Last Sunday, the Auckland Pride Festival kicked off with the LYC Big Gay Out, a pride event attracting 15,000 people, as well as some politicians. While Gay Pride events have a history stretching back to the Stonewall Riots of 1969, and have been powerful protest actions fighting against homophobia, in recent years such events have become less radical and more encompassed in the mainstream. Although this is partly because of victories in the Gay Liberation movement – especially with the passing of equal marriage laws – the take-over of Gay Pride by the likes of John Key and the U.S. Embassy (That’s right, the event is partly sponsored by the US Embassy) is a cause for concern.
Elsewhere in the world, the commercialization of Pride events has resulted in the exclusion of radical politics and the ‘toning down’ of protest action. In Dallas organizers have called the police on protestors who violate their strict rules on what is ‘appropriate’. In Toronto the Gay pride organizers refuse to give any support to Trans* events.
Here in Aotearoa, the mainstream media coverage of the event focuses entirely upon the ‘acceptable’ parts of gay pride. There is music, and some colourful dancing, the organisers talk about the victory of getting 15,000 people along to the event, and politicians come to claim that they are friendly towards queer people. As one attendee, Connor recalls;
I went to this event yesterday and witnessed John Key being welcomed by more boos and hecklers from the crowd than even Len Brown was. But I can’t find this on any mainstream news sites. In fact I can only find about two seconds of footage on Key on stage, and I suspect that is because if they showed any more, the boos would have been too audible. What is the motive for the mainstream media to ignore any form of public dissent in order to protect Key’s ‘nice guy/man of the people’ image?
John Key is no friend to Queer people. While he may have been forced to vote for equal marriage, his party still denies funding to rape crisis centres, encourages ACC to squeeze out Trans* people, and supports a rabid police force that poses a real, physical danger to anyone who looks different from the mainstream. We should celebrate the hard-won victories, but we cannot allow the schmaltzy, corporate events to overshadow the real political and social battles that are still to be fought.