This blog has been primarily used for Fiwygin Outdoors promotion. Today I am shifting the focus to "Pride" as it's been heavy on my mind and heart this year.
This year, when the police were asked not to have a presence at the pride parade, people got upset. LGBTQ white people and LGBTQ police officers repeatedly said "pride has always been for everyone, it's always been inclusive, and now folks are excluding us and dividing us." This notion of "for everyone" and "inclusiveness" is not true, and it scares me that folks think it is.
I've never considered Pride (or Gay Pride as it's often referred to) as being INCLUSIVE or welcoming to me.
Yes, in the past I've marched in the parade -- and at the time, was damn proud to do so, but as I've gotten older and seen more and more how divided the queer* community is, the more I am disheartened and upset.
*Please note that I'm using queer as an umbrella term for all folks who identify as LGBTQIA (etc). **Please also note that this post is my experience and my words only (unless otherwise noted), and is not being shared or written on behalf of any community.
More and more, the polarization became clear as did the separation of POC (people of color) and white folks. Microaggressions became macroaggressions.
Things like Soul Friday (a night of dancing for "queer women of color and their friends") became more and more overcome with cisgender white men, feeling the music while slowly (or quickly at times) pushing me off the dance floor. There was a summer a few years back, when people of color got pissed because all (or nearly all) of the musicians of color were booked to play at one stage -- I believe it was the "power to the people" stage. Why couldn't they play the main stage? Even when I marched in the parade (a few years ago), with a diverse group of people (ability, age, race, gender), it was still the cis-white men who carried the banner and led our group.
QTBIPOC*** were intentionally segregated and pushed aside, but this is nothing new.
***Queer, Trans, Black, Indigenous, People of Color
Four or five years ago, when marriage equality was the big fight in Minnesota, folks came together to support it. Even straight folks had "vote no" (to the marriage amendment) signs in their yards or bumper stickers on their cars. I remember sending a photo to Minnesota United for All Families -- of me (not white) and my girlfriend (white), in hopes that we would make it as one of their highlighted couples on the website or their Facebook page. I also sent a picture of just myself, wearing a "vote no" t-shirt that was common among folks in the twin cities during that time. Neither picture got posted, and I didn't understand why. Didn't they want photos that represented people who might someday want to get married?
I remember volunteer phone banking for MN United a few days before the election, and when I got there, I was one of a few people of color there. I asked someone where all the people of color were, and was told (by a person of color) that this campaign wasn't for people of color. I told her about the photos I sent in, and she explained to me that she was unfortunately not surprised that the photos didn't make the website.
She told me that in order to win the campaign, they needed white, middle class, approachable looking people to be the face of the campaign -- since that's whose vote was needed to get the win.
I finally understood how deeply racism was rooted into this campaign.
While it may sound like this person's words were harsh -- they were not. They were exactly the kind of truth that I needed to hear -- that I needed to fully understand why my photos and my presence were not a part of the campaign.
This played out when my (white) partner and I went to the capital after the marriage amendment passed. I jokingly said, "lets go down to the capital, so I can get on TV." We stood in the back of the crowd, watching white folks give the "rah-rah" speech, while a few people of color stood on the stage but never spoke. They were simply there as tokens.
A reported came up to us and asked to interview my partner. Knowing I wanted to "be on TV" she said, "my partner has some good things to say -- interview her." So I got interviewed, and essentially said "This is great news for Minnesota, but we've got a lot of work still ahead of us to make sure that all people in the community can thrive." From what I remember, I didn't mention specifics or get into details, because I knew if I said Black Lives Matter or Trans Lives Matter, I would not make the cut. I kept it middle of the road and hopeful.
I told my boss that I was going to be on the news, and might as well had popcorn as I excitedly watched for my moment to shine. Well, I didn't shine, because my part had been cut from the reel. My articulate, middle of the road, optimistic 30 second interview had been completely cut out. I went to the news stations website, to see if there was an alternative version. There wasn't.
I was literally cut out of the narrative, which is what happens to POCs and trans folks in the "community" all the time.
Does this mean POC and trans folks don't matter? Yes, and no.
Yes of course we matter -- we are human beings, just like you who is reading this. But no, we don't matter when you look at campaigns like marriage equality or just about anything the HRC (Human Rights Campaign) does. We don't matter in pride festivals or news stories.
Don't believe me? Think about how many folks in your life were involved with the marriage amendment/equality. Now think about how many of those folks are still actively fighting for trans rights, queer youth, and queer folks of color. Not nearly as many -- and especially not at the rate that they were fighting for marriage equality.
While it's not necessarily a competition of which issue matters more, and how many folks are involved or fighting the good fight, it is a matter of humanness and the value that we (people of color) are told we have.
It seems to me that once folks were allowed to marry whomever they wanted, the fight was over. People celebrated a hard fought win, and failed to keep fighting for queer folks, trans folks, and queer/trans folks of color.
Consider this -- There is a reason that Soul Friday, Black Pride, and other pride type events that are specifically FOR BIPOC exist.
In my opinion, it is because folks who are not white/cis-gender/upper-middle class are not welcome in traditional or mainstream pride events.
I'm no history expert, but from what I understand, Pride parades started in remembrance of the stonewall riots -- riots that started after police violently raided and attacked folks at the Stonewall Inn. Queer folks, trans folks, and QTPOC (queer and trans people of color) fought back. It is said that Marsha P. Johnson, an African American Trans Women, threw the first shot glass. Her, Silvia Rivera (another trans women) and countless others fought back in riots that lasted 3 days.
Let me reiterate this -- the pride parade that we know today is a result of a police attack on queer folks/trans folks/people of color.
These are the very same people whose voices and requests for safety are ignored every day, including from within the community that is supposedly inclusive and welcoming to all.
When black people, people of color, and trans people say that they don't want uniformed police in the parade this year, (I believe) it's not because folks are trying to make an already divided community split farther apart. It is because history has shown us that black people, people of color and trans people are not safe or protected around police.
When the pride committee reversed their decision and re-invited uniformed police to lead the parade, it feels like once again, the voices and safety of the queer, trans and POC community are being ignored.
We are already ignored and oppressed by so many other systems and communities, to have this happen (seriously, yet again) in the community that claims to be inclusive/welcoming to all -- is not the least bit surprising.
Rather it reaffirms that while pride originated from folks "like us" it is not (and has not been for a long time) "for us."
**Please note that I do not speak for or on behalf of the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) Queer or Trans community. These are my own feelings, words and experiences. I am a queer, cis-gender person of color who resides in Saint Paul.