For many, pride is a celebration. Pride is a party, a time to march in the streets proud and be your flamboyant and fabulous self. Yet, many also forget that pride is first and foremost a protest, it is about amplifying queer voices, about showing our queer asses in the public space. It is about equality after all. Unfortunately, this message not only is nowadays oftentimes diluted but also erases key communities from the narrative.
Picture this, we are in 2015, and a film on the infamous Stonewall riots in 1969 is released. The only ick is that the main characters, the ones who supposedly led the uproar, are portrayed as white cis-gay men. By doing that, the film, which could have been a powerful one, did more harm than good because it not only violently erased people of colour who actually led the queer rights revolution but also rewrote a white-washed version of history. It is Marsha P Johnson, Stormé DeLarverie, Sylvia Rivera, Miss Major, and several other Black trans and queer folks who were on the frontlines during these six nights in the summer of 1969. While this could be a faux-pas by the production, it represents a much broader pattern where intersectionality tends to be forgotten.
Yes, although every member of the queer community shares that experience of queer oppression, albeit to varying degrees and forms, one should not forget the impact of race, disability, class, etc. on the lived realities of individuals. A queer space is not automatically a safe space for everyone if queer people of colour are marginalised, if trans people are excluded, or if genderqueer folks are misunderstood. Yes, we experience oppression, but we should also realise the degrees and extent of our privilege and how we are failing our own by staying oblivious to interlocking struggles. People protesting, in Philadelphia, the addition of the black and brown stripe to the rainbow flag because the flag should represent unity despite skin colour is just one example of how certain people prefer to embrace the colour-blindness argument rather than confronting their own privilege.
In other words, what once began as a demonstration to assert one’s humanity and right to be and love whoever they want, has now become a series of parades, events, parties, and festivals catering to mainstream audiences coupled with their dose of rainbow washing. The simple fact that some people refer to it as the gay pride is already telling. While I agree that the LGBTQIA+Lesbian (L), Gay (G), Bisexual (B), Trans (T), Queer (Q), Intersex (I), Asexual (A), + denotes an umbrella term used by 'marginalised sexual and gender diverse people whose gender, gender expression, or sexual identity do not conform to cis-gender or hetero-dominant gender identity'. This acronym is intersectional by virtue of its nature as well as non-exhaustive and inclusive (as denoted by the +). Over the years, the + has been understood as encompassing Questioning (Q), Two-spirit (TS), or Pansexual (P). In other words, this term represents fluid (non-conforming) notions of gender identity and sexual orientation supposedly transgressing the binary constructs of our society (male v. female and heterosexual v. homosexual).close pride does not read as well, referring to it as (only) the “gay pride” irremediably invisibilises the myriad of shades, sexual, and gendered expressions the queer community actually hold. Certain forms of queerness, understood as more on the margins of the queer community, are painted as freak shows who should be policed, and conform to the “queer standard.” Well, I hate to break it to you but there is no queer standard. That is the very essence of queerness; being unlabelled.
Pride is so much more than drinking a few beers while parading. Pride is so much more than wearing a rainbowed equality t-shirt. Pride is so much more than enjoying a drag show while sipping some cocktails. Pride is a chance to remember those who fought for us. Pride is a chance to celebrate them and the lives we are able to live thanks to their efforts. Pride is a chance to keep fighting, to keep being seen, and demand the rights our entire community is due.
That being said, go show the world how proud you are (or don’t, your call) but don’t forget that the promise of equality for our entire community is not yet nigh.