Protest While You Party

Suki Wilkins

I am so thankful to the activists of the past that some places in the world are able to see diversity as a cause for celebration today. I feel especially privileged to live in a small community where I can even walk across a rainbow crosswalk. The fact that the Pride Flag that is raised above the crosswalk is repeatedly ripped down is an unpleasant reminder that attitudes are still mixed.

 

Celebration of queer culture is a beautiful and vitally important thing, but we have not yet progressed to a stage where protest for equal rights is not also necessary. Without awareness and understanding of the discrimination and danger that LGBTQ2+ people face around the world, we risk rendering the celebration hollow and meaningless. When queer and straight people alike are able to avoid addressing the real issues affecting the less privileged members of our global community, no wonder there are fundamental questions left unanswered. When it’s possible for some people to attend a Pride event and still say:

“Why isn’t there a Straight Pride?”

or

“We had a lovely time at Pride, much better than on previous years. I don’t like it when it gets all political”

It shows that there is still work to be done. Even when progress has been made, hard won rights can all too easily be taken away. Especially if the majority of people don’t understand why these rights are so crucial. It’s not only straight people who need to dig a little deeper. There are plenty of out, queer people who find self acceptance challenging. The  veneer of social acceptance allows them not to have to question why. When they don’t feel that fighting for basic rights is necessary, it is easier to become complacent about the hard work of achieving true pride or even think about what that really means. 

 

Even in the most liberal of countries, for some queer people, Pride celebrations are the one day of the year that they feel free to be themselves. I wonder how many of the straight people, wearing rainbow accessories and enjoying the festivities have tried to imagine what the other 364 days of the year feel like. Or how many gay people have considered how it feels for people in those countries without Pride festivals, who have never once felt that freedom. The superficiality of the corporate sponsored tolerance of the Western world should not be enough for any of us.

The map on our Pride page shows us the reality of life around the world. There are still 12 countries in the world where homosexuality is punishable by death. Even countries that have made great progressive strides can always regress if those achievements are not protected. 

 

I think that the best way to make sure we don’t forget about the most urgent issues affecting LGBTQ2+ people is to listen to the people who are most brutally affected by them. When it comes to learning and evolving, we are stronger together. The broader our range of perspectives, the more effectively we can convey fundamental messages. For this and many other reasons, it is a positive thing that Pride is becoming more of a global movement. Hopefully this will bring a platform to those people who’s voices need to be heard in locations where minority groups are still highly vulnerable. I hope that Global Pride continues to foster a planet wide LGBTQ2+ community long after the pandemic is over. I also hope that those of us who are privileged enough to feel safe to do so can take responsibility for doing what we can to make the world safer for those who are more vulnerable and less protected. As Megan Rapinoe says, we need to "use our voice". Whether this means queer people increasing their visibility or straight people learning why and how they should become allies. Just as we are learning from the Black Lives Matter movement that it is not enough not to be racist, we must all be actively anti-racist. The same continues to apply for homophobia and every other way in which people are discriminated against. The more we speak out for the rights of everyone, the better off we'll all be.

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Sunshine Coast, Canada.


Joan of Art acknowledges that we are on the unceded territory of the sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) Nation.