Like so many public observances, Pride weeks are always at risk of having their meanings and functions distorted or repurposed for use against queer communities. As I have seen them, the official politics of Pride organizations are at odds with the values displayed in practice.
Despite having attended Pride festivities this year in Halifax, Montreal and Moncton, I saw only accidental and unauthoritative commitments to include and celebrate those at the margins of sexual categories. The official narratives of Pride organizations spoke ambiguously about the public commitment to inclusivity.
A moment of silence passed in Halifax for the victims of the Orlando shooting, but the crowd around me talked through it – we were too far back to hear the call to mourn. Police contingents march everywhere despite Black Lives Matter activists’ protests against police brutality and injustice in Toronto. Floats are peopled by conventionally handsome, able-bodied and often-white men (qualities which also describe most parade organizers). There are always floats sponsored by banks, as if they are the champions of social progress.
The audiences of these parades and I, perched on the curbs of our cities’ main streets, saw representations of experiences from the actual history of queer struggle cut out, reframed and repackaged. Excluded was any queer person not among the dominant tropes: the white urbanite gay male, the femme lesbian who appears in straight porn, the trans person who has happily transformed their body.
As a cis white male whose identity is not a source of much suffering, I urge others of privilege not only to recognize the pleasures of representation and inclusion in this community, but also to resist the tendency to dominate it as ours alone.
It is the responsibility of privileged people in the queer community to challenge the structure of representation in major queer cultural productions (parades included) and commit to keeping places of congregation inclusive (from clubs to friends’ homes).
We must hold each other accountable to listening to what is already being said by those at the margins of the community and to fighting injustice when queer people are evicted for condo developments in gentrifying neighbourhoods, when queer people of colour are murdered again and again, when queer Palestinians are not given thought by other queer people on vacation in gay Tel Aviv, and when queer youth are imprisoned.
We cannot, in other words, be prideful. For the past few months, our Pride celebrations have demonstrated only willful ignorance of our complicity in the structures that make exclusion possible.
Only in absence of a culture of policing and incarceration, the imperial and xenophobic state and the logic of austerity will our pride be just. Until then, we will do as much work as we can, especially in the care for and inclusion of others. We will attend our celebrations with solemnity and mindfulness.