Comment: For those who will never blend in, we will always need Pride
It’s Pride time again; and as every year, we reflect over whether the whole dragging-up and dressing-down is still necessary, appropriate, or even just fun anymore.
Topher Gen argues that after 40 years of Prides in the Western hemisphere, we can all stop now and give it a rest: we’re all normal, aren’t we? (I won’t dwell on the absurd claim that “all over the world, the LGBT community is battling for the right to get married”. Perhaps this is a prerogative of LGBT communities in a dozen countries right now; elsewhere, they’re just trying to stop getting arrested or killed.)
Nicolas Chinardet replies by suggesting we focus too much on rainbow feathers: there are many normal-looking dwellers at Prides everywhere—the media are just not giving them enough coverage.
Sorry to disagree with Christopher, but it’s not over yet and I’m not sure it will ever be. The politics of difference, power and oppression are here to stay: being white, heterosexual, able, middle-class, Christian and masculine is still the cultural golden standard, and anyone deviating from this script is still often ostracised or attacked. Look around you: women, disabled people, Muslims, black people… there’s 10 bullies for every one of them. Can’t they just stop being so different, as you suggest? Can’t they be this white, able, middle-class Christian normal guy?
Now I, for one, was hardly ever taunted because of my sexual orientation. I pass, as we say: I’m assumed to be heterosexual until I come out. I’ve successfully slipped through the cracks of homophobia by displaying an acceptable version of masculinity. It’s not a choice, it’s just who I am: my upbringing, my body, my personality.
But what about those who don’t pass? What about an effeminate friend, that butch girl in the other class, or the trans sex worker beaten up by her clients? That’s the trouble: they can’t pass, they can’t pretend or ‘blend in’. Because they’re left exposed to insults, abuse and violence all year round, we need a day for them and their friends to be out and proud. We need Pride to be a gigantic middle finger in the face of societies that punish difference and encourage blending in. I’m proud to march together with the trannies, the butch and the freakish. And I won’t justify my presence at Pride by pointing at ‘normal’-looking marchers as Nicolas does, explaining that we’re not all that queer after all.
Christopher goes as far as suggesting that Pride itself leads to high numbers of depression and suicide attempts among LGBT teenagers. Textbook case of approving with one’s oppressors: surely if Prides portray LGBT people as abnormally effeminate or too butch, and kids at school suffer bullying for these very reasons, we should stop the looking-crazy thing and look as heterosexually normal as possible.
I’ve got another idea: we’ll keep being as freakishly abnormal as we wish; we’ll keep telling kids it’s okay to be whoever they are, regardless of how they look; and we’ll keep kissing in front of angry, Bible-bashing bigots however many times a year we please. And we’ll make it a point to show that after 40 years of Prides, we’re not proud only on one day each year. We’re damn proud to be the queers, the trannies, the butch, the femmes, the leather daddies, the itching powder of normalcy, the middle finger of sexuality all year long: at school, around the coffee machine at work, on the street and in our families. We’ll keep chipping away at the granite block of Normal, the same block used to crush lives, identities and personhoods. The smaller it becomes, the less depression and fewer suicides there will be—for queer teenagers and everyone else.
That massive boulder crushing us, the oppression we face, is powerful and universal. And it’s here to stay: are women equal after over 200 years of reflection over their rights? Are black people and those of colour treated the same yet? And so it will be for us queers: we’ll always be expected to apologise for our identities. And if readers disagree, if just one thinks we’ve got it sorted now in the UK, in Europe and in the West, I’ll still be marching out of solidarity with our sisters and brothers in Turkey, Indonesia, Uganda and Iran.
Pride is a day for us to be freaks, sissies, tomboys, bears and trannies. To be whoever we are or want to be. And to be proud of it.