I had my first experience with Pride in 2018 when I attended Atlanta Pride. At the time, I was beginning to embrace my queerness and was excited to honor that side of me alongside thousands of others. While I appreciated having the opportunity to participate in this collective celebration, I couldn’t help but notice that, strangely, big business sponsors, politicians running for office and law-enforcement agencies were dominating the festival. This aspect of the event was in conflict with my knowledge of Pride’s history and beliefs. I believe Pride should have more revolutionary commitments and don’t believe we should allow the entities responsible for historically repressing the Queer community to participate in the event.
June is known as Pride Month to commemorate the June 1969 Stonewall riots, the event widely credited with igniting the modern Queer movement. The riots began as a response to a police raid at the Stonewall Inn in New York. Members of the Queer community who came to join the several days of demonstrations engaged in acts of resistance against the police, including throwing bricks, bottles and other objects.
The Stonewall riots led to the creation of organizations such as the Gay Liberation Front, a radical organization whose demands included a society in which everyone can enjoy “freedom of existence and freedom to relate to each other in whatever manner they see fit, without fear of oppression or condemnation.” They were an organization that not only fought for gay rights but also understood the interconnectedness between other oppressive systems like white supremacy, patriarchy and capitalism.
My experience with Pride is that it has largely retreated from the ideals and vision of its pioneers. Pride’s dominant message today is that Queer people should gain equal rights within society as it exists. This is opposed to the fundamental transformation of society advocated by the Gay Liberation Front. Law enforcement agencies have been granted the opportunity to co-opt the Queer cause to strengthen their public perception. Many Queer activists have expressed disapproval with the police’s participation in Pride and have argued their efforts to make amends for their repression have fallen short. Some activists have expressed similar sentiments about the role of corporations in Pride.
2020 is an unusual time to discuss Pride. It’s almost as if Pride Month is more of an afterthought as the COVID-19 pandemic persists and protests against police brutality and systemic racism are at the forefront of political awareness. We must take this opportunity to ensure that the movement for Queer liberation engages in solidarity with other social and political movements. The Queer movement must not isolate itself and create comfortable relationships with its oppressors. We must, instead, be committed to a revolutionary, intersectional perspective as we face these current crises.