Feminism | Posted by Steph on 01/2/2010

Why I Don’t Like Pride

no gay pride?

no gay pride?

But Steph, you may say: you’re trans, and sort of a lesbian – queer as hell! You should love pride!

And yes, I should. But I don’t. There are a few reasons, all compelling.

1) Transphobia. Full stop. Pride organizations worldwide ignore trans people and their individual struggles, choosing instead to focus on the needs of the (cis) white middle class men(and it is overwhelmingly gay men, and not lesbians)Source 1Source 2. Groups like the HRC and EGALE Canada have tried to distance themselves from trans communities(source), in order to make themselves more palatable to their intended heterosexual audiences. Which brings me to

2) Assimilation.
It seems that a lot of the goals of the modern pride movement are concerned with fitting in and being just like straight culture. Rather than making sure gay men and lesbians (sorry, everyone else who’s queer! Your rights don’t count) are safe, the fight is for marriage. For every celebrity who comes out, there are twenty ‘nobodies’ who live in fear. What good is it if a gay couple in Washington can eat at one of Obama’s state dinners when a couple elsewhere can’t be safe in a chain restaurant? What good is saying ‘we’re just like you, but gay!’ when we’re not? Instead of repealing DADT, we should be getting queer youth off the streets and providing trans people who are forced into sex work with alternatives. Instead of fighting for the right to marry, we should be marching in the streets for better non-discrimination policies, for the ability – no, the right to be ourselves without fear. The goals of the modern pride movement are out of place with the needs of queers everywhere who don’t fit the cis, white, middle class exclusively homosexual white picket fence marriage mold. And, truth be told, that’s most of us.

3) Commercialization
Pride is, now, big business. Corporate advertising, logos, everything. This has the major drawback that pride organizations have made the shift to tamer, “safer” agendas and goals rather than upset their commercial partners. We’ve gone from “out of the closets, into the streets” to ‘out of the closets, to make room for these fabulous(limp wrist) hand towels, generously provided to us by our sponsors!’
Turning what was once a strong and powerful statement of difference and solidarity into a harmless little parade to show on TV is just the way to turn us from individuals into little labels, to put us in tiny boxes. Because when Pride can be journalized up in a thirty second filler spot on the local news, why bother? When politics fall by the wayside for blaring techno, who benefits(besides techno fans, obviously)? Does the queer community as a whole benefit? No. Do marginalized groups(bisexuals/pansexuals, trans-identified and gender variant individuals, as well as pretty much everyone else who isn’t the aforementioned cis white middle class gay man)? Hell no.

So that’s why I’m not a big fan of Pride. Your guys’ thoughts? (even if you’re not queer, or don’t identify as such – i’m still interested in hearing what you guys have to say)

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  • soisaystoher @ at 12:22 pm, January 2nd, 2010

    Thanks for this. I’m not queer so I’ve never felt comfortable expressing some of the unease I have with pride cause I’ve always felt it’s not really my place to do so. But I have to say I’ve wondered about just how diverse it really is in many parts of the world and what kind of challenge it is really posing to the status quo. In Belfast it’s a very important movement for many people as we not only have more ignorance and bigotry than in your average European capital city but also continue to be a very sexually repressed community in general. So the freedom of expression Pride allows is important and is actually embraced by a lot of young people who aren’t queer simply because they identify with the spirit of it.

    But in recent years I can’t help being bored by the endless floats advertising clubs, bars and drinks promotions and wondering when it became about making money rather than speaking truth to power. And these same clubs hire female pole dancers to dance on their floats as part of the parade – not queer people expressing themselves but girls for hire to entertain the crowd. That part bothers me, as a feminist I’m not a big fan of sex object culture in the straight or queer context so it doesn’t seem that subversive to me. To sum it up I think Pride as an event has become over commercialized and one of the products they’re selling, in my city anyway, is female sexuality.

  • Steph G @ at 12:57 pm, January 2nd, 2010

    Hey fellow Steph! Yeah, I agree. I’m not currently queer-identified, but I’ve noticed the commercialization of Pride events and the accompanying swag. Furthermore, I’ve come to learn a lot about how many queer people feel disenfranchised or ignored by the Human Rights Campaign and other similar groups. These groups are too busy worrying about political gains to focus on the issues that queer people (especially poor queer people and queer people of color) are dealing with, like inadequate access to healthcare.

    This makes me wonder what exactly I should support as an ally- I don’t want to support anything that leaves some people out of the picture.

