It’s Pride month. Time to celebrate being your kinky, queer self! It is also the time of year for a deluge of rainbow-colored ads targeting queer folks, people proclaiming their ally-ship, and conservative media talking about the downfall of the American family. So, let’s talk about all of these.
Pride, first and foremost, is a form of activism. It is a chance to loudly proclaim “We’re QUEER! We’re HERE!” Queer folks have (and still are) pushed out of the mainstream considerations for representation in media, science, and education. We are targeted by policies aiming to silence us and make our love and lives illegal. Even though we have made progress, we are a very long way from equality.
However, like many (if not all) activist movements, our language and events have been co-opted by corporations to make a buck. Our language of liberation has been subverted so conservatives argue they are the ones silenced and oppressed (doing this from their syndicated television show where they make millions of dollars off of arguing they have been ‘silenced.’)
Every year I argue we need to get back to the activism behind Pride. To make it an event to challenge the status quo. To push for policies and representation which is advantageous to our communities. To get back to our radical, queer selves.
Here are my suggestions on how to do that.
To look at advertising in June would be to believe Absolute Vodka, Budwiser, Target, Etsy, and more are the biggest supporters of gay rights. They slap rainbows on everything, put some cheeky phrases into their marketing, and find a cute young gay couple to paste up in their ads.
The reality is, we are big money! Even bigger money are “allies” who want to support “gay-friendly” businesses to show how “woke” they are. Most of these companies with rainbow/love is love /pride stuff could care less about how queer folks are treated after June 30 passes.
What does an LGBTQ+ supportive company actually look like:
They have explicit non-discrimination policies about sex, gender, sexual orientation, ability, religion, race, ethnicity, and class.
They actively work to include people of different genders, sexes, sexual orientations, abilities, religions, races, ethnicities, and classes.
Their HR policies reflect values of incorporation (e.g., allowing trans/GNC employees to use their name and not their government name, they have sensitivity readers for their advertising and policies, their Board and C-suite members reflect a diverse group of people).
They go beyond the minimum legal requirements to make the workplace accessible to people of all abilities.
Their political statements and contributions match their statements of support and inclusion of a diverse workforce.
They include “mental health” as a reason for taking a sick day.
I am like many of you and fall for the occasional rainbow pride product (see this dildo). Its not the end of the world if you want rainbow/LGBTQ+ products. Just try to buy from actual queer folks and queer companies.
BTW… Sephora is one company who deserves a big shout-out to in advancing equality in the workplace. Not only do they include gay and trans folks in their ad campaigns, they actively work to educate the campaign staff about LGBTQ issues. They have a very healthy approach to work-life balance. They offer living wages in San Francisco (remarkable!). So, if you are looking for a place to buy make-up, body glitter, and more this pride month, check them out!
People love to declare themselves allies of the LGBTQ+ community. However, a self-declaration of allyship is like giving yourself a nickname- it doesn’t really count. If your queer friends have said you are an ally, cool. If not, you may be an ally in name only.
What does an ally look like:
They speak up about LGBTQ+ issues even when it is not winning them political points.
They defend LGBTQ+ folks when there are not other queer folks around to hear them.
They actively work to include ALL bodies (trans, queer, disabled, BIPOC) in their work, their reading lists, their viewing, and their lives.
They understand that their freedom and liberation is bound up with ours.
They are not here to “save” of “defend” the queer community- they are here because their own liberation depends on ours.
They are actively working to dismantle systematic racism, ableism, and the patriarchy.
They are actively working on unlearning all the cultural bias trained into all of us.
Our Liberation is Your Liberation
We cannot have LGBTQ+ liberation without ending racism, transphobia, ableism, xenophobia, and fatphobia. We all use our bodies to interact with the world. If any group of bodies is not liberated, none of us are.
This means even if you are queer, you may not be working for our liberation. If you are still engaging in behaviors which support systematic racism, trans hate, Asian hate, fatphobia, xenophobia, ableism and more, you are not fully working for queer liberation.
When I host events, do I think about how disabled folks will access my event?
Does my dating profile call out trans, fat folks, disabled folks or more as “undesirable” partners?
Do I actively include trans folks, disabled folks, people of different races and ethnicities in my events?
When I am part of a group, do I consider how my behavior and the behavior of the group will address racism and xenophobia amongst our members?
If you are not actively pursuing liberation of all bodies, you are still part of the problem.
We All Mess Up
Its hard to be aware of the needs of different groups and supportive of liberation of all bodies all of the time. We will (I definitely have) messed up and said unkind things, not spoken up when we should have, or simply forgotten to consider perspectives beyond our own when putting together events. That is being human.
When that happens, we need to acknowledge our errors or oversights and work to redress them. We need to work continually to unlearn our cultural biases against so many groups.
We also need a break! We need time where we can just be, relax, and take a step back from the fight.
14 Actions Which Embrace Pride
If you are looking for ways to liberate all bodies during Pride month, here are some action items:
Ask your HR department to explicitly include “mental health” as a reason to take sick days. Most “sick leave” is predicated on the idea that people will have short-term, acute illnesses they need to take care of away from the office. The reality is, we all experience high levels of stress and most of us do not take time to care for our mental health. Having “sick leave” policies which acknowledge “mental health” as a reason for taking a day off encourages better health among all employees.
Write your federal representatives and ask them to remove the tax breaks from churches which explicitly involve themselves in politics. The U.S. Constitution calls for a separation of church and state. Currently, we provide tax payer funded money and tax breaks to religious institutions which explicitly engage in politics. Calling for the removal of tax breaks for political “churches” can reduce the amount of anti-gay, anti-black, anti-immigrant hate groups funneling tax free money to hate-filled politicians.
Ask an organization you are part of to evaluate what it is doing to include a variety of people of different races and ethnicities. This must include doing the anti-racism work with the leaders of the group to make sure they are actively working to undo structural racism.
Stop equating “fat” with “unhealthy.” Stop posting about your “health concerns” for your fat friends. Fat is not necessarily “unhealthy.”
Ask your janitorial department at work to stop using scented products (this will make your work environment more accessible to some disabled folks).
Contribute to bail funds that are directed to BLM and trans activists.
Read and do the exercises in The Body is Not an Apology
Petition your state representatives to get rid of cash bail and replace it with release based on threat to the community (CA has done this and has a good model for it).
Write your state representatives and object to voter suppression bills.
Contribute to your local food bank.
Write your local school board and ask them to include LGBTQ+ information in their sex ed curriculum (if they currently do not).
Support your local sex positive, queer, kinky writer (like ME!)