An opinion about the state of Pride.
It’s hard not to be sentimental just a week after the horrific shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando. After days of only anger and hurt, I wanted nothing more than to cocoon myself in my apartment, drink, cry, and sleep. I hoped to wake up having been reborn and transplanted into a world where confusion had been eradicated. But that isn’t reality. Not my reality, anyway, and not the reality of any queer person I know in the wake of so much devastation. I’m usually critical of Pride, unabashedly so. I’m highly skeptical of the support expressed by the greater Columbus community.
I question anything tied to corporate sponsorship and denounce parades of any kind out of some unexplainable lifelong personal vendetta.
This year, however, I was unequivocally speechless. After six days of being damned well sick and tired of the world, Pride was a much needed refuge. I found myself vulnerable and looking for fellowship, for community.
It’s hard to be critical of a community in the midst of mourning. What is the right thing to say and when? Do I continue calling out the problems I see when our collective wound is still so raw?
Even a couple of days after the event I’m struggling to analyze, process, and understand. After some reflection, I have come to realize that this wound has never really healed. Orlando was not the culmination of our struggle, it was simply the level of shock needed to make the rest of the world look our way. All of us queer folk have been in a continuous struggle for visibility, justice, and for our lives. Unfortunately, this struggle permeates every facet of our existence. Even at “our events” it’s still often the case that we find little of ourselves in the booths, in the photos, in the floats.
There were some good things about this year’s Pride. I saw more women, trans, and non-binary folk than I had seen before. I saw a group of queer folks effortlessly cover right wing religious protestors’ signs with their own, drowning out their words with song.
The “Make America Gay Again” signs were also a highlight for me. However, pride this year was no different than before. I’m not talking about the people in attendance, but the event itself. Hordes of corporations vying for our attention and money.
Community groups who are at other times silent show up to promote their services. The rest is the seemingly ubiquitous group of healthcare (read: HIV) and social organizations we are all too familiar with.
The beer is subpar and the food is too expensive. See, Pride means money. Pride also largely means maleness. It’s the wonderland of free condoms and muscular, shirtless dancers. Drag stands in for trans, and specific events and booths or performances for POC folk are mostly non-existent. There are gendered bathrooms for Christ’s sake!
It all comes off as pretty disingenuous.
Brutus Buckeye, the zenith of androcentrism, was slated not to come due to “security risks”, as if it were cisgender heterosexual folks slaughtered in Orlando. Brutus attending was not support, it was concession. Even the companionship and peace felt over the weekend was erased in a matter of hours. By Sunday, Goodale Park was once again quiet and serene. High street was filled with folks from other conventions, tourists, and business people. The cisgender heterosexual folks returned to their cities, their spaces, their lives that are not affected by the realities Orlando illuminates, save the brief interruption in their daily programming.
And us queer folk went back to our lives filled with aggression, with job and housing uncertainty, with a lack of family, a lack of home. I want Pride to engage these lived realities.
I want it to be more about us, more for us, not as a media show for the cisgender, heterosexual world. It’s hard to criticize a community in mourning, but we are always in mourning. So, if not now, then when? •
Stacy Jane Grover (she/her/hers) is a queer intersectional feminist and a pansexual, nonbinary Trans* person. She holds a BA in Chinese from The Ohio State University with a focus in folklore. She is involved in the Columbus organization Queer Behavior, and lives in Columbus with her partner and two cats.