    I think that when Pride is about visibility and a celebration of community, that’s all well and fine… but when it becomes almost an industry, that’s when something important gets lost. And when we say, these people marching in the streets/running advocacy organizations represent ALL queer people everywhere… well, that’s just problematic and false.

  • Maren @ at 2:10 pm, January 2nd, 2010

    I agree and disagree with you. As a bisexual, I do feel slightly marginalized in the queer community. I feel the pressure to “choose a side.” And from the heterosexual community, I find myself painted with the bisexual stereotype brush. Female bisexual stereotypes, reinforced by porn, and Megan Fox. Although, in some places pride parades are the only sense of community and visibility queer people have and it’s important to see that there is a community there! I think the LGBTQ community needs to stick together, and support each other and not work against each other. Albeit, it is rather different due to the vast differences of experiences, but we can’t make progress in this heteronormative gender binary without work.

  • Maren @ at 2:13 pm, January 2nd, 2010

    Also, Steph!
    That is great that you’re an ally, because a heterosexual voice in this cause is stronger, because on a personal level, you have nothing invested in the issue. You just speak whats truthful and ethical. If you don’t know what organization to support, than support individuals. Show every LGBTQ person you meet love and sympathy, inform your peers when they are using queerphobic language, because those are thing HRC can’t do.

  • Shannon @ at 2:22 pm, January 2nd, 2010

    I don’t fully identify as queer, but I consider myself a 2 or so on the Kinsey scale and feel quite passionate regarding LGBTQI rights (and the fact that we have to come up with a blanket term for sexual/gender minorities because I get tired of typing that out!). I see a lot of positives in Pride, and definitely some areas that need work.
    Positive:
    *Corporations and cities are willing to fully and enthusiastically attach their name to Pride events, when 10 years ago they would have stayed quiet in fear of FOTF. And that’s after 8 years of Bush.
    *Is a well-publicized event that gives young people a public encounter with gay acceptance if their families and communities are hostile.
    *Pride here in DC at least gives a chance for non-profits and advocates to reach out to a crowd brought in by the idea of a good time
    *Is a good time!
    Negatives:
    *def dominated by gay cis males (being in DC you do see more minorities here)
    *focus on leather and partying favors one subset of gay cis males
    *favors a younger urban crowd
    To me, the presence of some of these negatives can be explained, by all things, the AIDS crisis of the 80s/90s. Gay men were the most affected, so they organized the strongest advocacy organizations, which still hold a lot of power and attention today.
    I disagree that corporate sponsorship is all bad, as long as Pride organizers reject money from companies that discriminate against LGBTQI interests and think a parade float will make up for it.
    I also partially disagree that there is too much emphasis on marriage. While the issues you mention need to receive much higher billing, there also require the most local support and money. I see lots of local orgs around the country trying to tackle these issues, including health clinics, shelters, Gay-Straight Alliances, and even some religious groups. There need to be tons more of them, and lots more money. Part of the attention devoted to marriage I think comes from the political focus of our media- since it happens in government and brings a lot of controversy, the news covers it a lot. And it’s an easy story with lots of press releases to copy, so we shouldn’t be too surprised (looking at you, CNN).
    As for the lack of attention to transgender/transsexual/intersex issues, the movement has seen this many times before. Groups push to put a “mainstream” face on the population so that it goes down smoother for the public. In days before Stonewall, there was even controversy over couples holding hands at rallies for fear it would scare people. Feminism has seen this too, when lesbians would be ignored in the 60s and 70s to avoid mainstream controversy. It’s wrong, but it can be overcome. People who think that other groups are underrepresented at Pride need to become *more* involved. It’s a huge event in the public eye, so it’s a good way to catch attention and make our point. We shouldn’t pass that up.

  • Steph @ at 1:16 pm, January 3rd, 2010

    @Steph (Name buddies! awesome.):
    If you’re concerned about helping and supporting queers, I think the best way is to support local (as opposed to huge national) organizations, which tend to be more focused on the needs of their respective communities- ask your queer friends if they have any groups that they attend which are deserving. Also, Maren’s advice(third post) is definitely worth following.

