The UVic Pride Collective would like to criticize and address some of the recent occurrences regarding queer and trans inclusion, both on campus, as well as more broadly. More specifically, this letter is coming about in the midst of student action against the rainbow crosswalk on campus and the regalvanization of the mainstream pride movement with the Supreme Court of the United States ruling in favour of marriage equality.
The UVic Pride Collective acknowledges the important work done by students and community members, both in the past and present. As a collective, we support their efforts (including our own members) by holding the University accountable to the safety and inclusion of marginalized students and community members, for whom injustice, violence and exclusion is still a common occurrence. While we look forward to the time where we can come together and celebrate the victories that have happened across time and with hard work, it is necessary to remember that this work needs to be done with, rather than for queer and trans communities. While the UVic Pride Collective is not against celebrating marriage equality, or queer pride in the form of a rainbow crosswalk (we recognize that these were hard fights that gave wide-spanning rights for certain members of the queer and trans communities), we find it imperative to maintain an on-going dialogue that critically examines the areas where people still get left behind and become further marginalized for the sake of advancing the asks of mainstream (white, cisgender, middle-class, able-bodied) queer movements. Marriage equality (more broadly), and the rainbow crosswalk (locally on campus), are not even bandaid solutions – instead, they have given visibility to the privileged members of the queer and trans communities, while further excluding those on the margins of this movement.
As an example, the victory for marriage equality in the United States has come at a time of heightened racial tensions, injustices and violence. The mainstream pride movement is distancing itself from racial justice – so much so that news and celebrations for marriage equality and “pride season” overcast and invisibilize the recent (and ongoing) struggles in Baltimore, Ferguson, and Charleston, as well as the missing and murdered Indigenous women across Canada. Opportunities for solidarity and mutual support have not been taken up, and we see a situation where the white middle-class is celebrating, while Black, Indigenous and other communities of colour are in mourning for the murders and genocide of their peoples. We are not celebrating. We need to go further than this in our fight. We need to make this fight intersectional.
The fight for marriage equality has also been one fought with the resources of the white, middle-class. That is not to say that poor queer and trans people of colour do not benefit from marriage equality (as they may), but that this fight has been brought forward particularly by those who will benefit the most and from those who have the economic and political means to support it. Now that the major fight for this queer demographic is over, we will begin to see the dwindling economic and political support for those that exist on the queer margins. Without the support of the mainstream, we will see the further marginalization of those already marginalized – a further widening of the gap of inequity within the queer community.
We, as a collective, also remain necessarily critical of how pride symbols, celebrations and discourses have (and continue to) become co-opted by different political and corporate bodies, as oftentimes the adoption of these symbols is used to mask contradictory and damaging policies and positions. As the corporatization of pride movements continues, we see the tokenizing of the queer and trans communities and the use of our struggles to falsely promote a more liberal discourse and image for companies that otherwise care more about profit than people.
Symptomatic of this corporatization is the loss of political meaning at pride parades, festivals, and celebrations. Let us not forget that the roots of the pride parade started as a riot against the ongoing police raids and brutality at the Stonewall Inn in New York, mainly led by the most marginalized queer voices (trans women of colour, poor, homeless queers). Instead of paying homage to the riot and the political aspects of that historical boiling point, we instead see an appropriation of the parade by corporate sponsors and political parties looking to appear queer friendly. Along with this appropriation, pride parades and festivals have become a so-called celebratory event where heteronormative practices have become embedded. Consent is not practiced and “allies” are being paid to represent our community on floats. These so called “allies” come out to pride parades and festivals, expecting to get drunk and party without acknowledging or supporting the marginalized voices from the queer and trans communities who started this all. It has become an unsafe and exclusionary space to the very same individuals that it is supposed to be for. This is not inclusive; this is dangerous.
Yes, we need to stand in solidarity with all those involved in the community, but that cannot mean silencing the voices of those who still experience so many areas of marginalization. The assimilation of white and heteronormative ideals into the queer and trans community replicates toxic values, creating unsafe spaces and violent behaviors within our own community. This assimilation, this homonormativity, this normalization of a singular queer experience (white, cis, middle-class, able-bodied), is being flown under a rainbow banner. We recognize our own complicated relationship with the usage of this symbol. However, we do not accept the rainbowwashing of our struggles. We reject the rainbow flag at its current representation. But this can change…
To this end, we support those students who recently protested the rainbow crosswalk and the violence that they faced by the University community. We invite everyone to continue this fight with us and to begin incorporating a much-needed critical and intersectional lens into this cluster fuck of a movement.
UVic Pride Collective