Pride is a protest. Protest is queer history, it is the legacy of our identity. Pride is queer folks demanding our humanity, our community, our whole existence be recognized on our terms.
It’s a week into June and we are tired. So, very tired. Of what you may ask? Corporate pride and the deradicalization of the queer community. I remember went to Amsterdam Pride in 2019 I was astounded, and not in a good way. What I hoped would be about queer liberation and resistance had been reduced to an excuse to party and day drink. Don't get me wrong, I love a party and the occasional day drink, but throughout the entire 9 hour day event, into the evening bar and club parties, there was not an ounce of political sentiment throughout the entire event. There were floats along the canals from banks, phone companies, and countless other corporations. Most sickenly, there were several police pride boats. The most horrible of all of these was the Stonewall float in which the organizers/performers had dressed up as police officers and drag queens having them pole dance together and "cheer for queers". If you know anything about the origins of pride, you will understand just how offensive this is, and if you don’t know why this float is so offensive get ready to learn that pride is an anti-police, anti-oppression, anti-establishment, revolutionary movement.
Between cops with rainbow stickers, cheap rainbow clothes, and plastic cups from enormous companies that perpetuate injustice globally, many folks reduce to an excuse to day drink while wearing a rainbow. We thought we would take this moment to give our community some reeducation on what pride is, or at least what pride is supposed to be. Shockingly many people have no idea that pride is a protest. That is why we made this zine.
A brief nonexhaustive history: What is pride?
As long as there has been homophobia and a police force, the police oppressed and murdered queer and trans people. Our story of pride will fast forward to the 1960s however it is important to highlight, as long as there has been queer oppression, queer and trans folks have and always will resist. The fight for queer rights did not start or end in 1960’s New York with Stonewall. We will be brief due to time and also not being historians however, at the bottom of this post check out some sources on Stonewall and the history of pride. Pride is directly influenced by the civil rights movement as a way for queer folks to fight, often with grave costs, for even baseline human treatment. This movement was lead predominantly by trans women of color who encountered pushback (often violent) in the forms of raids, arrests, strippings, and beatings, and more from police. These women also frequently experienced severe discrimination from other members of the queer community due to rampant transphobia.
This all culminated at Stonewall Inn, in New York City a popular underground queer bar run by the Mob. Pride started in 1969 with days of revolutionary anti-police, anti-establishment riots. These riots were rightfully violent responses to decades of violent oppression by police officers. That’s all we’ll say about Stonewall, why you may ask? Well, we aren’t focusing on Stonewall exclusively because it is a single event of many. Stonewall is one of the most discussed and misunderstood bits of queer history and just one instance of the many uncountable police acts of violence the queer community has and continues to experience at the hands of a homo/transphobic state. (Check out the podcast You're Wrong About, Stonewall episode).
What is pride protesting?
Pride is a protest. Protest is queer history, it is the legacy of our identity, we’ve just been made to forget due to a combination of politics, shifts in social standards/ideals, and rampant pink/rainbow washing. Pride is queer folks demanding our humanity, our community, our whole existence be recognized on our terms. Pride is about fighting injustice in all its forms.
It is an unfortunately common false belief that queer people are no longer oppressed thus we should be like straight people. The idea that police will protect queer people is a reductive, white-centered, western, privileged perspective. Police supporting queer folks is preformative at best; deceitful and deadly at its worst. Police turn us against each other, and towards an actively racist, sexist, transphobic, homophobic state. Do not think the police have ethics or are free-thinking, they are soldiers of the state and as such, ultimately will always enforce the will state.
Why the Cops will Never be on “Our Side” (and why we don’t want them to be)
Even if the police were “on our side” we wouldn’t want that. Why would we, as queer people join arms with the top oppressors of the state? What is our pride if it perpetuates the oppression and murder of others? Police support for pride is not something we should strive for, in fact, we should reject it at all costs. And before bringing up the “what about queer cops” argument, a cop is a cop. If you want to march in our pride, choose between policing and your queerness because the two cannot coexist peacefully. We will not have our oppressor march with us. Police “allyship” is a fake, dangerous ploy to get us to trust them and turn a blind eye while they dismantle our communities. So you think cops care? Do they care about protecting the rights of queer migrants who they arrest and deport? What about incarcerated queer and/or trans people they send to prisons of their assigned gender? Queer and trans sex workers? They do not care about us, they never did and never will.
