How to Break Pride: A Guide for the LGBTQ Movement
By Emma Caterine
Pride in and of itself is worthless. Not only worthless, but a dangerous complex of invulnerability to criticism or even review. Pride is held by all tyrants and key to control in oppressive systems. Whether you want to call it pink-washing, Gay Inc., or homonormativity, the LGBTQ community has grown divided as some have attained assimilation through economic and racial privilege. The trans community, once at least somewhat united in opposition against the gay and lesbian communities that left them behind, has grown increasingly in conflict with one another over issues like language, military assimilation, hate crime legislation, and what the role of trans people is in a broader LGBTQ community in general. And while I’ve said the attempts that have been made to define these as “generational issues” is fallacious, it is undeniable that the conflicts revolve around wealthy middle age people with a strong leans towards the white and cisgender.
It makes sense: that’s American hegemony if you exchange straight or cis for gay or trans. Certainly there has been some despicable behavior outside that straightforward of a paradigm. Let me just take a quick moment right now to say this to my young white trans sisters: stop saying Ru Paul can’t say “tranny” because it’s not her word. I guarantee as an older Black queer person who is male assigned at birth and genderfluid, who learned drag in the 80’s Atlanta club scene, she has dealt with that word in far more dangerous contexts than most of y’all saying that. That’s not the issue.
The issue has always been that Ru Paul uses those words to encourage negative stereotypes and mock the vulnerable, while making herself, Absolut Vodka, and Mac Cosmetics a profit. That’s what so often gets left out: queer shame is almost always for profit. Dan Savage is “edgy” for site hits (and 486 comments). Deep Green Resistance is transphobic to appeal to a new demographic they desperately need since their corporate-funded, racist, disableist take on anarchism and environmentalism doesn’t appeal to anyone except bigots. Calpernia Addams didn’t tranny-fy Jared Leto for free and how could she turn down a lucrative job when her relevancy was at an all time low.
This set of oppressions, like all in a capitalist system, is powered economically. And not only do the captains of industry have the protections of media domination, the police, and a greater legitimacy with the heteronormative ruling class, they also have an unfounded currency of being elders and leaders of our community due to a desperation in the community for such figures. But this desperation is misplaced, our community deceived by an artificial scarcity of elders and leaders maintained by the gaytriarchy through white-washing and economically burying those who produced and those who now fight for the most needed radical change.
It is time for the radical queers of the world to reject the dominant narrative in a complete and revolutionary way rather than the piecemeal attacks that have allowed the LGBourgeoisie to maintain and even in some cases expand their foothold in our communities. We must push for a coup of this toxic LGBTQ ruling class through wildcat direct actions that take advantage of the oppressors’ reliance on a “Pride” narrative to maintain power. While certainly elders can and will participate in such actions, as well as our ancestors inspiring them, the burden of this program will mostly fall on the young queers who have the urgency of their present and recently past oppression combined with a sense of displacement from a LGBTQ mainstream that has failed to provide them the essentials needed to survive in our capitalist society. This sense of displacement comes from exploitation of cheap or free labor in canvassing and mandated internships, general barring from participation in agenda creation (even when it is about us and our peers), and rampant criminalization that the LGBourgeoisie ignores, tolerates, or even actively encourages.
Wildcat strikes are when the workers decide to take a direct action to escalate a campaign that union leadership has failed to take action on. This dynamic widely applies to the situation I’ve described, especially in the context of it being much more an issue of economics and labor than the gay bosses would like you to think since they have created roles for themselves as two-faced boss/hero hybrids. Wildcat actions recognize our goals are not to gain acceptance into a liberal human rights framework, but to decriminalize our lives and empower our autonomy as both individuals and as communities. We must no longer look to a privileged LGBTQ leadership that has consistently put profit over people, thrown the marginalized under the bus, and has no interests at heart aside from their own climb up their respective corporate or professional ladders. Wildcat actions will allow people without the “proper papers” or social status or expendable wealth to actively shape the future for themselves and their communities. While I am advocating for this tactic to be taken up more broadly by queer radicals, I have a specific set of actions in mind that I hope can be our queer generation’s New Left moment.
