As the evenings grow lighter and the weather becomes warmer and brighter (sometimes), Pride season returns. Many towns and cities across the country as well as the rest of the world put out miles of rainbow bunting and a myriad of miniature rainbow flags in a great multicolour display of inclusivity. On the surface this all seems wonderful. After a long history of persecution, arrest, imprisonment, attempted conversion therapy, family rejection, derision, ridicule and just plain exclusion, some places are normalising the LGBTI+ community and including us in society. But is it really so wonderful?
The Pride movement began in the late 60s and early 70s as a protest against society at the time and promote self-affirmation, dignity, equal rights and increase visibility. For many years in many cities across the world this is what the movement was. Sometimes it was solemn marches, other times much more of a party atmosphere and a celebration of inclusivity. Key figures in the history of Pride have represented all the letters of LGBTI+ including bisexual (Brenda Howard) and transgender (Marsha P. Johnson) activists.
Western society has benefited from an increased acceptance of LGBTI+ people. We are not persecuted, arrested or imprisoned any more. There is still some way to go before there is full acceptance of all LGBTI+ identities though. There are still many parts of the world where LGBTI+ people are still persecuted, arrested, imprisoned and even executed. There is still a great need for protest. We still need to promote self-affirmation, dignity, equal rights and increased visibility. We still need to help our siblings in the rest of the world. We need a Pride movement to continue to fight for everyone.
So why do I now see Pride as having lost its way? I go along to join the marches. I still feel a need to promote equal rights for LGBTI+ people, because we still don’t have them! I am a bisexual trans woman. I cannot compete in the sports I want without going to extensive lengths to prove my gender, and even then there is no guarantee. I need spousal approval to have my gender legally recognised. Same-sex spouses don’t even have the same entitlements to pensions as different-sex spouses. In the US trans rights are being eroded on a daily basis with each new ridiculous law banning trans people from going to the toilet and removing discrimination protections in the name of “religious freedom”. We need Pride and other protest movements to fight these injustices LGBTI+ people face.
Yet, when I go to Pride today, I don’t see that fight. I see an array of rainbow flags with a multinational restaurant chain’s logo printed on them; a restaurant where I cannot hold my girlfriend’s hand without derision and hostility. I see more flags with a bank’s logo printed; a bank where friends have their accounts suspended because their voices sound too deep. I see boxes and boxes and bags and bags of rainbow printed tat being thrust into people’s hands. Is this a promotion of equality and inclusion? I would have liked to think so, yet the sentiment doesn’t seem to carry through the rest of the year. I can’t help but feel these multinational corporations are just using our movement for their own financial gain. I wouldn’t mind if they promoted LGBTI+ rights everywhere all the time. Hire trans staff. Don’t judge a voice on a phone. Kick out homophobic customers. Be a part of a movement for positive change. Invest the money wasted on gimmicky rubbish into LGBTI+ charities and actually help.
Pride is historically a movement for inclusion. Inclusion means just that. We are a diverse community. We are men, women, non-binary, cis, trans, intersex, gay, straight, bi, pan, sexual, demisexual, asexual, romantic, aromantic, monogamous, polyamorous and many others. We need representation of all of us. Sadly I find exclusivity creeping into our movement that should celebrate inclusivity. LG people don’t recognise B, remove the T movements, T fighting with I, erasure of non-binary people and shockingly, bullying and harassment of each other. The battle against oppression is hard enough without infighting and erasure. Even if your battles may appear to be won, don’t forget those that stood beside you. Pride needs to welcome everyone.
“Everyone” includes those LGBTI+ people that are underemployed. Many have low-paying jobs or no jobs at all. Pride loses its way and its meaning when it becomes an expensive pay per entry party. The message is Pride is not about protest and promotion of equality, but one of we’re here if you have the cash. Pride becomes a party for those with the right amount of disposable income. Pride becomes just another festival with live music and beer, which can have its place. However, wouldn’t that festival of music and beer be better if the original message of self-affirmation, dignity, equal rights and increased visibility of the LGBTI+ community were retained?
Pride is a feeling, Pride is celebration, Pride is a movement, Pride is inclusive, Pride is togetherness, Pride is for everyone.
Get back on track and make it Inclusive: All Welcome.
Charlotte McCarroll (@DrCharlotteMcC)