Look, I love Pride season. I am a pretty critical person, and while I’m working on being less critical of myself and the people around me, I still think it’s possible to both love something and think it can be better. And I think Pride could be better. My day job is in HIV prevention, so I’ve tabled at Pride the last few years, and I love tabling. It’s fun to be surrounded by people with trans/ace/pan/bi flags slung over their shoulders like capes, rainbow stickers on their cheeks and shoulders. I love the baby queers holding hands with their partners in public like it’s revolution. I love the rainbows everywhere. But it’s not enough. I don’t just want companies to slap a rainbow on their logo during June, rent a booth for the weekend, or order matching t-shirts and march in the parade. I want us to recognize that capitalism isn’t going to sustain us and business can’t keep expanding forever. I don’t just want a world where I can marry a woman, I want a world where marriage isn’t the default. I don’t want cops marching in Pride parades, I want a justice system that doesn’t disproportionately target black and brown people, trans people, and poor people. I want true safety, where trans people aren’t murdered, where cops don’t get away with whatever they want, where white cis queers recognize and use our privilege to lift up others who don’t have the same privileges we do. I want companies to stop donating to anti-LGBTQ politicians while they fly rainbow flags. I want to be more than a marketing demographic. I want all of us to support queer makers and small business owners instead of helping the rich get richer.
What do you want from Pride?
Now that Pride Month is well underway, I want to encourage you to queer up your social media feeds! I follow several pages of queer content, and I like learning about our history whenever I check social media. What are the best pages you've found? Let me know in the comments!
Here are a few of my favorites:
Do you follow any pages I should know about? Let me know below!
I made an author page on Instagram! Follow me for some photographic insights into my life and writing process, and probably lots of pictures of my cats. I'm starting out with the Author Life Month challenge, which is a month of themed posts for authors. My first day was something I've been wanting to post here for a while - a Shelfie! The picture above is the bookshelf I've been moving from house to house since I was a child, and it's full of all of my favorite books. I'll tell you about some of them below.
I used to go to the State Fair every year and buy a new Priscilla book from Colene Copeland. They're about pigs, and based on real pigs that Colene owned. When I bought new books from her, she would sign them "Pig out on books!"
Stir-Fry was my first Emma Donoghue book, which I bought at a library book sale. It was taken out of rotation because a dog chewed on the cover. I'd seen it reviewed in Sassy magazine, so I picked it up, and it became one of my early favorite lesbian novels.
I loved Christopher Pike in my early teens, and Remember Me was always my favorite. I remember so many little details about that story, like how the main character had such thick hair that she was always breaking hairbrushes.
Poppy Z. Brite is another favorite author that I discovered through Sassy magazine. The feelings of isolation that she described in Lost Souls really spoke to me, and I still can't hear about a muffuletta sandwich without remembering Drawing Blood. The muffuletta sandwich is only mentioned in passing, but it was the first time I'd ever heard of one. I bought both of those books new, so maybe you can tell how many times I read them. She did such an amazing job of describing first love in the stories in Second Line, and as I became less interested in horror, I really appreciated watching that love develop through the Liquor series.
The Graceling series are some of my favorite young adult books that I discovered as an adult. A feminist fantasy series full of badass women, queer side characters, magically colored animals and contraceptive herbs? Yes, please! Bitterblue is my favorite of the series, with her codebreaking and math love. Such good coming of age stories!
Annie on My Mind and Peter are two other favorite queer novels from my youth, but as you might have guessed by the flawless condition of these copies, I only recently purchased them. When I was growing up, I would just check them out from the library over and over. Peter is one that's kind of hard to find, and not many people I know have read it, but it's one of my absolute favorite books ever. I love how it shows that sexuality isn't black and white, and how sometimes it can take a while to figure things out.
A lot of these books sum up why I love YA literature. I absolutely adore the new rawness of the characters' feelings, and when I was young, finding my feelings written down in a story was one of the best feelings. As a writer, I can't think of anything better than giving someone else the experience of seeing their emotions in print. Hopefully, that's something I can accomplish with my writing.
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.