We need to break Pride. The corporatized whitewashed sanitized prudish ally-centered shit show needs to be massively disrupted. I know the idea of a Pride action is hardly new, but I’m not proposing a Pride action: I’m proposing a chain reaction that will wear down the resistance of the crown-wearing dregs of our community and make queer dangerous again not just to heteronormativity but to the rampant homonormativity of our time. I’d like to think Lenin’s decriminalization of homosexuality would mean he’d like my application of his statement to the current dynamics of LGBTQ society “A petty bourgeois driven to frenzy by the horrors of capitalism is a social phenomenon which has a tendency to turn rapidly into submission, apathy, phantasms, and even a frenzied infatuation with one bourgeois fad or another” (Left-Wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder). Rather than trying to “takeover” one Pride celebration or another we must employ a diverse multiplicity of direct actions against any and all Pride events connected to the dominant hegemony. Here are some actions that you can do, many of which require only one person:
1. You know that one speaker who is groan-worthy at your otherwise nice community Pride event? Walk out on their speech. Throw glitter on them. Disrupt the power. Pull the fire alarm. Set off the automatic sprinklers. Blockade their float. Know that in many situations the things I’m telling you to do are illegal. They can and will get you arrested. If you think that will happen, let the media know ahead of time. It’s hard for Gay Inc. to convince their donors they’re on the cutting edge (a requirement for a growth-obsessed capitalism) when angry young people of the same race and gender identity as the people Gay Inc. is “fighting for” keep getting arrested at their events. Expect problems like arrest and have a plan: what lawyer will you call? will bail get posted? Talk to friends about which Pride speaker they’re going to protest and, rather than joining in, coordinate your own action on a different speaker (or the same one at a different event). To really reject the liberal ideological justification the gaytriarchy employs, we need to reject their “bad apple” individualism. We need to attack the whole system rather than just Dan Savage or just Ru Paul.
2. Take back our narratives in confrontational ways. Don’t just say that Stonewall or Compton were riots: fight back needs to be more than a call and response during marches. Graffiti can be a great tool. So can street theater. The NYPD in particular have recently targeted subway performers: all the more reason to meet them on that battlefield. Do teach-ins at universities, government buildings, wherever people of power congregate. Again these actions will be dangerous, but in the words of Huey Newton, “The first lesson a revolutionary must learn is that [they are] doomed.”
3. Take their money no strings attached. The corruption of non-profits may be inevitable in a capitalist system, but it is rapidly sped up by the allowance of elected officials and foundations to dictate advocacy and policy within an organization. No money in this world is clean, so I’m not telling you to not take money from Foundation X or not work with Councilmember Whoever. What I am saying is reject any directives that contradict your own missions, even when it seems arbitrary or trivial. What is important is the trend, and any allowance gives corporations and the state a hand in the door.
4. Flood social media. Create sock puppet accounts. Write anonymous declarations and manifestos on cheap, easy access websites and jump from one to another. “Social hack” i.e. use your position as a college student/military brat/sex worker with powerful clients to get classified information and leak it. And I cannot emphasize this enough: stop arguing with the lowest common denominator
It’s time to start a riot, queers; a smash and grab during which we will finally take our pride back.
Author’s note: I use queer as a noun in this piece to refer to all gender and sexuality minorities who embody not just radical politics around gender and sexuality but also as a comprehensive worldview, especially inclusive of the plethora of identities that have been attacked by hegemony and LGBT alike in a history of colonialism, such as muxe, hijra, two-spirit, and many more. I make the argument of this piece as a white person who has and will benefit from being a settler on former Lenape territory attempting to be in solidarity with indigenous struggle that is foundational to any and all struggle for socialist liberation.