Rev Irene Monroe

A Pride Event Not to Be Proud of

Filed By Rev Irene Monroe | June 16, 2010 11:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement
Tags: African-American, black, june, lesbian, LGBT, pride, pride month

Pride parades will take place all over the country this month. black-pride.jpgAs we all rev up for this year's festivities, so, too, the fault lines of race, gender identity, and class will emerge. In addition to Gay Pride events, there will be a segment of our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) population attending Black Gay Pride and Latino Gay Pride events.

Pride is about the varied expressions of the life, gifts, and talents of the entire (LGBTQ) community. But the divisions in our community during Pride Month also show us something troubling and broken within ourselves.

So, as we hit the streets all month going to various celebrations, let's ask who's missing from these Pride festivities and why?

For example, Black Pride dances to a different beat.

Sunday gospel brunches, Saturday night poetry slams, Friday evening fashion shows, bid whist tournaments, house parties, the smells of soul food and Caribbean cuisines, and the beautiful display of African art and clothing -- those are just a few of the cultural markers that make Black Pride distinctly different.

Cultural acceptance was just one of a few things LGBTQs of African descent did not experience from larger Pride events. In these predominately white events, many African American LGBTQ revelers experienced social exclusion and political invisibility. From decades of Pride events where many LGBTQ people of African decent tried to be included and weren't, Black Gay Pride was born.

Even as the larger LGBTQ community has begun to touch the fringes of mainstream society in the four decades since Stonewall, communities of color -- straight and gay -- have not come close. Quite the reverse. For example, the HIV/AIDs health issue that was once an entire LGBTQ community problem is now predominately a black and Latino one.

Another example: the white LGBTQ ghettos have developed and thrived safely in neighborhoods throughout the country. But with the income disparity between black and white LGBTQ communities, most LGBTQ people of African descent live in their black neighborhoods. And with homophobia such as it is in the black community, we cannot carve out a black queer ghetto within our existing neighborhoods and realistically expect to be safe.

The themes and focus of Black Pride events are different from the larger Pride events. Black Pride focuses on issues not solely pertaining to its LGBTQ population but rather on social, economic, and health issues impacting the entire black community. For example, where the primary focus and themes in white Prides has been on marriage equality, Black Pride events have had to focus as well on HIV/AIDS, unemployment, gang violence, and LGBTQ youth homelessness, to name a few.

But many Black and Latino LGBTQs argue that the gulf between whites and themselves is also about how the dominant queer community rewrote and continues to control the history of Stonewall. The Stonewall Riot of June 27-29, 1969, in Greenwich Village started on the backs of working-class African-American and Latino queers who patronized that bar. Those brown and black LGBTQ people are not only absent from the photos of that night, but are also bleached from its written history.

Because of the bleaching of the Stonewall Riots, the beginnings of LGBTQ movement post-Stonewall is an appropriation of a black, brown, trans and queer liberation narrative. And it is the deliberate visible absence of these African American, Latino and API LGBTQ people that makes it harder, if not near impossible for LGBTQ communities to build trusted coalitions with white LGBTQ communities.

Views on Pride are mixed -- and not just along lines of race, class, and gender identity. For many, Pride represents a bone of contention. Once many thought the celebration was too political and had lost its vision of what it means for people to just have a good time. But others now think of it as a weekend bacchanalia of drugs, alcohol, and unprotected sex, desecrating the memorial of the Stonewall Riots and the chance to make a political statement.

Pride needs not be viewed as either a political statement or a senseless non-stop orgy. Such an either/or approach artificially divides the integral connection between political action and celebratory acts in our fight for our civil rights.

At its core, Pride events are an invitation for community.

They should highlight the multicultural aspect of joy and celebration that symbolizes not only our uniqueness as individuals and communities, but also affirms our varied expressions of LGBTQ life in America.

But as long as LGBTQ communities and cultures of color continue to be absent each June, Pride month is an event to not be proud of.

Leave a comment

We want to know your opinion on this issue! While arguing about an opinion or idea is encouraged, personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please be respectful of others.

