Austin Pitch

PRIDE IS A PARADE, BUT ALSO A MARCH

Austin Pitch
PRIDE IS A PARADE, BUT ALSO A MARCH

And most of all, if anything, remember that this is a celebration, but also a protest.

2017 saw the largest numbers of pride parades and celebrations across the U.S., as well as the around the world. For America, these pride celebrations were forged from the original Gay Liberation Movement, a radical faction of queer uprising born in the aftermath of the Stonewall Riots. These riots—this June marked their 48th anniversary—were the first instance of large scale, organized rebellion against the NYPD, who had made raiding gay bars such a frequent activity you might have mistaken it for their passion project. For nearly a week, a group of queer revolutionists, led predominately by trans women of color, resisted never-ending waves of police, facing arrest and nightstick beatings by unjust police. However, to the protesters and those who saw themselves in their tired and beaten bodies broadcast across the country,all was not lost. On the same day a year later, the U.S. got its first pride march. See, this was not the same parade we think of today. There were no extravagant displays of sexuality and gender; instead protesters were liberated simply by carrying picket signs saying “I am a Lesbian” as The New York Times reported in 1970. 

That is not to say that pride now should be any less flamboyant, however it should be noted that to be in a place of celebrating our authentic selves, members of our community born only fifty years prior had to mute themselves—even in protest. Today though, we are no longer a stigma, but a trend, at least those of us affluent, Caucasian, and male enough to fit neatly within a template. For the rest of us, however, celebration is a much different experience. The same parade hammered out by protesters at Stonewall, had 12 members of our community arrested after protesting the inclusion of the NYPD, which was the same bureaucracy who made sick fun out of raiding our safe spaces not even half a century ago. 

Now, we are a community of love, who pride ourselves on building bridges rather than burning them. But for many members of that family—namely those of color—the wounds marred open by the police are still far from healed. The same week Philando Castile’s killer—who shot the unarmed man seven times, recorded by both the dash cam and Castile’s girlfriend—is acquitted of murder, we paraded the system that killed him in a celebration started by queer people of color. Our community is actively turning a blind eye to issues like these, in favor of thoughtlessly making a festivity of our queerness. The fact of the matter is that the majority of our community hold more than one identity, which intersects with many still marginalized communities. To cherry pick which issues we do and do not protest is to cherry pick members of our own community. Racism is a queer issue, sexism is a queer issue, xenophobia is a queer issue, classicism is a queer issue; and to deny that is to deny the intersecting identities from which our liberation was born. 

Therein lies the issues that cripples our emancipation from those issues, that pride has become much less about liberation and more about celebration. And with this transition from marches to parades, from revolutions to jubilation, "Pride" has become more and more commercialized. Corporations who make millions off a biased prison system that incarcerates LGBT+ people at almost three times the rate of the general population then receive support from organizations meant to protect us, like the Trevor Project and GLSEN. The modern pride movement is being bribed with slim acceptance to conform in sponsored merriment. Merely to celebrate our true selves was more than enough in the time of Stonewall, however now to celebrate our existence alone simply does not cut it. Because the fight that started in that small bar in New York is far from over. There are mountains to be climbed, monuments to be toppled, and issues—yes even in our own communityto be resolved. Because while there are many of us privileged enough to be living in the time of these parades, remember those of us who could not. I urge you: remember Pulse, where 49 queer, mostly those of the Latinx community, were murdered in the what remains the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. Remember Matthew Shephard tied to a fence in Wyoming. Remember Venus Xtravaganza, strangled and shoved under the bed of a hotel. Remember Marsha P. Johnson, who led the Stonewall Inn with beaten and bloodied fists to change the course of history, and who was found in Hudson River after the parade she helped start. Remember the many more who are not here with us today as we dance on floats sponsored by multimillion-dollar corporations who receive praise for painting an ATM in a rainbow. And most of all, if anything, remember that this is a celebration, but also a protest.