i don't need pride, i need freedom
June 14, 2016
Given recent events in Orlando, I keep seeing people saying, ‘this is why we need pride’ or ‘this is why we have the parade’. Of course… I’m scratching my head and wondering why this racialized tragedy is being used to push a homonationalist agenda. Because ‘pride’ is where the revolutionary potential of Stonewall went to die. It represents the consolidation of power within the gay community in the hands of white, cis men. The same people who’d become synonymous with ‘gay’, leaving the rest of us searching for another word1. Pride is the culmination of a strategy to sanitize the gay liberation movement of the undesirable elements like trans women of colour, women in general, people of colour, and basically anyone not a white cis man. Pride is assimilation.
The first march organized after Stonewall was the ‘Christopher Street Liberation’ march. Note that word: liberation. A fitting word for a march ment to memorialize the riot that started as resistance to police violence – symbolic of the violence of the state and the generally homophobic people it represented. Same with the Gay Liberation Front which also formed after Stonewall. Prior to this moment most ‘gay’ orgs were concerned with assimilation. Now? It was about freedom.
Except… That this wouldn’t last long as white middle-class desires for assimilation meant removing the undesirable elements from the ‘movement’. And so the GLF was surplanted by the Gay Activist Alliance. In the same way that Christopher Street Liberation turns into Gay Pride.
In all of this, I can’t help be think about Sylvia Rivera. I look at the list of people murdered and see all the Latinx names and I think of her.
I think about how she was there, at Stonewall. I think about how she was a big part of the GLF. And how she formed STAR with Marsha P Johnson. How she did sex work to support her work with STAR. I think about how the GLF used her to organize but then would push her aside when the cameras came. I think about her 1973 speech at a gay liberation rally… The same day where she basically gave up on gay liberation and left the movement for a very long time.
I think about her. And how ‘Gay Pride’ has no space for her. How it was more than happy to use her and stand on her back. How she was beaten, raped, incarcerated, etc all for gay liberation only for her to be retroactively striped of that identity, because it belongs to cis white men now. I think about how she wanted revolution, liberation, and believed in gay power.
I think about her. And I think about seeing certain people say that this is why ‘we’ need pride. Do ‘we’ need pride? Who is ‘we’? Because I go to pride and I see all the corporate floats getting cheers and such because they have conventionally attractive white men dancing in underwear but the community groups who take care of the community being treated to silence. I go to pride and realize that I should be at the trans march instead… only for those organizers to invite the police to march with ‘us’. I wonder why there is even a trans or dyke march when ‘we’ need pride.
Pride represents the pinnacle of how liberation turned into a personal expression of empowerment. How sexuality became distinct from gender so that gay white men could show that they were just as manly as str8 men. How a revolution was co-opted into and transformed into homonationalism. How people at the very heart of the movement becomes its exiles.
Fuck pride. I want freedom.
Which, incidentally, was ‘queer’ used to name a resistance to white cisgay homonationalism and ‘pride’. ↩