The editorial team will delete a comment that is off-topic, abusive, exceptionally incoherent, includes a slur or is soliciting and/or advertising. Repeated violations of the policy will result in revocation of your user account. Please keep in mind that this is our online home; ill-mannered house guests will be shown the door.

Wilson46201 | June 16, 2010 11:42 AM

1. "Stonewall was a riot, not a trade-show!"

2. I marched in the first Gay Pride Parade in Chicago in 1970 and have stayed an activist ever since. I too have been dismayed at the white-predominance in gay organizations and events.

3. Black political leadership has long been supportive and friendly to LGBT equality in far greater proportion than white politicos.

4. Here in Indianapolis I noticed this year a much greater racial diversity at our Gay Pride Festival.

Thank you for writing this piece... it can't be said enough. I have a hard time watching Pride parades while seeing the tokenism displayed towards certain communities (POC, the poor and trans people), blatant commercialism and controlled messages. Liberation... you wouldn't know it from the Pride parades I've seen.

I totally agree Gina. These days it seems that when I do make it to a Pride event, there's little if anything there that's specifically intended to appeal to anyone other than non-trans gay men and lesbians. Sure, there are some things that have a generic, universal appeal, but rarely anything that's intended to speak to any specific group other than the Big Two.

I guess that's why I rarely make it out to these things anymore. I always go home wondering if it was really worth the trip.

Bisexual (Brenda Howard, et. al.) and Transgender (Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson, et. al.) people have also found themselves written out of the history of the modern LGBT Movement.

The participants that night in the actual Stonewall Riots more closely resembled the people and culture chronicled in the documentary "Paris Is Burning" than proto members of "Gay, Inc". And as documented in numerous articles such as "Picking Apart The Origin of Pride" in Queerty, "Though thousands of activists participated in those first proper prides, one person more than any other deserves special recognition. And, surprisingly, it isn't a gay man or a lesbian. It's a bisexual named Brenda Howard . . . It's her efforts that helped gay activists lay the foundation for weeklong celebrations of gay pride leading up to the climactic Gay Pride Parade."

Facts that the would be members of the 'Gay Purity' movement should try very hard to remember whenever they are tempted to loudly insist that the "B" and the "T" should remove themselves from THEIR movement. Those who do not know history make damn fools of themselves.

Well, y'know, funny thing, history. For example, this from Wikipedia:

"The first formal appearance of the Dykes on Bikes was in 1976 at San Francisco's Pride parade"

Not true. The first formal, named appearance was in NYC in 1973. I was serving on the organizing committee for the Pride Parade that year and can still vividly remember the raucous meeting in which the order of contingents was to be determined. We wanted to keep it very simple: every contingent was given a number, and numbers were then to be drawn out of an honest-to-God hat... a baseball cap, as a matter of fact. Everyone agreed to this...

— except a group calling itself Dykes on Bikes. They *insisted* they go first. There was no discussion about, as Wikipedia says, "the inability of motorcycles to run at walking speeds". They werent even the only cycle group in the parade that year: two men's cycle clubs were part of the list as well. Nevertheless, they *demanded* they go first and threatened that if they didnt, they would take every women's group with them out the door... and the organizing committee caved, which resulted in a serious crisis, because the rest of the groups were (justifiably, to my mind) furious about this. For the better part of an hour, it looked like we might not have a parade after all... all because one group decided it was entitled to skip to the head of the line.

Nowadays, it's not very fashionable to point out this rather disturbing piece of gay pride parade history: folks dont like to be reminded that we're not as politically pure as we'd like to think ourselves to be. And my point is that it cuts all across the board: no one is an innocent victim in this. Some groups have chosen, for whatever reason, not to be part of the process and then loudly complain when others take them at their word and move on without them. I've worked on parades in three major cities and have seen it happen virtually every time. Folks complain that organizing committees arent diverse enough — and yet when the call was put out there for volunteers to work on these same committees, no one from the disaffected groups had stepped up. So tell me: how are we to have this rich diversity if no one's there to provide it? Trust me: you can only ask so many times before you realize that "no" is the only answer you're gonna get.

