Dear White, Pride™ Queers
14 August 2019
Dear White, Pride™ Queers,
Pride™ events are always a very triggering time for people who do not fit into the mould of cisgender, homonormative, white and able-bodied queerness.
Pride™ events are always a very triggering time for people who do not fit into the mould of cisgender, homonormative, white and able-bodied queerness. The mould that plays an integral role in performatively legitimising a city’s reputation as ‘gay friendly’, whilst the rest of us are forced to navigate racist police, tokenistic promotors and inaccessible venues in the endeavours to create actual safer spaces for our marginalised communities to feel comfortable in. Pride™ events do nothing to really protect us on the streets, to pay our medical bills, to stand in solidarity with our siblings who are incarcerated, detained, institutionalised, deported, criminalised and othered in a way that, whilst producing some of the most inspiring and subversive work, are still frequently erased and underpaid.
This protracted marginality invokes us to create our own environments and build our own networks that tackle our existential invisibility, resisting against the harassment and erasure that we experience on a daily basis. But, whilst we fight to create these spaces and places for our communities, we still have to navigate tense confrontations pertaining to identity politics with the wider, whiter and more structurally privileged folks around us. Take door policies for an example; whilst I was hosting a discussion in May this year on intersectionality in queer club spaces, a very interesting point was brought forward by GodXXX Noirphiles—house mother of QTIBIPOC collective House of Living Colors (who are due to have their 2-year anniversary event this Saturday in Berlin)—concerning the complexities of entering and performing in clubs as a non-white, non-cis collective.
Whilst our white and cisgender counterparts may breathe a (justified) sigh of relief as they step off the U-Bahn not having been attacked or mocked on their way to the club, queer and trans* people of colour are unable to release that tension due to the impending interactions that we know we’ll still have to endure once we get to the entrance: how will the bouncers handle me as I enter this space? Will the person on the door question my queerness? Will I be reduced to the same old problematic stereotypes about my race? (If you are having a hard time understanding how these probabilities intersect, you may need more non-white non-cis individuals in your friendship circle).
The point is that these problems are ever-present, rarely receding with the yearly advent of Pride™ events. In fact, in most cases ‘Pride™ events’ merely exacerbate the tension and isolation that we feel as queer and trans* people of colour within the wider LGBTQIA+ community. So now that the seasonal celebrations have yet again come to an end, as the corporations and nations lay dormant for another year before they recommence their agendas of pinkwashing and homonationalism, here is what we need white accomplices and allies to remember:
Don’t let the spirit of radical community and of radicality die down – the fight for equality and intersectionality is not one that can yet be memorialised, celebrated, or restricted to just a single day or month of the year. Going to commercial Pride events—those that are state and corporate funded—does not make you an ally to the trans* community, the LGBTQIA+ communities of colour, the disabled communities, displaced communities and other marginalised and disenfranchised folk. Instead, you should embody a political spirit into your queerness all year round and support collectives and actions that consistently fight against the co-option of identity through radical self-representation; be that in the form of performance houses, music collectives, individual speakers/advocates, independent artists and so on.
Respect safer spaces that are designed for queer and trans* people of colour – entering into these spaces and consuming the rhetoric does not relinquish you of your structural privilege and your inherent complicity in perpetuating white supremacy. Putting your coins into the donation pot on the way into the party is not enough. Posting on Instagram about how much you were inspired by the performance is not enough. Those same black and brown performers you watch on stage are the same ones who end up in hospital or evicted from their homes due to the bigoted actions of people who don’t even bat an eyelid when they walk past your normalised body. Talk to your racist grandmother and help break the template of queerness only being palatable when it is embodied by people who look like you.
Spend time and energy on calling-out your friends and their collectives in your surrounding scenes that commodify intersectionality and use it as a form of social leverage. Equally, don’t expect to be validated or congratulated on doing this by queer and trans* people of colour— we don’t owe you gratuity for doing the work that you should already be doing.
Offer financial support – we already have our communities, we don’t need your voices. What we need is the coins that can help us pay fees for venues and promoters that gatekeep spaces and limit our physical freedom and accessibility. We need funds to finance the taxis we need to get home from the venue in question. Funds that can pay our rent. Funds that can help us develop some form of stability and consistency with our material needs. We don’t need you to stand on stage with us, we need you to provide that stage with your own money in the first place.
I’m sure there are many more points that could be added to this list by other queer and trans* people of colour, so most importantly I ask you to listen to the plethora of differing experiences that we all have. We are not all the same, the experiences that members of our community go through can deviate just as widely as they can intersect. So, always give time to listen and learn, and never assume that we’re all going through the same struggles.