The Problem With Pride

It’s this time of year that I always feel most disconnected from the queer community. I know that seems backwards, June being LGBTQ+ Pride Month and all, but honestly, that’s exactly the problem. Even as a young genderweird teen with no idea how I identified, other than too-queer-for-this-dead-end-town, I always had a weird relationship with Pride. Back then I didn’t really realize why. I think, even now, I’m only beginning to understand.

For the only queer punk in a small town occupied almost entirely by conservative Catholics, Pride seemed like a holy pilgrimage to me, like a kind of promised land. Then I found out what it cost. How everything outside of the march itself was a cash grab. I’m not sure I ever really recovered. Growing up dirt poor, barely making ends meet, Pride was an unattainable kind of queerness.

I think something rarely discussed in queer spaces is classism. How much more accessible it is to be a letter in the LGBTQ+ spectrum when you aren’t struggling to eat. For me, being a queer teen never looked like rainbow clothing, trips to LA for pride, going clubbing at 18, or even being able to consider what transition would look like.

For me, queerness was growing my hair long, wearing shoplifted eyeliner and skinny jeans from Goodwill, then getting my ass kicked for it. Or getting high on cheap weed and drunk on stolen liquor and hooking up with my straight friends, then never talking about it. There is no Pride™ without safety. And that kind of safety isn’t a luxury that a lot of people coming from a working class background have access to. For me, pride has always had to come second to survival.

So the capitalist nature of Pride has always bothered me. It alienates the exact kind of people who need access to queer safe spaces the most. But then, Pride hasn’t really been about queer folx for a long time. At some point along the way Pride stopped being about promoting the interests of LGBTQ+ folx, and became a banner for corporate interests, rainbow capitalism, and blatant homonationalism.

Just to list a few of the corporations sponsoring Pride this year: Coca-Cola, Pfitzer, Target, United Airlines, Budweiser (which I’m fairly sure no self-respecting queer drinks), Monsanto, Lockheed Martin, Facebook (who can give us a “pride react” but forces trans people into using their deadnames with their archaic name policy), BP, Chevron, Nestle, and Bank of America. Pride is being sponsored and profited upon my companies which are only interested in our lives as a sales demographic by banks that 10 years ago wouldn’t have given a queer person a loan for housing. By banks that still, to this day, trans people cannot go into expecting equal service unless they meet some imaginary metric of “passing.” Every year I find myself surprised that a major arms manufacturer hasn’t decided this is the year to sponsor Pride, handing out rainbow bullets to a crowd of cheering cis-gay men.

I’ve still never been to Pride in America. To acknowledge my privilege, my first Pride was not in this country. Thanks to the contribution of one of my partners’ wealthy parents, my first two Pride parades were in Scotland, where the anti-capitalist, anti-fascist pride movement is strong. While there was a capitalist Pride held, the grassroots Glasgow Free Pride overwhelmed it. Free Pride was a beautiful experience that centered people of color and trans voices, it was a politically active Pride that did not shy away from its support of Black Lives Matter in the way that Americans still do. For me it was the first time I really found a queer community where I belonged, where I felt safe. Where even with this crippled body, I danced.

But its impossible to talk about Pride a year ago without talking about the last thing I want to talk about. The last thing I want to remember even happened. But it would be dishonest not to talk about what that meant for me then, and what it means now. My first Pride parade came one month after I first read the news. A year after I woke up to learn that 49 people had been murdered in the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

I’m not sure if I would have attended Pride then if it hadn’t been for the sudden need for community that grew out of all that fear. I’m glad I did. I think there was a palpable fear in every queer space that Pride. I think we all clung tighter to each other than ever before. A year later, I know that fear is still thick in my mind whenever I go out. I know I demand all of my friends text me, no matter what, to let me know that they’re home safe. I know that I am barely able to hold back tears writing this. I know that people have tried, and failed, to take my life in the last year. I have been so close to becoming a memory.

So maybe my frustration with Pride is this. One year ago, 49 people from our community were murdered. And Pride was still a party. Ru Paul, a known transmisogynist still spoke. Because for all their talk of a resistance march, Pride was not a protest. It was the same corporate money machine as every year past.

But at the end of the day, what I have to say doesn’t mean anything. One gal isn’t going to change Pride alone. If I have to say anything, I want to end this column with the most important thing I can say right now, the names of each person lost in the Pulse massacre last year, may they rest in power:

Stanley Almodovar III, Amanda Alvear, Oscar A. Aracena-Montero, Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, Alejandro Barrios Martinez, Martin Benitez Torres, Antonio D. Brown, Darryl R. Burt II, Jonathan A. Camuy Vega, Angel L. Candelario-Padro, Simon A. Carrillo Fernandez, Juan Chevez-Martinez, Luis D. Conde, Cory J. Connell, Tevin E. Crosby, Franky J. Dejesus Velazquez, Deonka D. Drayton, Mercedez M. Flores, Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, Juan R. Guerrero, Paul T. Henry, Frank Hernandez, Miguel A. Honorato, Javier Jorge-Reyes, Jason B. Josaphat, Eddie J. Justice, Anthony L. Laureano Disla, Christopher A. Leinonen, Brenda L. Marquez McCool, Jean C. Mendez Perez, Akyra Monet Murray, Kimberly Morris, Jean C. Nieves Rodriguez, Luis O. Ocasio-Capo, Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, Eric I. Ortiz-Rivera, Joel Rayon Paniagua, Enrique L. Rios Jr., Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, Christopher J. Sanfeliz, Xavier E. Serrano Rosado, Gilberto R. Silva Menendez, Edward Sotomayor Jr., Shane E. Tomlinson, Leroy Valentin Fernandez, Luis S. Vielma, Luis D. Wilson-Leon, Jerald A. Wright

torrin a. greathouse (they/them or she/her) is a genderqueer, cripple-punk from Southern California. They are the Editor-in-Chief of Black Napkin Press. Their poetry is published/forthcoming in Duende, Apogee, Frontier, Lunch Ticket, & Assaracus. She is a 2016 Best New Poets, Bettering American Poetry, and Pushcart Prize nominee, and semifinalist for the Adroit Poetry Prize. torrin’s first chapbook, Therǝ is a Case That I Ɐm, is forthcoming from Damaged Goods Press in 2017.

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