    @Maren:
    I completely agree that pride is a good thing, but I think it’s important to distinguish between pride (as in individual pride in one’s queerness) and Pride organizations with millions of dollars of funding and corporate sponsorships. I’m not saying that individual pride is bad – I think it’s really important – but that the over-commercialization and agenda shifts of pride organizations hurt disadvantaged queers. When Pride organizations take money from right-wing companies on the condition of whitewashing the concept of queerness to be more palatable to a more ‘traditional’ audience, that’s when my irritation starts.

    @Shannon:
    I, personally, tend to use the phrase ‘alphabet soup’. And yes, there ARE positives to Pride, and it has potential to be, well, awesome. But I don’t think that Pride should be the only thing out there – support groups, queer potlucks, etc. all have the potential to create new community much more frequently than Pride, and I think that much of the onus there is shifted to these smaller organizations.

    I also agree with you that more orgs and money need to be dedicated to the above-mentioned causes, but I don’t think that adding more GSA’s will really fix them – we need an overhaul of the system.
    For example, did you know that in the US, 40% of homeless youth identify as queer in some way? Street youth who’ve lost their homes and families due to rejection. While local orgs have a very important part to play, we also need funding for shelters and programs to help these youth get back on their feet. And while that’s something that local organizations can do as well, it shouldn’t have to be.

  • Moria @ at 3:18 pm, January 3rd, 2010

    The objection I have to the Pride movement ties in with the alienation of people who don’t meet the cis white gay middle-class male standard. Especially as a bisexual (or pansexual might be a better term because it doesn’t buy into the gender binary), I feel kind of erased by the whole Pride movement, as if I’m seen as “less queer” or something. I like women as much as any lesbian. I just happen to also like men, and people outside of the gender binary. That doesn’t make me “less queer” than anyone, but it does mean that people like me tend to get ignored a lot by the majority of the Pride movement.

  • John @ at 5:11 pm, January 3rd, 2010

    I obviously being a man and a straight white one at that which apparently makes me evil. hehe. I agree with pretty much everything you said I have been to a couple of pride parades in Washington and any more I expect to hear over the loud speaker something to the affect of “This pride parade brought to you by (fill in meaningless product here).” And I do agree from my own experiences with the pride parade world they do focus petty much solely on the stereotypical idea of the gay community. However the pride parades also seem to not only alienate some of the different facets of the the community but also greatly alienate those that the community wants to show that gay people are just as hard working and responsible and deserving of respect as everyone else. What I mean by that is statistically speaking the gay community accounts for an estimated 10% of the population. and while It is important for people to be able to be who they are right wrong or indifferent everyone straight, gay, or otherwise has to conform to the accepted societal standard in order to be accepted as equal. Like me I would rather wear spikes, chains black lipstick with a misfits shirt than a suit and tie to work. but if I did so I would not have the opportunities
    or the job that have been afforded because of my willingness to conform in the workplace. The question I have is do you feel that if members of the community were to dress non-flamboyantly and more to the excepted standard of society at large that the message of equality would be more widely accepted. “Disclaimer” last time I posted on here I was cut down and insulted based on my gender. this is not an attack or an attempt to marginalize the community in any way but merely an honest question.

  • Jessica D @ at 2:13 am, January 4th, 2010

    I really enjoyed this piece; I found it to be enlightening on several different subjects. I identify as a fully queer female, and I have to say that I love Pride Parades. I come from a small rural town in the bible belt and the only time of year that I am allowed, yes allowed, to act like myself in public is during Pride. Local organizations? There are none. Stigma, fear, and homophobia? Well those are available in abundance. I grew being told different is wrong; anything other than heterosexuality is a sin against nature and god. Then I met my first girlfriend who taught not only to not give a care, but she also took me to my first Pride Parade. And I don’t know how all Parades may be set up, but the one I’ve gone to since I was fourteen years old, the one I drive two and a half hours to get to, always has politicians both queer and straight, and sometimes neither, there to tell us about what they are doing to secure our rights, and what we should be doing to help them. And I suppose to sum it up, it’s the sense of community, the feeling of now matter what I am I’m not alone. You are right in saying anyone other than the stereotypical gay man is ignored, I’ve noticed, everyone has. However, I think the important thing to remember is baby steps, as in gradually we must speak out. Simply because right now the world is not ready for anything other than what they see on television, the mold they have cast for everyone other than those who are straight, the Chuck and Larry garbage that they think is the norm. And rather than be turned off by corporations looking to make a buck off of Pride, I smile at it. After all do you think twenty years ago companies would have dared admit to catering to a queer audience? No! And no, I don’t want a rainbow toothbrush holder or a beach towel that says “here and queer” across it, but I do want to know that I’m not totally being overlooked, and more than marriage I want rights, and I know the same is true for everyone alive. But I think it’s all about finding the right balance of commercialism (in order to make our cause known) and radicalism (or so it would be called by every straight human being over the age of thirty-five in this country, and should be because these certainly are some radical new ideas and beliefs we need to impose.)

