Pride Without 'Pride': Power in Shared Spaces
By H Kapp-Klote
What could possibly be left to say about Pride? Everyone, it seems, queer and straight, has an opinion on pride. JD Samson thinks we should get off the internet and, somehow relatedly, that trans women should be nicer. Colorlines thinks it might be just for white people. A guy that I passed on the street at DC Pride (who identified as straight loudly and often, covered in glitter and rainbow beads) thinks Pride is the “BEST DAY EVER”.
Every time we cycle through to June on the lunar calendar, everyone and their mother has a substantive opinion on Pride, or critique of Pride, or a critique of a critique of Pride, or a critique of a critique of a critique of Pride, until the whole mass of what Pride may or may not entail, perpetuate, or remind us of, is lost in a sea of thinkpieces and tweets. Pride is a corporate neoliberal project of excess wearing a rainbow flag: bad. Pride is a space where queer youth can gather: good. Pride is very important to Mormons: mixed bag.
Yet Pride is not a homogenous entity. And that’s the thing that I, and others, be they queer activists or sellouts or assimilationists, forget: Pride can be all of these things, simultaneously. Pride can contain multitudes.
Pride can be an event where Wells Fargo employees rub elbows with the people that they extorted. It can be a space that inspires disruption and dissent while glorifying whiteness, family, and consumption. It is, like all other spaces in advanced capitalism, a space that simultaneously upholds the status quo and creates an opportunity to challenge it.
Pride is a space that creates interaction – though it may not foster community, it is a moment in time for engagement, conflict, and critique. Youth come to Pride, older folks come to Pride, trans and people of color and white and cis and even hetero folks come to Pride. It allows us all to to see the LGBT movement without clothes – literally, but also in its excess and in the corporate co-optation that it has embraced. But even in its failings, Pride creates an opportunity to build alternatives – alternatives built out of its radical beginnings. Without Lockheed Martin and Wells Fargo marching in the Pride Parade, there would be no hijacking of the whole event. The Dyke March, a celebration in June across the country of “radical lesbian defiance,” began as an alternative to cis gay domination of Pride events. The Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project gathers at Pride, taking up space and forcing Pride attendees to recognize deportation as a queer issue, in spite of the significant law enforcement presence at most Prides. People with all kinds of relationships to queerness, affiliated and unaffiliated with organizations, labels, or markers of queer identity, gather at Pride, whether at the physical event or sharing thoughts about Pride through discussion on any platform. To ignore the potential of that shared space, the presence of so many different people in the space of Pride whether to gather or to protest, in spite of its corporate-controlled leadership, is to continue the neoliberal project of erasure of all those resisting assimilation and are otherwise pushed to the margins.
So, from Pride – from that shared space, in all its contradictions, comes a challenge. How are we recognizing and creating spaces that will fight back against isolation and abandonment? How can we take the pain, the excess, the bullshit of Pride – to build stronger movements, both queer-focused and at the intersections of all movements for justice? Pride can become an opportunity to build pride- pride in our shared spaces, in our interactions, and most of all, in our protest – even in spaces that erase, devalue, and ignore us in favor of a neoliberal agenda. Through coming together both physically and in simply in sharing headspace – in thinking about the meaning of queer community as others are – there is value. In the basis of shared space, in embracing contradictions while acknowledging co option, is value. It just takes the power to recognize, contradict, challenge, and reinvent it. Once June is over, perhaps the need to discuss Pride, what it is, what it isn’t, will dissipate. But Pride will continue to exist, in all of its ugliness and its glory. What matters is using that shared space, and acknowledging the contradictions within it.