LGBTQIA+ History Coronavirus The World

50 years later, the legacy of Pride lives on

The New York City Pride parade has been cancelled for the first time since its origin 50 years ago. In-person events that were scheduled to take place June 14-28, 2020 are in the process of being reimagined virtually as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Pride is a staple in New York City, as it has been since the Stonewall Riots prompted a revolution in June of 1969. The fight for gay-rights as we know it was born and catalyzed here. America in the 1960’s, and in the decades that came before it, was not at all welcoming for those in LGBTQIA+ community. In New York, any inclination of sexual activity between people of the same sex in public was considered illegal. That is, hand holding, kissing, or even dancing. This antiquated and ridiculous law was not overturned until 1980 when the People v. Ronald Onofre case was decided. 

These times were also riddled with discrimination and a series of raids among other forms of abuse on prominent gay bars and clubs in Greenwich village. Such spaces were some of the only places where members of the community could seek refuge and were finally able to express themselves openly without worry. Nonetheless, police brutality on the basis of sexual orientation and just plain bigotry was awfully common during these raids.  

On the night of June 28, 1969 obvious tensions arose between the two groups, and the patrons bravely decided to fight back against the police at the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar that was one of the few of its kind that opened its doors to drag queens. Notably, the first bottle of the uprising, which lasted six whole days, was thrown by a Black transgender woman, Marsha P. Johnson. The protesters were met time and time again with tear-gas and physical altercations with the police, but they persisted. Those in the street are said to have been singing slogans similar to the ones that we hear today like “gay power” and “we shall overcome.” 

It would be an injustice to ignore the contributions of the Black community to this iconic moment that started a resistance.

This moment sparked the beginning of a modern resistance that is beautifully laced with love and versatility. 

It would be an injustice, however, to ignore the coincidences of this past that align with the current civil rights demonstrations happening across the world, declaring defiantly that Black lives matter. Both movements continue to feature a spotlight on recognizing basic human rights while also condemning police practices that terrorize the communities they are meant “to serve and protect.” So much of American history is patterned with this same struggle, consistency, and perseverance. Not to mention that it was, in fact, Black women who spearheaded this revolution 51 years ago, and 51 years later Black women are again at the forefront of a movement seeking to eradicate systemic inequality. We must not let this go unnoticed.

The year after what has come to be known as the Stonewall riots, June of 1970, marked the first ever Pride parade in New York City. Though it took a long time to come, the LGBTQIA+ community has certainly overcome much of the hate and marginalization that has been thrown its way. But, they’re still fighting. To this day, new non-discrimination protections are being fought for and passed all because of their constant effort and strength. 

Since then, New York City and its Pride parade has been a proven safe-haven for vulnerable and battered communities alike. It is a time for people to come together and celebrate themselves as phoenixes who have risen way above the ashes while also acknowledging the slashed history that they are eternally attached to. 

Just last year, New York City hosted world WorldPride and some 2 million people were in attendance. This in and of itself is a testament to the impact that the revolution has had, and continues to have, all over the world. Such ever-clear and unrelenting perseverance is nothing less of an inspiration. 

Today, as the coronavirus runs its raging course throughout the United States, New York City has been noticeably hit the hardest. With nearly 212,000 confirmed cases and over 20,000 deaths thus far in the City alone, New Yorkers are being urged to remain full of the hope and drive that makes us so thick-skinned in the first place. But, this is not an easy feat, especially given the turmoil that seems to be slowly encapsulating every bit of our daily lives. Once again, we have set out in a movement that looks to challenge history and change it for good. For the LGBTQIA+ community, that anxiety is heightened tremendously. 

The absence of the iconic Pride parade will certainly have a dramatic financial impact on the people and businesses that have come to rely on it. Not to mention the mental toll that will surely come along without a break from mobilizing, resource, or strategy efforts concerning the ongoing, and seemingly never-ending, fight for equal rights. It is certainly an all-hands-on-deck sort of thing. This fight is fought every single day, with the smallest actions sometimes making the most noise, and none of it should go unnoticed. 

The contributions that the LGBTQIA+ community has made to both the City and to the greater struggle for equality are undeniable. So, the decision to cancel Pride this year was not easy. But, it was definitely necessary. However, just because the pandemic prevents us from physically coming together this year, it does not mean that the spirit of Pride in New York City won’t be felt just the same.

An online Global Pride will be broadcasted for 24-hours straight on June 27, starting in the east and moving west. Each local or participating pride chapter is hoped to have an allotment of 15-minutes of airtime each, depending on individual time zones, for performances and speeches by grand marshals. This is a community that has always come together in the face of adversity and this year is no different. My wish is for this to be yet another example of the LGBTQIA+ communities resilience that should be honored and remembered, especially in a context of human rights.

Editor's Picks LGBTQIA+ Music Pop Culture

We have to stop making straight celebrities our gay icons

Every year I attend Pride, a place for so many of us to feel safe and loved and free to be whoever we want to be. It is a time for celebration, for joy and love. It is a time to cheer at how far we’ve come, and often to protest what is still denied to us.