The police are a violent force with one job, protecting the state and state interests which have never been queer and trans folks and especially never folks of color. The legacy of queer oppression from the police has not ended just because some police put rainbows on while they shoot and pepper spray. They would not bat an eye to strike us down. We should not forget the active legacy of transphobia and homophobia that exists in all sectors- legal, educational, governmental, carceral, the list goes on and on. We as queer people should never support injustice, state violence, and oppression which is the currency of the police.
What is rainbow capitalism?
Rainbow capitalism aka pinkwashing aka rainbow washing is when companies or institutions lie about their support of the queer community during pride month as a way to market and sell their products or promote their company. Usually, this is done simply by mass-producing huge amounts of cheap products in rainbow print, rainbow colors, or with words like “Queer.” I use the word “lie” here very intentionally. Not everyone who produces things during, or in support of pride is “lying” however companies like for example, Blackstone, an evil international housing conglomerate placed a rainbow on their Twitter this year, yet continues to push folks out of their homes and gentrify cities all over the globe.
Companies all over the world funnel millions of dollars to anti-queer and anti-trans groups and politicians and receive credit for the rainbow banners on their social media (to name a few: Pfizer, Verizon, AT&T, UPS, Comcast, Home Depot, General Electric, FedEx). This is unacceptable. Not only is there no tangible product of their “support” they are in fact actively funding the oppression of queer people while trying to hide under their meaningless rainbow.
What good is this rainbow corporate greed? What good is a rainbow sticker on a cop car when all cops have done historically and currently is oppress, destabilize, harm, and murder marginalized groups? We do not want their rainbow, we want justice. We want a fairer distribution of wealth for all, not their rainbow marketing scam. Allyship without action is not allyship. And false allyship for profit is detrimental in our fight for justice and our communities.
What can we do?
Okay, we just threw a lot of intense information at you. Before jumping into our actionable and next steps, I want to take a moment to clarify that this article and zine is not meant to shame anyone for the ways they've chosen to interact with pride, rather it's to combat the pinkwashing of all of our beautifully complex identities and decades-long struggle to be ourselves. I hope that what we've created here, can inform your decisions about how you approach pride, allyship, and where to put your energy and funds when it comes to celebrating because we certainly don't want to support oppressors! We're all here learning together, so thank you for sticking with this article, take a deep breath, and thank yourself for learning. And now it's time for the fun part! Actionable steps to take to solve the issues we're discussing today!
Do your research. Want to find ways to celebrate pride that feel authentic and actually benefit our community? Research abolition, community-based alternatives, and queer liberation movements and fight for us!
Do not buy into the corporate rainbow! If you want to spend money to support queer people, buy from queer and trans-owned businesses, especially those owned by people of color, and remember if you can donate to mutual aid.
Support us and each other at all times. Queer oppression happens all year, so don’t only be an ally when it’s “fun.” Call your representatives when there is anti-trans legislation, join advocacy or political group fighting for causes you believe in, help out at a queer youth center, the options for year-round fulfilling allyship are limitless!
Pay queer people. This means educators, sex workers, entertainers, organizers, and more. Redistributing wealth is one way to combat corporate power.
Keep pride revolutionary. Fight for queer justice not “gay rights.” Do not let our oppressors steal and profit off our pride. Reject profit, reclaim pride.
Thank you for learning with us, and fighting for a better future together. We deserve it, and together I really do believe we can make it happen. Only together though. This pride, please do not let oppressors profit off of your pride, and remember what they want us to forget: We are stronger together, together we can make real, revolutionary change.
Let us know how you're celebrating pride, and as usual please feel free to reach out either on our blog or on social media- @queersexedcc