It’s here. That time of year we can celebrate with rainbows and unicorns, our best drag, and our gayest apparel. Pride month kicked off June 1st with pride parades and festivities across the country, celebrating LGBTQ+ people, diversity, and equality. While Pride is a chance to celebrate, it is also important to reflect on the month’s history.

Most pinpoint the Stonewall Riot in New York in 1969 as a catalyst for the gay rights movement. The story that is often forgotten is the role trans women of color played, and continue to play, as its founders. Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and other trans women were instrumental to the fight for justice. Sadly, the gay rights movement has largely left trans women of color out.

It is long past time to start finding ways to make Pride more inclusive. Seeing how Pride fests and parades have changed in the last few decades is both exciting and troublesome. To tease out some of these issues, we asked 5 LGBTQ+ ComicsVerse writers to talk about how they celebrate LGBTQ+ Pride and how Pride could be more inclusive.

Marsha P. Johnson (L) and Sylvia Rivera (R). Image from Equality Archive.

Changing Drag Culture:

by Merlin Slade

I’m a total sucker for Pride events. The more glitter and ridiculous outfits, the better. But sometimes it’s complicated, especially as a gender-nonconforming person. Pride centers the experiences and comfort of cisgender gay men and lesbians. Nowhere is this more clear than the drag performances. Now, to be honest, I love drag. I’ve always loved it. However, drag is very controversial in the trans community. Generally, there are two reasons for this.

  1. Most people assume that trans women are actually full-time drag performers.
  2. Cis male drag queens will often speak over the trans community and insist on using transphobic slurs. And with Ru Paul outright saying that he would not hire an out trans woman on his show, there’s a lot of bad blood there.

Historically, drag was our thing. Famous trans women involved in the Stonewall Riots (ex. Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson) also worked as drag queens. So those ties are important. It saddens me to see such a dismissive attitude towards trans people from the drag community. Especially since there are so many cool ways that trans people could expand on the medium.

For instance, a trans male drag performer could satirize the ways femaleness was forced onto him. A genderfluid drag performer could change genders mid-routine. I want to see Pride events where we celebrate the awesome things that trans people have to say about gender. Because right now, it feels like we’re pariahs that must be parodied within our own community.

Image from The Daily Beast, Emil Lendof.

Raining on the Parade:

by Molly Barnewitz

I attend the SLC Pride parade every year. Watching this year’s parade perfectly illustrates what I love and don’t love about pride, in that order. This year’s parade opened with the local chapters of March for Our Lives, Black Lives Matter, the ACLU of Utah, Planned Parenthood of Utah, and several First Nation’s groups. Alongside these groups, the parade includes the Pride Center and Salt Lake’s lesbian mayor. But after these floats, there is a stream of huge groups from countless large corporations with rainbow-washed logos.

Although I appreciate the open support from all groups, especially if they are supporting their LGBTQ+ employees, I fear their involvement is more of a marketing strategy. In a recent comic by artist Alyssa Andrews, they write “I know the difference between a party that’s celebrating me and a party that’s exploiting me.” Moreover, I worry that Pride has lost sight of what matters. Pride is about equality, social justice, and community. Those attending the parade enjoy dancing together, sharing stories, pointing out the best floats, and making connections.

While I truly believe that Planned Parenthood and similar groups are taking radical steps to curb racism and trans-/homo-/xenophobia, other groups have not supported a truly intersectional environment. The mentality is harmful because instead of lifting up the most marginalized in the LGBTQ+ community (i.e. trans people, people with disabilities, and/or people of color), the corporatization simply targets the wealthiest groups at pride: white middle and upper class gay and lesbian people.

Although I have qualms about Pride, I do go to the Pride parade every year to celebrate my queerness and the LGBTQ+ community that continues to work for social justice.