Music plays a big part in Pride, and I am still appalled at the kind of music that I hear every time.

I can only speak for the parades that I have attended of course, but I am sad and angry that I rarely or never hear a song by an artist that is actually LGBTQ+.

Why are we so quick at clapping at straight allies who do the bare minimum?

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t me saying, “Pride is a gays-only party!” That’s not at all what I’m saying. The point of my indignation is that while we’re out there celebrating ourselves, we may as well be dancing and singing along to artists who put themselves out there and write about the same struggles.

A poster encouraging to vote for Ariana Grande as the best straight ally
[Image description: A poster encouraging to vote for Ariana Grande for Celebrity Straight Ally] Via British LGBT Awards
There is this tendency to hail some straight artists as gay icons, probably because they’re campy. Salon Magazine’s explanation for this phenomenon was that “Drag queens imitate women like Judy Garland, Dolly Parton, and Cher because they overcame insult and hardship on their path to success and because their narratives mirror the pain that many gay men suffer on their way out of the closet.”

According to this logic, any artist with a sad story can be a gay icon.

The only queer singer that I’ve heard at a Pride recently is Lady Gaga, but the DJ wasn’t even aware that she identifies as bisexual. He admitted he just thought of her as a gay icon, “like Madonna and Beyoncè and Barbra Streisand.”

This was said to me by a gay man who works in an organization for the promotion of LGBTQ+ rights.

Similarly, the internet hails Ariana Grande as the gay icon of her generation. I love Ari, and I adore her voice, but she’s been known to purposely perform ambiguity (also when it comes to race and ethnicity) to create mystery and speculate on her identity. Essentially, she likes to queerbait (BUWYGIB music video, anyone?).

If we’re choosing contemporary straight allies to represent us, I’d rather hear from somebody like Alessia Cara, who doesn’t speculate on her sexuality, but sings of naturally being one’s true self while often wearing what traditionally is considered male clothing because she’s never cared for the norm.

According to this logic, any artist with a sad story can be a gay icon.

Again, everyone is welcome and free to march to whatever songs they wish to at Pride. It would just be nice if it was a celebration of the people who are actually providing some representation. I would love to hear some Janelle Monàe, Hayley Kiyoko, Troye Sivan, and Halsey, especially their songs narrating the struggles and joys of being queer.

And there are hundreds, thousands of lesser-known queer artists who are not mainstream and deserve to be heard. What better place than Pride to introduce them to a wide audience? What better place to promote unknown gay talent?

This is not a rant as much as it is a suggestion and plea from somebody who is sick and tired of still hearing Katy Perry’s incredibly biphobic “I Kissed A Girl” at Pride in 2019.

We can do better.

In more recent years, there have been so many other mainstream songs where a female singer will talk about having “illicit” feelings for another girl that are not “bisexual anthems” but only harmful to the community. (A couple of names that come to mind are Rita Ora and Demi Lovato.)

Taylor Swift’s new single “You Need To Calm Down” clearly wishes to be the gay anthem of the year, and you can tell that her heart is in it. The video truly is a triumph of self-expression that celebrates everyone’s individuality in different shapes and colors.

With a petition to support the Equality Act and an Instagram feed full of rainbows everywhere, Taylor is gracefully presenting herself as a saving hero to the LGBTQ+ community this year. She’s probably ensuring she’ll win the Vanguard Award 2020, which is a prize GLAAD presents to a cis straight member of the entertainment community who has made a significant difference in promoting equal rights for LGBTQ+ people.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m grateful to all these famous people for supporting the LGBTQ+ community. I appreciate that they go out of their way to call out homophobes and to support their queer colleagues and fans.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t me saying, “Pride is a gays-only party!”

Regardless of whether it’s just a pandering marketing move to gain access to the gay community and widen their fanbase, I’m sure their words and gestures mean so much to so many people, and I see with my own eyes that they do influence many for the better and accelerate acceptance.

They’re not the problem. They’re doing their duty as decent human beings.

It’s just that, I would like for a gay icon to actually… you know, be gay.

Why are we so quick at clapping at straight allies who do the bare minimum but we’re so slow at accepting fellow queers and promoting them for their talent? The older generation might not have had (openly) queer artists to turn to, but we do.

It is time we started to lift them up.

Politics The World

If you thought the ISIS-dildo thing was funny, think again

Last weekend, CNN reported that an ISIS flag was spotted among the crowd at London Pride. The anchor described the sighting of the flag and the subsequent lack of alarm as “concerning.” The network even had its terrorism expert chime in.

But the flag was not a black flag with white Arabic script, promising terror and havoc.

It was a flag decorated with images of dildos and butt plugs.

The creator of the “ISIS Dildo” flag, Paul Coombs wrote a piece in the Guardian on Tuesday, criticizing CNN not only for their inability to recognize that it was not an ISIS flag flying in the crowd at pride, but also taking away from the original point of his creation. “It was important that I didn’t try to replicate the writing on the flag, because the words and their subject – Islam – are not the target,” Coombs explained. Instead his aim, he said, was to show “as little respect to this flag as Isis shows to the religion and people they claim to represent so that when people saw it they would think, ‘dildos.’”

