On Privacy, Pride, And The Right to Be Queer For Ourselves
My fear is that by televising the Pride Parade, mainstream queer culture will continue to center itself on normalizing the queer experience for heterosexual people, who ultimately act as voyeurs to the queer experience.
June is Pride Month — for many, it is a time for celebration and visibility. Hundreds of the neighborhoods and cities that we love and live in embrace the ubiquitous rainbow symbol and it seems that for a moment there’s this feeling of hope that change is and will come for people who identify as LGBTQIA+.
Of course, this isn’t the experience for everyone in our community. In fact, for many of us — particularly for those of us who identify with other marginalized identities such as being people of color, disabled, people of size — we often find ourselves existing on the outskirts even within the celebrations and communities that are supposed to be for us.
It’s a disservice to assume that all queer people experience their sexuality in the same way, and yet, many of our frustrations with mainstream Pride celebrations is the emphasis on a homogenous queer culture.
Pushing to make Pride and queer visibility — or more specifically, visibility for cis, thin, able-bodied and conventionally attractive white/white-passing gay men and lesbians — centered on gaining straight people’s approval, both further marginalizes the rest of the queer community and sends a dangerous message about identity.
We often find ourselves existing on the outskirts even within the celebrations and communities that are supposed to be for us.
This year, it was announced that New York City’s Pride Parade would be televised for the first time. In an effort to bring wide-spread witnessing and viewership on the parade, both the parade and the connected celebrations will be televised for local viewers: “After the 2016 Gay Pride March welcomed two million participants and 35 marching garrisons, it seems that NYC’s LGBTQ community has become too loud to ignore, and now local affiliate station WABC-TV is getting in on the action. The Tri-state area channel will air this year’s march and connected festivities live from noon–3pm on Channel 7, along with a feed streaming on abc7ny.com.”
Televising the Pride Parade isn’t automatically a bad thing. For those in the community who cannot be physically present because of disability, distance, or health can still feel connected through this medium. Just as online communities bring together people during times of need through grassroots organizing and on-the-ground marching or rallies, televising the Parade can bring some closer to a sense of much-needed community.
But despite the push to centralize and somewhat normalize the Pride experience as a staple within queer culture, televising the Pride Parade is ultimately a bad move. For so many, queer identity is not as simple as deciding whether to be “in the closet” or “out”. So many have to navigate the uncertain territory of marrying our queerness and other identities in a way that fits best for us and our survival.
With an increase in hate crimes and targeted violence since the election of 45, it is dangerous for the most visibly marginalized of us to simply be who we are, and this is true within sanctuary cities as well because xenophobia, racism, and gender violence remain a constant threat — just this week, passengers on the Q train were physically assaulted because of homophobia.
So many have to navigate the uncertain territory of marrying our queerness and other identities in a way that fits best for us and our survival.
The queer community isn’t immune to perpetuating these things, but they largely remain unchecked or not talked about with the people who have the privilege to change the current culture of the community to one that centers the needs and concerns of the most marginalized.
Televising the Pride Parade is an exercise of great privilege and that no one thought some of us go to Pride because of the feeling of acceptance through anonymity, is evidence of the lack of intersectional thinking. Coming out is not always safe and televising it is a missed opportunity to show solidarity and support for the most marginalized in the community.
My fear is that by televising the Pride Parade, mainstream queer culture will continue to center itself on normalizing the queer experience for heterosexual people, who ultimately act as voyeurs to the queer experience. Televising it will also continue to focus on the celebration aspect of queer culture without noting the necessary revolution in activism and grassroots organizing that the queer community itself was founded on.
The most important aspect of queer identity is that it exists for us and the right for us to be ourselves, for ourselves – not anyone else. Personal identity and experiences are not marks for debate nor are they subjects to be voyeuristically and objectively gazed at, as if queer people are exhibits in a zoo. Many of us have to fight the cisgender heterosexual gaze and the white gaze simultaneously and we often experience the latter within queer communities as often as within cis-het communities.
The most important aspect of queer identity is that it exists for us and the right for us to be ourselves, for ourselves – not anyone else.
When Pride is not a safe space for us to escape this kind of violence, where exactly can we go from there?
These concerns are varied and none of them exist singularly when exploring why televising the Pride Parade is worrisome for so many of us. In choosing to televise, so many within the community will have to choose our individual safety over the feeling of belonging and being present, continuing the tradition of divide of marginalized voices, even within the LGBTQIA+ world — but of course, many of us know that this is simply business as usual.
Featured Image: Diana Beato, Creative Commons.