No, You Do Not Need Straight Pride

Being Part of the Community:

by Lindsey Mott

As a conventionally feminine and cisgender bisexual woman, I spend most of my time passing as straight. Admittedly, there is a lot of privilege tied up in who I am and how I present. For example, I have never had strangers in public make a homophobic comment directed at me, other than when I’ve been around more “visibly” queer people.

I live a life that is largely disconnected from the struggles that more marginalized queer people face. Although I consider myself extremely privileged for a queer person, I have also faced a fair amount of biphobia. Countless straight people I’ve gotten close to have questioned whether or not I am actually bisexual, and not just a straight girl trying to be edgy or appeal to the male gaze.

Bisexual Pride Badge from APBRALLEN.

Pride is important to me because it gives me a chance to be visibly queer with my community in a way that I’m not on a day to day basis. It’s a way to celebrate with my friends, and also demonstrate that I am here to fight for them and support them through their struggles.

On a personal level, pride is also about asserting my right to take up space in this community. My identity is no more or less valid than anyone else’s, and more than anyone else, I need to be reminded of that. Ultimately, attending pride is and always should be an inherently political statement. By attending we are demonstrating that we are a united and powerful community that will not be silenced.

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Expanding Pride:

by Marius Thienenkamp:

As a genderqueer person from a German city that isn’t Berlin, Cologne or Düsseldorf, Pride events – as well as Christopher Street Day events – have seemed somewhat inaccessible to me in the past. For the one thing, Pride month and the events and attitudes associated with it leave the impression of being a very American phenomenon.

While I appreciate and am thankful for the fact that LGBTQ+ people in majority English-speaking countries pave the way for an open celebration of queerness, I would love to see similar developments in my country. Most if not almost all of my exposure to Pride has been in online spaces. But visibility and awareness are just as important in offline spaces. There should be a comprehensive supply of marches and festivities in as many areas as possible. Germany has been lacking in that regard.

Additionally, my perspective on this topic is informed by the fact that I haven’t considered myself a part of the LGBTQ+ community for a very long time. I came out to myself and some of the people in my life as genderqueer/non-binary during June and July of 2017.

A lot of the support and validation for queer identities that I have encountered during that time certainly helped me come to terms with and be a little more open about my identity. On the other hand, there has sometimes been the underlying fear of “not being queer enough” or of these types of identities “not being for me.” An emphasis on inclusivity and diversity in regards to gender identities, expressions and experiences are of utmost importance in Pride month. I think this is a notion that has to come from within the community.

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Pride Means Everyone:

by Colleen Etman

Pride has always been an abstract idea to me. As a straight-passing cis-woman, it was never a major part of my life. I liked the idea of Pride, the thought of the queer community supporting each other as we celebrate our identity. Being in a long-term relationship with a man meant that most people assumed I was straight, and since I was closeted, I never thought more on Pride.

Now, being single for the first time in seven years led me to consider my sexuality more in-depth. I previously identified as bisexual, but have since found pansexuality. I have also explored the asexuality spectrum, and identify as demisexual. These labels are important to me — but sadly not important to everyone.

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Now, I’ve seen a darker side of Pride. What I used to think of, abstractly, as a welcoming community now shows itself to be surprisingly close-minded. Pride ought to be an opportunity for all people to be who they truly are without fear of stigma or harm. But many segments of the LGBTQ+ community find themselves unwelcome or uncomfortable at Pride celebrations.

As a member of the oft-ignored bi/pan/ace trinity, I want to talk about bi/pan/ace-phobia. Asexuality is bad enough, with people often considering it a mental illness. Being ace-spectrum and pan is a lot. Bi/pan people often face rejection as not being “queer enough.” Concepts like gold-star lesbianism reject bi/pan women.

Pop culture routinely ignores bi/pan people. My own mother, who is a lesbian, has asked me to stay in the closet so she doesn’t have to explain bisexuality to her family. Why is my identity less valid than hers?

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It’s 2018. Let’s lose the stigma and accept that all queer identities are valid – and welcome at Pride.

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