It’s June, Pride Month. I have been out for three decades and have spent most of that time as a queer rights advocate. I have very mixed feelings about Pride.
Most Pride events have basically devolved into your average street fair with more rainbow crap. Replace rainbow flags with any other merchandise and these events would be no different than every other street fair in town all summer.
That isn’t what Pride was meant to be.
Pride was a demand for queer people to be safe to occupy public space.
Pride was a rejection of the dominant heteropatriarchy.
Pride was an embrace of those of us who didn’t want to get married to one person, own a home, have a kid, and host barbecues with the neighbors while serving potato salad with raisins and dried tomatoes. Pride was for queers, not the “professional passing homosexual.”
Pride was not for corporations to sell crap and cheer the “normalcy” of homos.
While Pride has been co-opted and diluted, we still need it. Queer folks still lack basic rights in employment, housing, and healthcare. We are still targeted for violence. We are still homeless more often, assaulted sexually and physically more often and hetero folks, and are still kicked out of families in ways that hetero folks never experience. We have to keep fighting for basic rights and protections.
We need more queer leaders to step up and focus on changing policies and rights rather than making money and making hetero folks comfortable.
While it is too late to make a difference for Pride this year, I encourage all of you out there going to Pride celebrations or not, to send letters or emails to the planning committees for next year with suggestions on what needs to change. I did so this year with several committees where I know the organizers. But one or two letters alone will not change things. We need to work en masse if we are going to reclaim Pride.
Ask to reclaim Pride. Ask that Pride committees stop hiding queer folks who embrace sexuality. Demand leather folks, kinky folks, sex educators, sex worker rights groups and bear groups stop being hidden at Pride events. Demand that Pride events be accessible to poor folks. Charging even $10 or $15 for entrance makes Pride inaccessible to poor/working class queers. Embrace POC and trans folks and provide accessible space. Demand that Pride be accessible for disabled folks.
Let’s face it. When the LGBTQ movement asked POC, drag folks, kinky folks, and leather folks to hid in the shadows until rights were secured for the “acceptable, professional homosexual” they sent the message to straight America that it was okay to discriminate against the rest of us. When marriage equality silenced our work for employment and health protection, we elevated the needs of rich and upper middle class white queers over the ability for the rest of us to have doctors treat our health needs and for us to stay gainfully employed.
When we put white, younger, mostly cis male faces on our movement, we abandoned everyone else.
We don’t need more rainbow chotchkes. We don’t need more “family friendly” (meaning “DON’T ADMIT QUEERS HAVE SEX!!!) events. We don’t need more face painting booths or events celebrating that some politician made it through the year without completely selling us out.
Let’s bring queerness back to Pride. Let us recognize once again that this originated because trans POC stood up to the power structure. Let us recognize that not all queers are financially stable. Let us demand that members who are POC, or immigrants without legal status, those of us who are poor, and those of us who embrace our sexuality are part of the movement.
How do we do this? Here are a few suggestions:
Sliding scale entrance fees or donations. Make sure members of our community who can’t afford to shell out $15 for entry can still get in an celebrate.
Charge $$$ for corporate booths, churches, politicians and campaigns, and vendors who are only selling knicknacks or snacks. Charge minimally or nothing for advocacy groups, people registering folks to vote, and groups promoting rights of trans folks and POC.
Limit the kid friendly areas. Since Pride has become a tourist event where “allies” want to bring the kiddies and are afraid that their 10 year old might see a nipple or dude in chaps (“assless chaps” and the hets call them) create a small “family” area and let the queer folks actually occupy the Pride space rather than the current trend of hiding anyone talking about sexuality and making the vast majority of Pride space a G-rated event.
Stop seeking out politicians to head events when they have done minimal work to help the community. Sure, your mayor may happily open the Pride event or lead the parade because its great PR. But if they haven’t championed major policies for improvement of the lives of queer folks, they can just show up and march with the rest of us without any special hoopla. Lets start recognizing the people who are working to make serious changes to better our lives and let the politicians pay for their PR stunts if they want to come.
I wish you all a happy Pride and challenge you to get back to the roots of the movement.