By J Smith
There is an old retort amongst homphobic know-alls that “if we should have gay pride then it must follow that there should be room and acceptability for straight pride”. This claim is absurd and the reason for its absurdity is readily apparent and illustrates so well the failure of Pride 2016. Our pride in being queer is built not upon the idea that we are inherently better than everyone else but instead upon our shared history as sufferers of violence, as marginalised people whose own safety can only be brought about by a fundamental reshaping of the world. We are proud of our struggle, we are proud of our resistance and we are proud to continue the legacy of those who have come before us.
If we reduce pride to mere celebration, it then denies the political narrative the made pride necessary in the first place. The destruction of what Pride used to mean, by necessity, also alienates people who live under our shared oppression differently. The girl who stays in the closet for fear of her parents never feeding her again, the gay man whose constant firing leaves him homeless, and the lesbian whose anxiety leaves her silent and frozen every time she tries to find community. Such people have nothing to gain from an apolitical celebration of aesthetics and rainbows, from parties and dances. Such people are our brothers and sisters and for them their untold oppression is very real and many times suffocating. Only a political pride that focuses upon changing society so as to create a safer space for us offers these people a display of solidarity and has any effect on those marginalised by a political system that ignores them. A political pride rooted in that which we have in common – our shared experiences of marginalisation. We see now a cry that the No Pride In Prisons rally has ruined Pride, that arguing for a better world where don’t leave behind our siblings in destitution and ignorance was an interruption of pride. For those of us that marched, Pride had already been denied us by those who sacrificed our most vulnerable upon the altar of acceptability and a supposed apolitical environment. The NPIP Rally brought back the real spirit of Pride, a spirit of solidarity with the oppressed that suffer from homophobia, transphobia and racism from our criminal injustice system.
So what politics should pride take upon itself? The politics of pride to be inclusive must be built along lines of defending all the victims of power and violence. Any other narrative will leave us isolating the dispossessed in the name of nothing more than politeness to the powerful. It was our suffering that brought our liberation movements into existence – not our love of sunshine and rainbows. This suffering and the power structures that propagate it, should be the focus of queer and trans liberation movements and the resistance to these structures be its base.
Why the fuck are police and corrections invited to march at Pride? In what kind of a world do we allow those who have fought us since the very beginning to march alongside us? The nearly 300 protestors at pride were not there to spoil fun, we were not there out of a hate for people having a good time. We were there because we believe everyone has a right to live, free from oppression and the racist and homophobic policies of the state. The police and the corrections officers are agents of the state, the police squash our demonstrations against homophobia and transphobia, they strip search and humiliate, their policies of ‘double bunking’ enable the rape of our trans sisters in jail.
The leadership of Pride now no longer suffer these abuses as harshly and do not make a fuss for their siblings. Pride under their direction turned from a protest march against police brutality into a PR stunt for Judith ‘Crusher’ Collins and her officers marching in step behind her. This is also not a case to ignore the role racism plays in these arms of government, the same structures that oppresses trans prisoners, also oppress Maori and in many cases are one in the same. What more of a racist organisation is there than the police? They who have a self-admitted bias against Maori, and were created originally with the express purpose of maintaining colonial control over Māori land (a task they successfully and cruelly perform to this day). Police are our oppressors, trans police are our oppressors and intersex police are our oppressors. It is these institutions that from their very structure oppose our liberation movements. So sure Gay police and corrections officers march in the parade if you want – but do not march in uniform, do not pretend that the institution you work for is not an instrument of oppression.
To suggest that pride should be along lines of identity and not against the violence of the state is to exclude those who need pride the most. Liberation not capitulation, no comrade left behind, no ground given without a fight for those who need that ground the most.