We’re right in the dirty middle of Pride here in Halifax, NS.
Hearts are racing, pulses are beating, our breathe comes heavy, and we’re all about to reach our collective Rainbow Climax.
This will be my fourth year “working” Pride.
I say “working” because that’s what I do during Pride Week – I work it (not werk it).
As an employee of the queerest sex shop in town, and the one & only distributor of all things rainbow, Pride for me means a week of loooong days dealin’ dildos & running workshops.
And for a long time, that is all Pride meant for me. A whole lot of work.
I always kind of felt like it wasn’t really my party.
See, I’m not the gayest girl I know.
I ain’t no hard as fuck femme, nor a babely butch. I don’t call myself gay, queer, bi, trans, or even straight. I’m no bear, no cub, no otter. I’d love to be a leather daddy, but that’ll have to wait for another lifetime. I can’t rightly claim to be a boi, a dyke, a lesbian, or gender queer. I would not say I’m a twink, a fag, a queen, or a king.
I can wiggle my way into jeans that are too tight & shorts that are too short, but I just can’t seem to make any of these labels fit my contours.
Maybe my official colour is just a shitty brown, smooshing together all the colours of the rainbow into some unnameable desire to love and fuck all the sorts of people there are. Is there a colour for sort of straight ? Or a colour for kind of queer? What do you call yourself if your indifferent, in the middle, and just plain easy?
Anyway, being of an undefinable sexual orientation, I’ve always kind of felt like Pride ain’t my Party. I mean, I look straight and I am most often in straight relationships. I have never had to experience any social exclusion or state oppression on account of my appearance, or my gender identity, or my sexual orientation.
So, Pride has been something I work, not werk.
But, I’ve been thinking a lot about it, as I restock rainbow boas and redesign the placement of the rainbow Beanie Babies, and I realized that sometimes I’m a bonehead and that sometimes I am wrong. The kind of person I fuck is actually pretty irrelevant to celebrating Pride. Pride is about a lot of things. It is about celebrating who you fuck, but it’s about so much more than that too. (And bear with me, because I’m about to lay on the camembert.)
Celebrating Pride is about celebrating the right to love. While everyone’s right to love whoever they want should be obvs, it clearly isn’t. Across the United States, the same-sex marriage debate continues (for reals). In Canada, you can marry whoever, but fucking whoever is a bit more problematic. For example, men can love other men, but if they have sex with them, they are banned from donating blood, furthering homophobic ideas about the sexual practices and STI-statuses of gay men. Closer to home, just last summer a hunky pair of gays I know had to deal with homophobic assholery when they showed their love by sharing a kiss out in public. So, evidently the right to love whoever you wanna is still up in the air. Considering this, Pride Week, and it’s unabashed Rainbowed celebrations, are pretty important.
Celebrating Pride is about celebrating the babeliness of whatever hot bod you got. Bodies that are queer, that are trans, that don’t conform to that messy gender binary the world somehow still believes in continue to face systemic oppression on the regs. Bathrooms, forms & bureaucracy of all sorts force us into one category or another, and leave no room for anything else. Even getting around, especially by air transit, isn’t allowed if your body doesn’t fit in with the powers that be. The Identity Screening Regulations applied in airports across Canada indicate that a person can be disallowed from flying if they “do not appear to be of the gender indicated on the identification he or she presents.” While the state continues to oppress all gender non-conformers without inhibition, Pride Week is important in that it has the power to bring trans issues to the forefront.
Celebrating Pride is about making the world safer. That the world is still unsafe for all us sexual deviants shouldn’t shock you. But, if it does, I ask you to recall the multiple teen suicides that happened just two years ago across America, as gay teens (or teens who were perceived as gay) ended their lives rather than continue to deal with the pain and violence inflicted upon them by their peers. If it shocks you, then you should know just two weeks ago in Edmonton an openly gay university student was beat up while his attackers issued homophobic slurs. And you should know that in Canada hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation are more common than any other form of hate crime. Pride works against this violence by making LGBTQ communities more ubiquitous, showing that there are in fact strong queer communities in big cities and small towns all across the country.
There are still a lot of qualms I have with Pride. It’s heart-breaking that it has become a corporately sponsored parade which is permitted by the city, rather than a march performed in fierce opposition to those systems in power which exclude queer bodies. The overwhelming presence of government and corporately sponsored floats has turned Pride into something that can be bought – it too often feels like it’s about pink dollars, not politics. Businesses participate in the parade while they continue to show little to no visible support of LGBTQ rights throughout the rest of the year (since when is the Mac Pass gay?). And the purchasing power of big business and government bodies means that Pride is shaped by capitalist interests and values, eliminating it’s ability to critically examine and work against the systemic oppression that continues to marginalize queer voices. As Pride has aged and grown bigger, it has lost it’s political edge, something which isn’t worth celebrating.
Luckily, the Rainbow Season offers up radical alternatives where folks can celebrate themselves without buying into corporate Pride and depoliticized parades. This year in Halifax there is The Dyke and Trans March and Queer Punx Come Out!.
Pride, especially the alternative events such as these, is important, regardless of whatever colour you are on the rainbow, even if that colour is poop brown, even if you are straight, even if you are undefinable. Because Pride is the opposite of shame. It’s about loving something the world tried to teach you wasn’t worth loving, was in fact worth hiding. And celebrating that, that unwillingness to be shamed, should be everyone’s party.