Coombs went on. “The Pride festival is a pure celebration of the finest aspects of humanity: of tolerance, togetherness, acceptance and liberation, the polar opposite of what Isis stands for.”

Sound familiar? Coombs, whether he realizes it or not, is regurgitating that “us versus them” mentality that has become inherent in our vernacular when discussing the Middle East. While his goal may have been not to replicate the writing on the flag, he did have a CNN newsroom fooled.

So why would CNN run with this ridiculous claim of an ISIS flag at London Pride? After mulling over the absurdity of the initial report, and another spectacular mistake by CNN, I’m struck once again by serious concern over the media’s fear-mongering. A few months ago, a school in Colorado made national headlines after the pledge of allegiance was conducted in Arabic as a part of a week long celebration of diversity. Many parents were angered, in part because they had lost loved ones in Afghanistan. (By the way, Pashto is the most spoken language in Afghanistan). CNN was on top of the frenzy that ensued when national news picked the story up.

It’s hard to believe that a whole newsroom at CNN is naive enough to not know what a dildo or a butt plug look like. So does CNN think Arabic script is just a bunch of misshaped lines and squiggles that perpetrate terrorism?

Time and time again, the media has incorrectly appropriated meanings to Arabic words like “jihad,” and have helped foster culture of fear over a language spoken by over 240 million people. The exaggerated tropes about the Middle East and anything the media associates with the region coincide with the larger problem of orientalism.

Whether it’s the characterization of Arab women as severely restricted and oppressed, or the belief that the region lacks a “civilized” culture, the constant barrage of negative stereotyping has led up to this point. A major news network is so wrapped up in the game of fear mongering that they couldn’t tell the difference between Arabic script and dildos.

While it may have provided a good laugh on social media, there is real danger in overlooking the deep-seated orientalism driving the 24-hour news cycle.

LGBTQIA+ Gender & Identity Life

Pride, not profit: How capitalism killed the queer

We all know about Pride culture: dramatic makeup, rainbows, confetti, and…advertisements?

If you parade down the streets of any major LGBTQ+ Pride event, you’ll likely find yourself trapped in the marketing scheme of dozens upon dozens of companies. Now, it’s great that companies are making Pride more acceptable but the unspoken stipulation for their approval is that we provide them with cold hard cash and consumer loyalty. We’ve got companies here like Apple and Nike who exploit workers in developing countries and suddenly want to take a public stance saying that they’re all for basic human rights. Big companies who routinely screw over not only most of the population, but in some cases especially members of the LGBTQ+ community are not welcome in my Pride. Companies that advertise to the overwhelming white, cis, and wealthy face of Pride need not apply.

After all, this is about our Pride and not their potential profit.

A pretty common sight nowadays are beer and alcohol companies having a burgeoning presence at Pride parades, and I hate it. Pride is home to the ever depoliticized neoliberal LGBTQ+ (nowadays more often G & L than anything) movement that calls for parties and marriage equality while silently ignoring members of that acronym that are screaming out for further help and support. I feel it’s deeply reprehensible for companies that care about our communities to further promote extensive alcohol consumption for their own profit. It’s no secret that queer spaces tend to be a bit of a “party scene”, but it should also come as no surprise that our communities are being knocked down by the weight of substance abuse. You shouldn’t have to risk your sobriety to be a part of most queer spaces.

Our current Pride, a Pride without history or radicality, adds to the ever present image of the LGBTQ+ community as washed up partiers. Being queer isn’t leather and glitter, it’s oftentimes a lot more pain than it’s worth. It’s bruises that glitter can’t cover and it’s tears that stain even leather. Pride is looking down at broken skin and seeing the darkest shades in the rainbow, then cleaning the wound dab by dab.

In fact, it makes me even angrier to have to say that I can’t stand police presence at Pride. If the police actually gave a shit about the LGBTQ+ community, they wouldn’t be on the streets murdering trans women. We wouldn’t have so many hashtags for dead, black trans women either. The police as a whole serve to uplift the prison industrial complex, and I don’t need the support of hypocrites to feel prideful about my identity.

In 1969, the Stonewall riots directly lead to the formation of the Pride parade. You know who were the victims of the inciting police raids? Who were at the forefront of riots and marches and protests? Black trans-women. I’m talking people like Marsha P. Johnson, who’s easily one of the most iconic figureheads of the events. I find it laughable that the police want to be a part of our Pride without an apology, and without a change in attitude or policy. I find it deplorable that people like this Maori trans woman who protest police presence get brutalized and demonized.

In the words of Queers Against Injustice, “As queer subjects, we object to the representation of queer identity in terms of consumptive and wealthy citizens.”

I’d love for the support of the mainstream, of the world, but fuck the compliments of hypocrites. Fuck “support” if that support is for cisnormative ideals, white, and wealthy individuals. I want Pride not Profit. I want Pride, not Prisons.