The parade is not about promoting straightness but about promoting traditional notions of white masculinity and the restoration of a white settler ethnostate.
Last week, the city of Boston officially approved a permit for a “Straight Pride Parade,” slated to take place in downtown Boston on Aug. 31. According to the website, the event “will be held to achieve inclusivity and spread awareness of issues impacting straights in Greater Boston and beyond.” The tagline, “Super Happy Fun America,” invites you to “celebrate the diverse history, culture, and contributions of the straight community.”
In fact, as a number of media outlets have already begun to point out, the parade is not about promoting straightness but about promoting traditional notions of white masculinity and the restoration of a white settler ethnostate. We know this from a brief glance at the bios of the organizers—John Hugo, Mark Sahady, and Chris Bartley—who have previously been affiliated with groups and events that promoted and ignited physical violence, such as “Resist Marxism,” a group that has explicitly promoted anti-semitic, misogynist and anti-LGBTQ views, and the “Patriot Prayer Rally” which took place in Portland last year, and ended in physically violent confrontations between Proud Boys and anti-fascist protesters. Last year, Resist Marxism held a similar rally in Boston and was led by Kyle Chapman, who became renowned in alt-right circles for smashing a wooden post over an anti-fascist protester’s head at Berkeley the year prior.
What these rallies have in common is the extent to which they draw on the discourse of “freedom,” “democracy,” “constitutional rights,” and “American values,” with the implication that these values are “under attack” by the left, who are supposedly threatening the existence of white men by advocating for themselves. In the alt-right’s schema, however, white settler hetero-patriarchy is ironically restored by borrowing the left’s vocabulary of inclusivity and rights:
“This parade is a gift to anyone, male or female, black or white—gay and transgender allies, too!—who will stand with us and celebrate the wonder and the majesty of God’s own heterosexuality. Men, bring your most toxic selves. Women, prepare to burn your briefcases! Because it’s great to be straight, and we’re not apologizing for it any more. We’re Here, Not Queer.”
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Hence their selection of Milo Yiannopoulos, a white gay man, as their “pride marshal.” By foregrounding a non-straight person to lead the straight pride parade, the alt-right can continue to foreground their cover of inclusivity—as long as one supports and believes in the restoration of a white settler heteropatriarchal ethnostate, any and all identities are “welcome.”
Those who have been organizing against the alt-right will already know that, for several years now, the slogans of “free speech” and “freedom of expression” have served as powerful umbrella terms to unite various factions of right wing movements. By claiming a minoritarian—and therefore “oppressed” status specifically in institutions or public spaces associated with progressive or radical ideas, those affiliated with the alt-right draw upon the discourse of rights to disavow their true agenda, which is to eliminate the existence of queer, trans, and disabled people, deport undocumented people, and re-create a white settler ethnostate, among other horrors.
Although the “Straight Pride” parade claims to be a merely banal celebration of already socially sanctioned (i.e. heterosexual) relationships, the choice of a gay man to lead the parade reveals what the parade is actually about, lest there was any prior confusion. Milo Yiannopoulous, a former Breitbart journalist who worked closely with Steve Bannon and other right wing figures affiliated or previously affiliated with Trump’s cabinet, rose to fame two years ago when he organized a “Dangerous Faggot” speaking tour across several college campuses in the U.S. The purpose of this tour was to promote the idea of “free speech,” a value that Milo argued was under attack by the suffocating “political correctness” of leftist students.
The contents of the “speech” that he claimed was allegedly being suppressed by leftists, however, was not just horrifyingly racist, transphobic, and misogynist, but frequently contained concrete calls for violence on campus against entire groups of people. At the University of Wisconsin, for example, Milo publicly outed and mocked a trans woman student, after which she received numerous death threats and was unable to return to school. At UC Berkeley, where he was shut down by student organizers, Milo had planned to publicly project the names of undocumented students during his talk at Berkeley, along with the number to report them to ICE.
Using a white settler heteropatriarchal intersectional analytic, however, it is important in this moment to remember how Milo’s continuing connections with white supremacy and fascism echo a longer history of white gay fascism in the United States. Blu Buchanan, a sociology graduate student at UC Davis, is currently drawing out that history in their work, demonstrating how, as far back as the early 1970’s, white gay men were already beginning to leverage “free speech” frameworks to advance their projects of nationalism, whiteness, and masculinity within historically queer spaces in the United States.
For those living in the vicinity of the Boston area, a counter-protest to de-platform what will inevitably pose threats of physical violence against queer and trans people, and especially queer and trans people of color, is currently being organized, which you can plug into here. For those farther away, the work that remains to be done is to demystify the language of the alt-right, as Zoe Samudzi has eloquently written about here. This language seduces by employing a very particular tone—one in which it is impossible to tell whether or not its intention is satirical, and that is precisely the point.
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