If you went to any Pride event this year, you might have seen the phrase “The first Pride was a riot” written across posters and t-shirts alike.
This is, of course, was in reference to the 1969 Stonewall Riots, in which constant police harassment of patrons at the Stonewall Inn–a gay bar–led to a series of riots now considered to be the first Pride event.
While the identity of the person who lobbed the first brick at the police is still being debated, the Stonewall uprising is considered to be the very beginning of the Gay Rights Movement as a whole.
However, take one look at the promotion for this year’s World Pride–which was held in NYC to celebrate the 50 year anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising. It is clear that things have veered towards a much safer, corporate-friendly route.
Reclaim Pride said in a statement to The Guardian:
“The annual Pride parade has become a bloated, over-policed circuit party, stuffed with 150 corporate floats. This does not represent the ‘spirit of Stonewall’ on this 50th anniversary year.”
Reclaim Pride organized this year’s Queer Liberation March, which occurred the morning of June 30, hours before World Pride (often called by protesters as ‘Corporate Pride’) was set to begin.
The Queer Liberation March allowed members of the LGBTQ community to protest the parade that many feel has fallen short of the Pride parade’s origins as an active form of protest.
We did a die-in on 23rd representing the at least 17 HIV+ asylum seekers that died in ICE detention and everyone living with HIV that died under the state. We honor them with action. #QueerLiberationMarch pic.twitter.com/I4pUbo6e1f
— ACT UP NY (@actupny) June 30, 2019
The Queer Liberation March had two moments of silence, one for members of the community lost to homophobia, transphobia, racism, sexism, and HIV/AIDS. Another for specifically honoring the trans women of color who have been murdered.
These voices have been almost completely erased from mainstream events for the sake of being advertiser-friendly. Events like the Queer Liberation and Dyke March aim to rectify the origins of pride events. We need cardboard posters, homemade banners, and self-organized marshals who deal with police and stopping traffic for fellow protesters.
— ACT UP NY (@actupny) June 28, 2019
The day before Reclaim Pride, June 29, was a similar grass-roots protest also considered to be more genuine than Pride. The NYC Dyke March is an annual unsanctioned protest organized by and for members of the LGBTQ community. Their mission statement reads:
“take the streets each year in celebration of our beautiful and diverse Dyke lives, to highlight the presence of Dykes within our community, and in protest of the discrimination, harassment, and violence we face in schools, on the job, and in our communities.”
Photos from today’s Dyke March ✨ pic.twitter.com/OK4lnoZi7I
— the hierophant 🤘🏽 (@shairacnyc) June 30, 2019
The Dyke March was first organized by the Lesbian Avengers, ACT Up, and Puss n’ Boots. Their origin story runs deep and has ties back to the April 1993 march on Washington. That day the nationwide femme pioneers, from LA to Philly, came together to organize the fire.
“Women in LA made a large banner and dykes in Philadelphia made a huge vagina which was carried like a puppet through the streets of Washington D.C. The New York Lesbian Avengers organized the logistics of the march, arranged for marshals, and created a manifesto addressing the necessity of grass-roots lesbian organizing, especially given the anti-gay bills being pushed by the right wing.”
Yes, the glitz and glamor of Rainbow Capitalism shows (surface level) progression towards greater queer acceptance, however the Target floats and pumping disco music and chants of “Love Is Love” are far from the much more radical origins of Pride itself.
Next year consider attending these protests before heading to Pride to remember where we have come from and where we have to go.