  • Alex Catgirl @ at 1:08 pm, January 4th, 2010

    I am starting to really not like transgendered people as every movement the touch (be it LGBT or feminism) ends up all about them and their plight.

    Hello, GLBT is an umbrella movement that represents a wide range of people who have only one thing in common – they are not heterosexual. Of course, men put their wants and needs first, that is their nature that is what they do, and a big part of feminism’s justification – The radical concept that we (women) are people, not an afterthought.

    Being totally honest, I have to admit that gays and bisexual men have it harder than lesbians and bigirls, and there are about as many male non-heterosexuals as there are females, so it’s only fair that their issues be addressed first, that’s how proportional representation works, and the only way umbrella movements can be successful.

    Transgendered people constitute a small percentage of the GLBT movement, so they should not be surprised that their issues receive less attention. You claim that is not fair to your grouping, well what about the other ones? How is putting your concerns at the top of the agenda fair to them?

    Yes, many gays, lesbians and bisexuals (remember us?) consider the right to marry the top priority of the movement, and why not? They pay taxes, just like everybody else, they follow the laws, just like everybody else, and they work and contribute to society, just like the majority of everybody else, so why shouldn’t they receive the same benefits? They paid their dues.

    That is what many marginalized groups forget – dues paying. You whine about your plight, but what has your identity group done for any other group? Seems to me all you bring to the table is your suffering and your wants….No thank you, I do not want any. Reciprocity is what holds societies together, and as the transgender community is in no position to reciprocate, it has to settle for what the other factions of the LGBT movement, which are in a position to reciprocate, are willing to give.

    If the transgendered and/or queer community is not happy with what is being offered, I suggest they start their own movement instead of riding our tranes and coat tails, see how far you get on your own.

    I do not “Check my privilege”… ever, power, not tolerance, egalitarianism or empathy, is what makes all things possible – fuelling everything from the cells that make up our bodies to the stars in the sky.

  • Steph @ at 7:58 pm, January 4th, 2010

    @Jessica D:
    I’m glad you liked it! And you make some good points – obviously, my opinion is at least partially a result of where I live, and I meant this not so much as a diatribe but more of a personal account of why I, personally, don’t like Pride parades, for a similar reason to your mentioning that “more than marriage I want rights”. And yes, balance is very important. Again, thanks for the comment.

    @Alex Catgirl:
    Um. I’m kind of taken aback by what you’ve said, so let’s work through it together, ok? Your text in italics.

    I am starting to really not like transgendered people as every movement the touch (be it LGBT or feminism) ends up all about them and their plight.
    Gee, thanks. I really feel loved, then. And, again, um. How so? Examples would be nice. I know that when I talk about transphobia in LGBT and feminist circles, it’s not to co-opt those spaces all for myself, it’s to remind others who should be sympathetic to trans issues that they’re being hopelessly transphobic.

    Hello, GLBT is an umbrella movement that represents a wide range of people who have only one thing in common – they are not heterosexual.
    Um, actually there are heterosexual-identified trans people out there – in fact, there’s a whole lot of them. Saying that they’re not straight denies both their gender and their sexuality.
    Of course, men put their wants and needs first, that is their nature that is what they do, and a big part of feminism’s justification – The radical concept that we (women) are people, not an afterthought.
    So, because men are by nature selfish (assuming that’s true, of course), it’s ok to… actually, I’m not at all sure where you’re going with this one. Society makes women have to fight for their rights? OK, I’ll give you that one. I don’t see how it relates, but I agree with you. Breaking this next paragraph up into a couple pieces, ok?
    Being totally honest, I have to admit that gays and bisexual men have it harder than lesbians and bigirls,
    how so? How do you know this?
    and there are about as many male non-heterosexuals as there are females,
    again, data would be REALLY NICE HERE. Just so I’d know that you’re not bs-ing this.
    so it’s only fair that their issues be addressed first,
    I really, really really disagree with this. Issues should be adressed in proportion to how big and important they are, not who they effect.
    that’s how proportional representation works, and the only way umbrella movements can be successful.
    Again, don’t really agree with you here. I think that umbrella movements can actually work just as well without allocating only a certain amount of effort to different groups.

