brands, artists, promoters, and labels can meaningfully support the LGBTQIA+ community. From amplifying queer voices and fostering inclusivity in line-ups to ensuring year-round representation and standing against prejudice, the insights shared offer a blueprint for genuine allyship. Join us as we listen to these vital perspectives and learn how we can all contribute to a more inclusive and celebratory world.

Today we spoke to Steven Braines the CEO of The Weird & The Wonderful and HE.SHE.THEY.

Is it important to mark heritage moments such as Pride Month and why?

Yes, I believe it is very important to mark heritage moments like Pride Month. We’ve come a long way in the UK and globally but there’s still further to go. Like, banning conversion therapy and not trying to vilify trans/nb people as the Tory government and others have done to distract from their own failings. 

There are also a lot of places around the world that aren’t tolerant. The number of places my boyfriend and I can’t go because same-sex activity is criminalised is 64 and in 9 it’s punishable by death. We march for those who can’t and give them hope that they can and will one day be free too. Even in many cities in the UK, it feels unsafe to walk down the street hand in hand with your queer partner or kiss them whereas for straight couples it would never cross their mind. Just remember LGBTQIA+ don’t want more rights than anyone else just the same.

Often I’m the only queer person in a room from a family gathering, or work, or wherever and being not the minority for once can feel liberating in itself where many of us grow up saddled with shame and don’t come out immediately, some never do. I know it pisses some people off – “Why should they have a Pride?” but trust me, if the world was upside down and straight people went through this stuff, and 95% of characters in movies, adverts, and on tv were LGBTQIA+, if the majority of people who made the laws that govern you were LGBTQIA+, if you were also the only straight person all the time in a room, and if you couldn’t go to a lot of the world then you’d probably want to celebrate yourself too. The amount of homophobia and transphobia ramps up in Pride Month, it’s insane but I refuse to be a coward. I first went to gay clubs with my straight mates because I didn’t have queer friends so I also, personally, am more than happy to see allies at Pride because if there weren’t I wouldn’t have been there myself. 

It’s also important to remember those who have fought for us to get here and honour them and all the people who never got to enjoy the freedoms that we did. Stonewall was a turning point but it’s also important to recognise the efforts of others who fought for rights before that too. 

It’s also important when looking at history and seeing times when it was legal and then illegal again to be queer etc or being trans was then wasn’t recognised and accepted that rights can be taken away far more easily than they are won. So we can’t rest. 

How would you like to see brands (artists, promoters, labels) marking Pride Month?

By handing the mic over it’s LGBTQIA+ workers but also doing stuff outside of Pride too. That’s what most people will tell you. We see brands that only support in June and then fuck off again. I do think it’s important to see businesses, and allies supporting LGBTQIA+ rights because it normalises it and that’s important. A lot of my idols were and are straight of course so them saying it’s alright to be who you are and that you’re valid and loved takes away a lot of shame. I want labels to sign LGBTIQIA+ artists and promoters to put them on line ups all year round. Do a queer remix package in January because why not. Remember there are queer and trans black people so in black history month remember them too. 

Marking Pride Month is important for several reasons. Firstly, it honours the long and often difficult struggle for LGBTQIA+ equality, from the Stonewall Riots to the fight for marriage equality and beyond. It’s a way to remember those who fought tirelessly for the rights we enjoy today. Secondly, Pride fosters a sense of community, belonging and support for LGBTQIA+ individuals who may face stigma, rejection or isolation in their daily lives. Thirdly, the visibility of Pride Month helps to educate the broader public, dispel stereotypes and prejudice, and promote greater understanding and acceptance of LGBTQIA+ people. Finally, marking Pride Month is a reminder that the work of building a fully inclusive society is ongoing and that we all have a role to play in creating a world where everyone can thrive as their authentic selves. I think in genres where there is the least LGBTQIA+ visibility and/or where homophobia & transphobia exist it’s even more vital for allies to speak up in this way.

It’s also nice for artists to collaborate with LGBTQIA+ artists to raise their visibility. Promoters of festivals could have a room/stage that is LGTBQIA+ skewed- that doesn’t mean that’s the only place to see LGBTQIA+ artists they should have mainstage representation too!

Also, have uncomfortable conversations, post stuff the algorithm might not like, that might cost you some streams, have an opinion and take a stand. Do you really need a bigot’s money that badly not to?

What would you like to see brands doing to support the queer bass music community?

To support the queer bass music community specifically, I’d love to see brands; booking and promoting more queer and trans artists, especially BIPOC female & trans/nb talent as they are the ones often booked least. You can’t become a ticket pull or a star if no one ever signs you or books you first. There’s talent there- no one is saying book someone untalented. If you don’t know where that talent is google it. Ask your queer mates – if you don’t have any queer mates – maybe ask yourself why you don’t? At our events for HE.SHE.THEY. we put up posters that include things like NO HOMOPHOBIA, NO TRANSPHOBIA, NO RACISM so people know what is not tolerated in a space in real life or online. Also, brands can celebrate the legacy and artistry of queer bass music pioneers.

Any great resources you know of?

Some excellent resources for learning more and getting involved:

– The Queer Nightlife Fund: https://queernight.life/ 

– Stonewall Community Foundation: https://stonewallfoundation.org/

– GLAAD: https://www.glaad.org/

– Gendered Intelligence – https://genderedintelligence.co.uk

Anything else you’d like to add?

I’d just emphasize that supporting the LGBTQIA+ community, in bass music and beyond, is a year-round responsibility. While Pride Month is an important time for celebration and visibility, the work of building equity and inclusion is ongoing. We all have a part to play in uplifting queer voices, and challenging oppression in all forms like misogyny, racism, etc, normally you find if someone is homophobic they have other prejudices too. 

We all have a part to play in creating a bass scene where everyone can feel seen, safe and valued. Whether you’re an artist, a promoter, a label or a raver, look for ways to support the LGBTQIA+ community in your corner of the scene. Together, we can make bass a welcoming home for all.

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