Now, if anyone can stomach it, a little more distant history, provided by one who was there. In the post, the author writes:

"The Stonewall Riot of June 27-29, 1969, in Greenwich Village started on the backs of working-class African-American and Latino queers who patronized that bar."

True, but only to a degree. In 1969, *every* gay bar in the Village was being attacked by the police, part of mayorily-blessed campaign to "clean up that part of town". Most bars — including the Stonewall — were owned by the Mafia, and protection money to the cops was a regular occurance. To go to any of these places, whether it was the Stonewall or Julius' or Marie's Crisis (so named because the owner's mother's name was Marie) was incredibly brave, because the police would simply stroll in, arrest everyone as part of a shakedown, and leave you with an arrest record for no other reason than just being in a gay bar. I mean, folks, we're talking about a time when NYC had a law on the books that said you had to wear "three pieces of clothing appropriate to your gender": if you didnt, the cops could arrest you on "disorderly" charges. NYC also had a law that stated gay bars specifically were forbidden to sell alcohol, because the town fathers feared some drunken queer would run amok raping any man he saw. The bars used the most creative means possible of getting around this: one gave you the beer but "rented" you the glass it was in. We're talking about a period of time in which common sense was in very short supply.

I wont go into the details of what happened at the riots, save to say that none of the standing histories are complete: all of them are agenda-biased in one way or another. There were so many, many factors involved in what made events erupt that night, everything from the miserable heat to, as frivolous as it sounds to most of you, the death of Judy Garland a couple of days before. Gays and lesbians living in the Village looked at the anti-war demonstrations in Califoria and the civil rights marches in the South and wondered why we couldnt do the same thing for ourselves. And Stonewall, this sad little drag bar which was more like a lost puppy on Christopher Street, just somehow crytalized what was *wrong* about everything: the pathetic bars we had to go to because there was no real choice, the arrogance of the bar owners and the police, the simmering and very angry feeling that there had to be more.

As for the charge of photos being "bleached"... well, hate to break it to you, but the Village in the late 60s was overwhelmingly caucasian. I'm not sure how you can have a racially diverse riot if there's not much racial diversity to begin with, but I'll leave that to my betters to figure out. Nevertheless, most of the people on the street that night were, as was the case almost any night, mostly white, mostly male, mostly young. There was one lesbian bar, near the corner of Macdougall and Seventh. And all of these places segregated themselves from each other: few whites went to the Stonewall because, to be blunt, whites were not welcome at the Stonewall. It was never directly stated, of course, but it was accepted as just the way things were.

My point in all of this is that it's just not a good idea for anyone to take a hardline, simplistic view of things, whether it's our community or the nature of Pride Parades or even gay lib history itself. Our story is far more complex than that. Yes, these days, it seems like Pride is, as one of my friends puts it, "all about guys in jockstraps getting drunk". Well, y'know, I can live with that. Pride is a party, a one-day celebration of who and what we are, a momentary relief from the nonstop battles to exhault everything we've accomplished since 1969. Either you come along and dance or you dont.

There was one lesbian bar, near the corner of Macdougall and Seventh.

I believe that was the dear venerable "Duchess". So many handsome women, so many happy hot summer nights! As you too may remember, it wasn't all "oh woe is me", there was a lot of happiness, good friends and great fun there too.

I mean if there wasn't such joy to be grabbed and held on to with both hands, no matter what, no one would have bothered (and still continue to bother) with launching a revolution would they.

It was indeed, and it was, by accident, my very first gay bar experience. LOL

No it wasnt all "woe is me", but at the same time, it damn sure wasnt what we have now. It was all we had, simply because many of us didnt know better — or else we did, but we couldnt figure out how to get past this. It was such an utterly different mindset, and when I look back on it, I cant help sometimes but roll my eyes at how stupid we were.

Why are you lumping blacks and Hispanics together, as if their PRIDE events were much closer than a Hispanic or black PRIDE is to white PRIDE?

I can certainly support your claim that we feel alienated culturally by Anglo culture, but then again as a Hispanic I've felt utterly alien to black PRIDE as well, let alone "Latino" (read: Mexican-- who fucking cares about other nationalities and ethnicities!) PRIDE.