    Transgendered people constitute a small percentage of the GLBT movement, so they should not be surprised that their issues receive less attention.
    What? Trans issues don’t matter because there’s less of us? Where have I heard that one before… oh yeah, back when people were telling me that I should shut up about liking girls, because there’s less gay girls than straight ones.
    You claim that is not fair to your grouping, well what about the other ones? How is putting your concerns at the top of the agenda fair to them?
    Please show me where I claimed this. I’ve re-read what I wrote a couple times now, and I’m still really puzzled.
    Also, elevating issues that are, literally, matters of life and death in many cases over relatively minor issues is, um, common sense, or so I’d hope.
    Yes, many gays, lesbians and bisexuals (remember us?)
    uh, yeah. Never said I didn’t.
    consider the right to marry the top priority of the movement, and why not?
    err, and pardon the capspam, because PEOPLE ARE FUCKING DYING OUT THERE.
    They pay taxes, just like everybody else, they follow the laws, just like everybody else, and they work and contribute to society, just like the majority of everybody else, so why shouldn’t they receive the same benefits? They paid their dues.
    I’m not saying that they shouldn’t – hell, if I ever meet that special someone, I’d like to have that legally recognized too. But what I’m saying is that the fight for marriage equality, while important, pales besides, again, saving trans lives. Or at least it does to me – maybe trans peoples’ lives don’t count to you, or something. Our rights sure don’t.

    That is what many marginalized groups forget – dues paying. You whine about your plight, but what has your identity group done for any other group?
    um, a LOT, actually. Lots of trans people also identify as queer sexuality-wise, myself included, and there are lots of trans people out there who do work on behalf of queer men and women, POC issues, and more. It’s all about intersectionality, babe.
    Seems to me all you bring to the table is your suffering and your wants…
    If you’d look, you’d see that’s not true.
    No thank you, I do not want any.
    Neither do we.
    Reciprocity is what holds societies together, and as the transgender community is in no position to reciprocate, it has to settle for what the other factions of the LGBT movement, which are in a position to reciprocate, are willing to give.
    Besides the fact that the trans community IS in that position, that’s pretty messed up thinking. And seriously, this strikes you as a good thing?
    If the transgendered and/or queer community is not happy with what is being offered, I suggest they start their own movement instead of riding our tranes and coat tails, see how far you get on your own.
    Again, intersectionality. Starting our own, contrary movement would just set us all back. I’m trans AND pan, whether you like it or not, and the queer community NEEDS to stick together to achieve anything.
    I do not “Check my privilege”… ever
    I can see that.
    power, not tolerance, egalitarianism or empathy, is what makes all things possible – fuelling everything from the cells that make up our bodies to the stars in the sky.
    This is not at all related to anything you’ve said.

  • Steph @ at 4:08 pm, January 5th, 2010

    Also, because I thought I answered you when I didn’t, @John:
    “The question I have is do you feel that if members of the community were to dress non-flamboyantly and more to the excepted standard of society at large that the message of equality would be more widely accepted. “Disclaimer” last time I posted on here I was cut down and insulted based on my gender. this is not an attack or an attempt to marginalize the community in any way but merely an honest question.”
    Good question.
    And you’re a straight white man on a feminist site: there’s hope for you yet!
    But in all seriousness, no, I don’t. I think that equality for straight-acting gays and lesbians might be similar if that were to happen, but there would be almost no acceptance of non-heteronormative queers – no femme gay men or butch dykes. And equality means equality for EVERYONE, not just the ones who ‘pass’ as straight.

  • Toongrrl @ at 5:34 pm, January 5th, 2010

    Whoa. Steph. You are right on the
    ball.

  • Maedchenmannschaft » Blog Archive » Que(e)rbeet @ at 7:58 am, January 9th, 2010

    [...] Blog für und von jungen FeministInnen im Jugendalter, beschreibt die lesbische Trans Steph, warum sie der Gay Pride Bewegung kritisch [...]

  • Jeff @ at 1:44 pm, June 29th, 2010

    Unfortunately don’t have time to leave the long thoughtful post I’d like to, but I completely agree with everything said here. For those interested in the movement associated with progressing from tunnel-vision focus on gay marriage to supporting change for a more broad range of LGBT issues, definitely visit:

    http://www.beyondmarriage.org

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