Pride is a Protest, not just a party (but it's also definitely a celebration)

By James Maxwell on Monday, 31 January 2022

Flags, rainbows, snappy t-shirts, glitter, unicorns, face paint and colour colour colour. It's easy to glance at Pride month as one big multicolour kids party. And on some level maybe it is. The innocence of celebrating oneself. But that belies the reality, emotions and history of what Pride really was, is, and always should be.

Pride was a protest…

For those that know the history of pride you will well be aware it was riot. Not in the street party vibe, but because it was proper civil-disobedience-filled riot. With looting, fires and the use of violence to be noticed, listened to, and instigate change. Real change.

To quote Martin Luther King Jr, “a riot is the language of the unheard,” and that applies to protesting homophobia and transphobia, or anti-black police brutality and white supremacy.

The Stonewall riots in New York (you can still visit the Stonewall tavern today) were a spontaneous eruption of anger against police harassment – long in the making, and over a number of days.

It was an explosion of true frustration, anger and abject protest at the oppressive and violent treatment of a group of citizens in a supposedly free society.

The outcome was GAY LIBERATION, which has evolved in language and nuance over time, but always holds true to the protest nature of its birth – 52 years ago.

Pride is a Protest

So we’ve had the riots, we gained the equality laws (did we though?) and we have marriage equality in many countries around the world. To borrow from Huw Lemney of the Guardian

“Within a single lifetime, homosexuality has moved from being a crime and a psychiatric disorder, punished around the world by imprisonment, chemical castration, social ostracisation and a lifetime as a registered sex offender, to a socially and legally recognised sexual identity. For all its talk of unity, Pride can still divide.”

So why aren’t we just celebrating? Why are we still protesting? Well, we’ve come a long way, but we ain’t there yet. Possibly we never will be. Bleak!

Due to where it comes from, removing politics or social justice from Pride is… well… pointless. We, the queer community, still face serious inequality around the world, high rates of suicide, entire campaigns devoted to ending our rights, our ability to access healthcare, have children, career opportunities and representation. And when we add in the angle of black and trans oppression and police violence to the mix its not a rosy rainbow picture for everyone.

Its also easy to see where the contentious issue of corporate sponsorship comes in and police participation. If a brand wants to help, truly help, use the money spent on sponsorship in an actual community.

If the police want to show support, then where are the training programmes and de-escalation of violence against gay youth, black youth, and trans citizens?

We’ve got a lot to protest and raise our voices about, loud and proud over the Kylie, EDM and burgeoning queer hip hop.

BUT… it is a celebration

So while Pride is a protest (got that yet?) the special weeks, parades, events, movie screenings, talks and yes…the parties, are extremely important. They send a very LOUD and colourful message that WE love ourselves, we take PRIDE on who we are and frankly we’re not going to take anything lying down. It’s a celebration of inclusion, a celebration of human rights not only in your local town, but also to citizens of other cities and countries. We celebrate how far we’ve come, but also the hope and potential or pushing further. Of course you’re invited to celebrate alongside us, but remember, you also need to be protesting with us.

Those glitter wigs and rainbow outfits come with placards… and don’t let anyone tell you different.

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