What does Pride mean? Reflecting on the history and necessity of Queer Pride
By Queer and Trans Caucus Chair, Alice T Crowe
This last weekend saw the Seattle Pride Parade, where half a million residents partied with rainbows and glitter. Hundreds of groups marched — including this very caucus — with allies, queers, and trans people galore. It was a loud, happy affair: our group stood between a company offering cruises and a cancer research organization. For those of you who missed it, we had about ten members, with Washington Won’t Discriminate and Brady Walkinshaw bolstering our numbers with their support.
So right now might be the time to reflect on the meaning of Pride, the bravery of those out and proud, and what we, as politically savvy youths, need to remember about allyship to the LGBTQIA+ communities. And yes, that’s a plural.
Take a moment to watch this video, and keep an eye out for the YDUWs.
If you’re anything like the majority of Americans, you’re probably thinking something along the lines of “Poor brave soul, what a lovely dear to have come out to a world that both fears and despises people like that.” It’s not an uncommon reaction, even among those who really should know better.
To explain why that attitude is ill-advised, let’s think back to the history of Pride as an event. On June 28th, 1969 police raided the Stonewall Inn, known then for harboring lower class gay men, transsexuals, prostitutes, and drag queens, especially people of color. These raids were a continual presence in New York City, as homosexuality was considered a mental illness and illegal under state law. A riot broke out spontaneously, and while it was eventually quelled by police, it ended up inciting the modern QUILTBAG liberation movement that stays with us to this day.
One year after the riot began, an assembly on the street of the Stonewall Inn marched showing signs in favor of homosexuality, with simultaneous events held in Los Angeles and Chicago. These were the first Prides in US History. In Seattle, Gay Pride Week was first held in 1974, with a memorial for the 1973 arson that claimed 32 lives.
I tell you all this to remind you that Pride isn’t about rainbows, glitter, and face paint, nor is it a marketing event, signature-gathering opportunity, or publicity stunt, although all too often it’s abused in this way. Pride began as a riot, and a revolution. It began as a rebellion.
Return now to the video above. Round about the 2 minute mark, Yours Truly make the claim that Pride is a rebellion against the State, against the self, and against society. That’s not a claim I make lightly, nor is it flippant in any way: that’s the meaning of Pride. Rebellion against a state that has (and continues to) use violence to quell minorities of all types and colours, rebellion against the tiny voice in your head urging safety, conservatism, and the closet, and rebellion against a society that today treats us as either novelties or freaks.
Which brings me back to both my opening remarks and (likely unfair) assessment of the average person’s response to the video. Pride isn’t over it’s roots, and it certainly isn’t a celebration, with Latinos, Latinas, and Latinxs having recently been attacked just for going to a nightclub. Queer Pride is still a necessary and vital thing — for some. I say this because violence is so racialized in this country, so preponderantly aimed at those most forgotten by the narratives of activists and movie makers alike.
I am White. It’s a fact I acknowledge, yet one that rests far too easily out of my awareness, save in time of attack for those without such privilege. So when I come out in a video, or a blog post, or even on the street, it is still a danger to me — make no mistake, I feel fear — but in no sense is it the same danger faced by everyone who shares in my sexuality, my gender, or my life, or anything similar.
But I still can come out. And that’s the meaning of Pride, far more than any flag could represent — the ability to be who I am, without any ambiguity or coercion, in whatever way I want.
And so, we return to our involvement, sitting between people who sell rides on boats and people who cure disease, and next to those fighting for a related cause. Why did we choose to march? I shan’t speak for us all; But I marched because I could, because I wanted to, and because I wanted to continue the burning spirit of rebellion started all those years ago, smouldered and semi-forgotten by those who benefited most from its inspiration, so that more can truly be flaming.