As a bisexual, I’m thankful for the battles that have been fought and won by everyone within the LGBTQ community, so that I at least can live the life I want to live, with the people I want to live with. June is Pride Month, and it’s many parades, drink offers, and rainbow regalia have become an annual celebration of the victories that queer people have experienced in their history.
However, after getting educated in several gender theory classes, one of which exclusively focusing on the queer aspects, I have not been able to look at pride month with as much joy as I feel like I could. June has no longer become a month where queer icons can be held up and lauded, and young members of the LGBT can learn about their history and culture. Corporations have taken Pride and reshaped it in their image. Realizing they can now profit off of LGBT imagery they leaned all the way in, including incessant marketing blitzes, polluting everyone’s feed with a rainbow version of their logo, and focus grouped statements on how companies like Bank of America and Lockheed Martin “cultivate a culture of inclusion that encourages their employees to bring their full selves to work every day.”
They have it timed so effectively, beginning at the very second that June starts, then ending their “socially minded marketing” immediately once the month ends. While it pisses off the “vote with you dollar” style conservatives, Coca-Cola having a rainbow in their logo has never made me by more or less of their shit. Who I worry about though is people who legitimately make their decision to buy more Coke cause they are genuinely endeared by the companies decision to go gay for an allotted thirty days.
To those people, gay pride is nothing but an aesthetic. Something a company or brand can use to absolve itself of any of its sins and sell more products. Sure, Gillette’s board of directors is still dominated by men and they exploit the hell out of the pink tax, but they made an advertisement telling men to stop being shitty! Coca-Cola financed death squads in Columbia, but how bad can they really be if they support gay rights? And Amazon, they treat all their warehouse workers equally, everyone leaves those fulfillment centers with physical pain and mental trauma. With these companies sponsoring floats and police marching alongside, the parades stopped being about a celebration of how queer people overcame police brutality, laws that targeted them, and the AIDS crisis. Instead they have become more just about the rainbow marketing campaigns of the very institutions that have held the LGBTQ back.
My friends and I began substituting the term “Pride month” for “gay coke month.”
With the protests over George Floyd and Breonna Taylor spreading into June though, Pride month finally has something that it hasn’t had in a long time: Purpose. Many will know that June is pride month, but an astounding few still know the history of the Stonewall riots with that bar being pride’s crucible. In June of 1969 the LGBTQ community in NYC fought against the police when they attempted to raid the Stonewall Inn, a well known gay bar. A Black Trans Woman, Martha P. Johnson, ignited the flames of revolt and threw the first brick at cops trying to raid the bar. The community rioted in the streets for days for their right to exist without the demonization of the police force. Out of these riots came organizing efforts to create support networks for these communities outside of the police, and a year later the first gay pride marches took place in New York, Los Angelas, and San Francisco. Pride has always been and should always be about how a marginalized community stood up against the brutality of the police and organized for a better future for themselves. “No cops at pride” isn’t just a meme but a reminder of the group who terrorized the community and suppressed gay rights for decades.
COVID-19 and the social distancing that has been implemented in response to it, has created a community without distractions. Before, those apathetic and reactionary could continue to sit back and watch the NHL and NBA playoffs, barely seeing a mention of pride month or the unrest in the black community. At most, they’d see a coke commercial where two lesbian actresses kiss, or a few players with multi-year contracts protest the anthem. To the usually distracted masses, all that’s happening right now could just be filed away as white noise that they could tune out with a smothering of America’s pacifying commercial entertainment. With the distractions finally gone, with the entertainment off, people who used to be neutral parties can no longer just log on to Twitter to check how the Bucks are doing. They’re seeing all this activism, as well as the police’s atrocious response to it, and are feeling obligated to take action.
A lot of them who used to be silent and distracted are finally raising their voices for the sake of justice for black lives, for gay black lives, for black trans lives. This tumultuous period has opened their eyes and they won’t be sleeping any time soon.
While George Orwell had many problems of his own, he accurately described the condition many Americans are coming out of with his description of the proletariat in 1984. He spoke of a population that was, “caring little about anything but home and family, neighbor quarrels, films, football, beer, lottery tickets, and other such bread and circuses.” The novel’s narrator, Winston, laments that the proles are so pacified, not knowing the power that they hold within themselves.
Finally without the distractions that COVID-19 took from everyone, the proles are waking up and rising up.
There’s no better month for all this, than the one we’re living through right now.
If you have the means please consider donating to the Black Trans Protestors Emergency Fund, more information on how and where to donate below.