What would a white Hispanic of Mediterranean roots share with the anglo whites or the issues of black/indigenous Hispanics and African Americans?

It's foolish to pile minorities under one roof as if they didn't have relationship conflicts themselves. See how Haitians are treated by the African American population as a whole, or how little in common Mexicans have with Cubans, and both to Argentinians.

I doubt we'll ever be able to accommodate any minority within a majority's event. These events are democratic by nature, which means minorities always get screwed as the groups with the most numbers dictate the atmosphere of the event.

Reverend Itene:
In my opinion the issue you raise about the non-inclusiveness of the Pride Parades is just a tiny part of a much larger issue. The parade takes place on one day but there are other factors at work during the other 364 days.
I am part of the T community, and I have been able to go to three of the conferences for the T community that are held annually in this country.
At the smallest of the conferences I saw no person of color. At the conference of about 500 people, I saw three or four. At the largest of them attended by about 800 people, it was apparent that people of color felt very comfortable in attending.
But what I don't know, and I'm asking you and others is how much this is due to the actions of the conference, and how much is due to personal choices of persons of color not to attend?
I am part of a group populated by mainly African Americans and Latinas, and I have heard heart-wrenching stories from gender variant persons about how difficult it was to transition because of fear of rejection from their families. It seems that family bonds are so strong in those communities that it is very difficult to be open and proud. So many in those communities choose not to participate in Pride events. This may be an overly simplistic observation, but I'd love to hear your opinions and those of other readers of Bilerico. Thank you.

The Louisville Pride Parade is tomorrow night. I will not be in attendance. The past two years I walked the parade route with my church - which is "wildly inclusive." My decision to not attend is linked to my efforts to melt into the general populace as a woman. Yes, I am a transgender woman. Though I've increasingly dropped the transgender adjective.

Being "out and proud" is not where I'm going these days. I want to be accepted into society as a woman - not an LGBT person.

Best wishes for a wonderful day and Pride Saturday Louisville!

Gillian: Hi!
I don't recall the ability to respond directly to another comment on Bilerico, and I think it is a great feature.

My wife, Crystal, and I discuss an issue you raise here often:

Being "out and proud" is not where I'm going these days. I want to be accepted into society as a woman - not an LGBT person.

I fully understand where you are coming from when you make the above statement. I was one of the first, if not the first, person to transition while employed for Uncle Sam. I transitioned in 1973. While employed I felt as though I had to keep my mouth shut or I would become a distraction, and that would be grounds for dismissal. I blended into the woodwork, and went about my job until I retired in 1993.

What made me an activist was the murder of a very dear young transwoman who was killed with a shotgun in her apartment when she was only 22.
Angie Zapata lived up the road from Denver, and I went to her funeral, her memorial service, and the trial of Allen Andrade.

While I do pass fairly successfully, I feel as though I can no longer remain silent when I see all the violence being done to people for no other reason than that they are trans. And, I believe that a person who's fired from a job because she is trans is also an act of violence.

I am not saying that your going stealth is wrong. I think that everyone should be able to make that very personal decision for themselves, but I would submit that it is becoming increasingly difficult to go completely stealth in the age of the internet. Part of that decision making process is where the person lives and whether or not there is supportive legislation on the books. Colorado has some of the strongest laws in the country.

Would you have any opinion on this comment or the one I posted above?

Shari M. in Denver

Hi Shari,

Wish we could connect off group.

Anyway in regard to your comments. I'm not really sure I'm what one would call living in stealth. I am trying to take the advice of a former therapist - herself post-op transgender. Her recommendation was now that I am on the other side, I should drop the transgender and fully accept life as a woman. For the past couple years that is what I've struggled to do. I've separated myself from the Louisville transgender group. Yes, I know that living in true stealth is almost impossible these days.

I am well aware of the Angie Zapata story and offered prayers for her at my church. It deeply saddens my that woman are being abused because of who they are.

I think off and on of moving to another state. One where I have no history. Kentucky does not have a state-wide Fairness law. There are some cities that do have Fairness Ordaninces - Louisville is one.

At this point in my life I'm not interested in being "out and proud." I am interested in trying to live and develop a life as a woman.