I’ve only ever been to one Pride weekend a few years ago and I ended up volunteering the entire time (which is another story for another time). That weekend came at a time in my life where I was struggling a lot with being queer and dealing with my incredibly horrible experiences at my now alma mater. It was really nice to be around a large group of mostly queer people for the first time really ever in my life. And I think that pride month can be really great for that. To be around other queer people when I was really isolated from that community? That meant so much.
I do think that Pride can be incredibly important because it will always be someone’s first time experiencing community and support. I sometimes think about my first (and only) Pride and remember how incredibly validating it was to be in a place that (seemingly) supported me as a person.
But at the same time I think it’s incredibly important to be critical of what Pride has turned into and the context of where it all began (as a way to remember the Stonewall Riots). Pride has turned into this capitalistic and celebratory festival (where some cities having more banks in the Pride parades than trans groups) rather than a way to remember the past.
Some have been really critical of the fact that places like banks, police departments, and even the US Department of Defense have not only sponsored but actively participated in Pride festivities. (Against Equality is a great resource of criticisms of the military industrial complex, prisons, and marriage if you want to learn more.) One good article to start with though:
- Why I won’t be celebrating the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell: Queer soldiers are still agents of genocide
- From the article:
- My problem with the hype and pressure around DADT is that it distracts from the very things that the Queer Liberation movement was founded on: Anti-imperialism, anti-racism, equal access to housing and healthcare, and struggles against patriarchy. It seems almost irrelevant to me whether or not gay soldiers can “come out” in the military when the US military is not only carrying out two genocidal campaigns for US imperialism and corporate profit, but also when the war budget is draining the funds needed for almost every other service we so desperately need in this country. When I see the situation as such, not only does it become apparent to me that the Queer Movement must be antiwar, but also that the movement, as is, has been hijacked by a few high powered assimilaitionist dragging everyone along through corporate propaganda.
At the same time, allowing police departments to sponsor and participate in Pride with the law enforcement’s repeated track record of brutality and racial profiling seems (to me) to send the message that the only people welcome at the festivities are white people. Over the past couple years, it is hard to ignore the police brutality against communities of color, especially the African American/black communities. (The Huffington Post has an article about the 40 reasons why our jails are filled with black and poor people and shocker, a lot of it has to do with racial profiling and racial bias.)
As far as the commericialization of Pride, Christina Cauterucci wrote an article recently about how Pride has in fact turned into this commercialized party weekend, especially saying that:
When Fortune 500 companies reap the benefits of our show of pride in the face of oppression, when straight allies become integral to one of our precious few queer-majority spaces, what has Pride become?
“The first Gay Pride was a riot,” goes a popular radical queer slogan. Celebration and self-love, of course, are political in their own right, and essential to our communities’ well-being. We have the right to be more than a set of rights and disprivileges. We need frivolity and fun. We need to dance and fuck and throw confetti, to let our guts unclench and just laugh in an environment that affirms the core of who we are. But today’s Pride threatens to turn ahistorical, divorced from the context of ongoing battles for queer liberation in favor of a bland street fair that suits the least common denominator of the gay experience.
There have also been specific instances in some cities that have drawn criticisms, including the fact that one year, the San Francisco Pride endorsed a prison themed gay pride party. And there haven’t always been the most inclusive practices involving not only Pride itself but organizations and the movement itself – the push from mainstream groups and organizations to alienate women like Sylvia Rivera is incredibly messed up in so many different ways.
With big name straight headliners taking the stage at many Pride weekends over the years and the intense focus on marriage and inclusion in the military, I wish that there was more of a focus on issues like homelessness, employment and housing discrimination, racism, classism/living wages, and immigration. Intersectionality and recognizing more than a single focus goal should be so much more important than what Pride currently seems to offer.
There’s so much of me that wants to really love Pride, especially because of the history context and amazing way to reach out to those still struggling to find their community. But at the same time, I still can’t just overlook the flaws of what Pride has currently become.