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The first Pride march was held the next year and became a symbol of resistance as well as a demand for LGBTQ lives to be recognized as equal. Now, 51 years later, the fight looks a lot different. People are fighting over whether kink and fetish have a place at Pride marches. But that equation has historically turned into an incremental fight over respectability, with LGBTQ people compromising certain aspects of their lives for baseline recognition. up here.
But while fights over kink and the cops at Pride seem disparate, they both center a question about the importance and relevance of Pride and Pride Month celebrations, about who exactly gets to be visible, and how. Is this fighting all for naught? For corporations, celebrating Pride has become as ubiquitous as major holidays. Cities, politicians, banks, media companies, clothing brands, big-box retail shops, and every entity in between celebrates and recognizes Pride Month; many have merchandise or swag to go with it.
At marches and parades with TD Bank floats and Mastercard banners, is kink even out on display? And is something as corporate as Pride itself really about queer politics and queer issues at all? Inthe Advocate reminded us, listicle style, that Pride has always been about sex; inparents debated openly about kink and whether it was suitable for children; and init gay kink written that the debate will never go away. The debate over whether men in chaps should be allowed at Pride goes back to at leastwhen Barack Obama was president.
Though her remarks were not exclusively about sex and kink, gay liberation activist Sylvia Rivera famously lit into the New York City Pride crowd in a speech about how the predominantly white middle-class people at the gathering were ignoring sex workers, transgender people, and incarcerated queer people. She was booed. The current fight over kink at Pride was foisted upon the LGBTQ community like many other fights: through social media. Gay kink the myriad tweets and TikToks seemingly deed in a lab to challenge my fortitude, the debate against kink and Pride was crystallized in a series of tweets by left-wing YouTuber Vaush.
Pride should be a cool, queer-friendly block party you can attend to meet with organizers and get cute shirts. Everyone should be able to attend. It should be safe and uncontroversial.
Dismissing accessibility as "sanitization" is a really underhanded and disgusting strategy. On the surface, this looks a lot like arguments of the past. The idea is that, hypothetically speaking, a person — not just unsuspecting children with their parents — who shows up to Pride and sees an exposed piece of flesh or a glimmer of genitalia did not consent to it and could possibly be harmed by it, thus limiting their access to Pride.
There are big parties and celebrations — comic book conventions come to mind — where consent rules have to be printed out and said aloud because of complaints about people crossing said boundaries. Queer history is often about resistance to norms and embracing radical existence, so engaging in respectability politics — the idea that marginalized groups need to behave or act in a certain way to validate the compassion shown toward them — flies in the face of those goals.
Dembroff explained to me that the respectability game is slippery. Instead of broadening mainstream culture to accommodate the humanity of the LGBTQ community as a whole, respectability politics asks a community to change itself for mainstream sympathy.
Queerness, at its core, is a rejection of that respectability. The decision also calls to mind how the very existence of Pride and gay rights was a response to policing and police brutality in New York City. The debate over police presence at Pride, not unlike the debate over kink or queer representation at Pride, seems to indicate that many still see the politics within the Pride celebration.
But all these arguments over who and what Pride should be about hinge on the subjective individual interpretations of Pride as a symbol of LGBTQ politics. In recent years and especially in major cities gay kink metropolitan areas, Pride has become a gay kink popular corporate opportunity. And, to be clear, these companies supporting LGBTQ rights is infinitely better than going against them. The corporatization of Pride has been a disappointment for many queer people, gay kink LaFleur and, frankly, myself. If Pride has become so corporate, then at what point does Pride become a product itself?
Does all this corporate gesturing rob Pride of measurable political impact? Maybe Pride is now less of a political symbol and more of a corporate fundraiser that handsomely benefits big companies. And what people are fighting for may be more about the spirit of Pride than the actual product. LaFleur posits that organizations working for LGBTQ rights did an efficient enough job at styling and marketing the fight for equality in extremely specific ways, including respectability politics. For example, same-sex marriage becomes the ature win of the last decade, while health care for trans youth is hardly spoken about.
Pride in this context, then, becomes the one month of the year, a container of sorts, where LGBTQ activism is expected but comes in the form of facile financial support to mainstream causes. You know what I mean?
The wholesale corporatization of Pride would be carved from her nightmares. I will not put up with this shit. I have been beaten. I have had my nose broken.
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