Pride month is ending, and yesterday was the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots (see the below blog post or this episode of Drunk History to learn more), but it's hard to feel proud as an American these days.
I tabled at Portland Pride this year for work. I have my share of complaints about Pride, mostly that these corporations come in and treat it like it's a fun rainbow outfit to put on once a year to make some money from the queers. But I actually like tabling. All the excited young people with rainbows painted on their cheeks and Pride flags in every color draped over their shoulders like capes are enough to melt even my curmudgeonly heart. I mean, that's a lot of why we fight, right? So kids today don't face the bigotry that we (and generations before us) faced? So they can have time to figure out how to make gender feel right, so they can make gender and sexuality fit them, instead of cramming themselves into a box that somebody else defined.
Queer Pride is important. It's necessary. But it doesn't feel right to celebrate when kids are being taken from their parents and locked in cages at the southern US border, when Republican politicians are swapping their "family values" for blatant xenophobia and racism, and Democratic politicians worry too much about being "civil" to fight back. How do I balance being proud to be queer with being deeply ashamed of my country?
Stonewall wasn't a party. It was a step in a long fight, and the fight is not over. This weekend, there are protests happening around the country against our government's inhumane policies toward immigrants and refugees, and I hope that those in power will listen when the people tell them what we want.
We have to fight together.
It’s June, and that means it’s Pride Month! I went to my first Pride fest when I was sixteen, but it wasn’t until I was older that I learned about the history of Pride. I think it’s really important to learn where we came from and celebrate the queer heroes that helped us get to where we are today. If you don’t know about Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson (pictured on the left in the photo above), J.M. Ellison’s article is a great starting place. Pride marks the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, when trans women of color led a fight against the police oppression and harassment that had become commonplace.
Sometimes Pride frustrates me because it’s turned into such an advertisement fest, a rainbow party that everyone wants to be at. And I get it – queers are fun! And we deserve a break from fighting and having our worth debated and worrying all the time. Will this person still be my friend once they find out I’m queer? Will I be able to use the bathroom without harassment? Will it be one of my friends who’s attacked at Pride this year? As a cis, feminine woman, I don’t have to deal with a lot of these worries, which makes me feel lucky. I think it’s important to prioritize the voices of people in the community who are more marginalized, to amplify trans voices, disabled voices, and voices of people of color. I don’t agree with people who want queers to be more “normal,” like if we can just act or look like straight people, then finally they’ll accept us. We need to be accepted as we are. Especially in a movement in which trans men and women, drag queens and kings, and sex workers played such a pivotal role, it’s disgraceful to now turn around and tell those groups that them being true to themselves is holding the rest of us back.
In my upcoming novel, Book Smarts and Tender Hearts, I struggled with terminology. I describe myself as queer because it feels more inclusive and easier to me, but my book takes place in 1996. I don’t really remember hearing or using “queer” as a positive term until I was in college, which was in the early 2000s. I used “GLBT,” knowing it’s dated, because it felt historically accurate to me – it’s a term I used and heard at the time. Today, I use LGBTQIA+, which stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, and Asexual, PLUS. I like the plus because people use a lot of different terms to describe themselves.
I’ll try to post more Pride-related blog posts this month, and in the meantime, I recommend checking out Eli Haswell’s cute and informative comics on The People of Pride. Know your history!
I like cats, feminism, queers, making things and writing, apparently.