I seem to have missed Pride this year due to work issues. I have mixed feelings about this, since on the one hand I want to celebrate the rise of the LGBT rights movement, increased visibility, and community building, and on the other Pride has been for most of my life not these things at all but rather an event focused around celebrating assimilation into marriage, church groups, and corporate jobs.
Stonewall was a riot, where New York queers rose against the police and said let us drink in our own bar. It was not a wedding, it was not a corporate promotion to convince potential consumers that it was okay with taking their money, it was not a church service. Pride is not a time for us to be good citizens who blend in perfectly with white suburban straight people. Some of us do that every day, and some of us can never do it, and some of us who could don’t want to. It is not a time to promote corporate branding or for asshole politicians to sweet-talk us about the last time they screwed us over, telling us how sorry they are about that and how they’ll never do it again if we just give them more money.
It is a weekend set aside for us to be ourselves and to celebrate our sexuality publicly, to enjoy each other’s fabulous company, to let it all hang out in ways that we so often can’t.
It is not a time to button up so that we can be more family-friendly, for a more conservative and less inclusive definition of “family”. It’s okay to bring your kids if you want to, but it’s not okay to complain that the leather daddies and drag queens make them ask questions you don’t want to answer.
At its core, I see Pride as an anti-authoritarian event, or at the very least an event where we should not be subject to intrusion from authoritarian organizations, not expected to assimilate to traditional norms, not expected to smile and keep silent about our pasts.
This does not really go with church groups or other authoritarian organizations. Given the history so many of us have with abuse from churches, I have doubts that church groups are appropriate to Pride at all. Every year at Pride I voice my discomfort with this and every year people try to say that it’s different because the churches that come to Pride are accepting! as though that means something. I was kicked out of one of the big “accepting” churches from my hometown because I am queer, and they march in the parade every year. Acceptance is thin, it’s premised on cultural heterosexist authority and the perceived right to see us as other, to exclude us, to debate our humanity and value to the larger community rather than taking it for granted. Straight people rest assured their church will not question their right to be in the space, to be seen as families, to be who they are openly, and that they debate these same things for us shows how little “acceptance” means. For those church groups who are actually cool, that’s awesome. But most of what I see is straight people and self-hating queers who want to congratulate themselves on how progressive they are while not creating any real change, people who talk about acceptance and mean it only for those of us who are capable of blending in so we are totally indistinct and invisible.
There’s no pride to be had in this.
Similarly, it’s nice that corporations have figured out that our money spends the same way as everyone else’s, but perhaps wooing us at times other than Pride would be appropriate. I’ll give a shout out to JC Penney here, with their mother’s day and father’s day ads. Good job! Now do an add with two women of color please. However, I’m also going to slam down hard on the beer companies: my community has a long history of trouble with alcoholism because bars were one of the only places we were allowed to exist and because our lives are often very stressful, and while I vastly prefer drunken antics to being accosted by yet another signature-gatherer on the latest useless marriage vote, both the assimilationist politics of the marriage movement and the beer companies’ interest in keeping us in thrall to their product make me sad about going to an event that used to make me so happy.
This is not pride either, though I think it’s closer than with church groups.
Politicians who want to court our vote can do so the rest of the year in public, rather than at Pride where only we will see them. The desire to woo our vote at Pride and then denounce us as necessary but distasteful allies the rest of the time is something I’ve seen a little too often.
This is the image of pride without the actuality, gay-friendliness for a payoff. I love seeing politicians at Pride when they’re there to be at Pride. I hate it when they’re there to campaign. Go to the State Fair and tell everyone how gay-friendly you are if you mean it so much.
I wish I could be more excited about Pride. I was really psyched about going when I was a teenager, a weekend when I could be in queer space and not be threatened for refusing straight conservative modes of dress and behavior. Now I feel alienated from the whole event for the same reasons I have always loved being queer: I do not want to get married and go to church and work for a corporation and spend my time drinking, getting excited about when TV shows a gay character that they don’t mangle horribly, trying to pretend that gay republicans just have a different view, trying to keep up with the Joneses and their conspicuous consumption. I do not want this same repressive life packaged with rainbows and stamped with the heteropatriarchal seal of acceptance, an acceptance premised on fitting into the dominant cultural model and not making a fuss about the racism or classism inherent to that model or even just that it doesn’t work for some of us. Pride is the last place we should ever be complacent, the last place we should ever accept the status quo, the last place we should decline to ask questions or pretend things are okay when really they’re not.