How a person feels about Pride month says a lot about that person. I’m not talking about the people that hate it. The religious fascists will always be with us. I’m talking about members of the queer community. Theoretically, it’s fair to say we all like the idea of having a Pride month. But why?
Maybe you’ve just come out of the closet and feel liberated and want to show the world your true self? Great. That’s truly something to be proud of.
Or maybe you’ve been out for years, and you celebrate Pride because, well, it’s June and that’s what we’re supposed to do. Okay, fine, we’re all creatures of habit.
Or maybe you’ve recently been discriminated against or even physically attacked or rejected by your family and celebrating Pride is a coping mechanism. Nothing wrong with that.
Or maybe you don’t have a care in the world and just want to party shirtless. No harm there.
Or maybe you see Pride month as a way to make those rainbow dollars. Afterall, the spending power of the LGBT+ market is substantial.
Personally, I have mixed feelings about Pride.
As a historian, I am amazed at how far Pride parades have strayed from their origins. The first “Pride” was quite literally a spontaneous riot against police harassment. The first marches—not parades—were angry and rebellious. Those early marchers were pissed-off at an oppressive society. They were saying, “Fuck you! We’re here. Deal with it.” Today, Pride parades are little more than moveable corporate trade shows with businesses saying, “Look at our rainbow flag! Buy from us.”
As an advocate for the ideals of social justice, I’m sympathetic to the concerns of marginalized communities who charge that Pride celebrations have become too white, too cis, too male, and too privileged. Sure, I’m happy societal attitudes have evolved over the last fifty years, but at the same time, they haven’t shifted enough, especially toward trans people. Trans people are still being murdered at an alarming rate and they still suffer the injustices of inadequate access to health-care and housing, to say nothing of income inequality. Some trans advocates argue we shouldn’t even have Pride celebrations until these inequities are addressed.
As a pragmatist, I’m aware that visibility is ultimately a good thing. And while the early Gay Liberation Front marchers would be dumbfounded by corporate sponsorship and the presence of police in Pride Parades, I recognize (but don’t necessarily agree with) the argument that it’s better to have the police and corporations with us than against us. But that argument begs the question—are they really with us?
Many would say emphatically, “No, they’re not.” The loudest voices come form trans women of color, who are not only harassed constantly by police, but are also, almost always, misgendered by police after they are savagely murdered or beaten.
Just recently, these concerns fueled a controversy in San Francisco. Pride organizers there tried to reach a compromise by allowing police to march in the Parade but not wear their uniforms. That idea satisfied no one and the Mayor and police department pulled out of the parade altogether. Of course, there are many out and proud police officers and that’s wonderful, but, overall, as an institution, the police are, by their very nature, authoritarian instruments designed to protect those in power (police departments in the U.S. grew out of antebellum run-away slave patrols).
And what about “Pride, brought to you by ____(insert corporation name here).” It’s easy for a corporation to slap a rainbow on its logo, but how do they treat their LGBT+ employees? Do they provide workplace protections? And do they support anti-LGBT+ politicians? According to a 2019 report in Forbes, AT&T, UPS, Comcast, Home Depot, General Electric, FedEx, UBS, Verizon, and Pfizer donated a total of $15 million to anti-LGBT+ politicians, yet they are quick to wave the rainbow flag each June.
Speaking of asshole politicians, I should also point out that I think it’s not only ironic, but also highly offensive to have Trump-loving Republicans in charge of organizing Pride parades. That’s been the case with the last two Pride organizations in New Orleans.
So how do I feel about Pride? If it helps some closeted kid in Boutte or Thibodeaux to see the news coverage and realize he’s not alone and doesn’t need to commit suicide, then I’m for Pride. But insofar as it bolsters corporate greed, I’m not so thrilled about Pride. Pride parades evolved out of a revolutionary ethos that challenged oppressive systems like capitalism. I find it sad that capitalism has usurped that radical spirit that originally fueled the movement.
I realize Pride means different things to different people. And I realize I probably shouldn’t judge people’s attitude toward Pride because I may not understand their point of view. But as for me, at least this year, honestly, I’m kind of over it. Besides, I’m proud all year long.