PRIDE 2024

Pride has a radical history. Let’s honour it.

The first Pride was about queer liberation. It was a revolt by Black and Brown, trans and queer people against White supremacy and queerphobia. But colonial legacies of queerphobia, alongside the mainstreaming of Pride, means that radical Black and Brown queer histories are sidelined and erased.

Colonial silencing

Many queer migrants, including refugees, continue to flee the queerphobic violence that was put in place during the colonial-era, specifically the Western sex and gender binary. Colonial powers, specifically the UK, significantly contributed to the conditions for violence against queer people in the Global South either through imposing queerphobic laws or encouraging queerphobic attitudes. Colonialism contributed to the erasure and demonisation of pre-colonial gender variant communities, who had previously been considered sacred by their communities. 

Western scientists of the time argued that in White people, the male and female sex were highly differentiated, but that in other races, males and females were not as differentiated, and therefore these races were deemed to be inferior, uncivilised and lagging behind. They also argued that White people had only gained this differentiation because they followed the correct gender roles, and that non White people had to be colonised into the correct gender roles in order to evolve. White colonisers attributed gender non-conformity and gender variance to non-European people, which they then demonised as “savage”, in order to justify colonialism.

Corporate appropriation of Pride

The corporate appropriation of the queer struggle is commonly referred to as “rainbow capitalism”. Rainbow capitalism erases the anti-capitalist and anti-corporate roots and history of the queer liberation movement, whilst depoliticising the struggle for queer liberation and presenting it as a single-issue corporate endeavour. It perpetuates the belief that individual acts of consumerism count as activism, which ultimately steers people away from engaging in grassroots radical organising that challenges exploitative systems of oppression. 

Rainbow capitalism is performative, and also functions as a distraction. Companies release Pride and LGBTQ+ merchandise to present a queer friendly facade, which diverts from their continued exploitation of migrant workers in their supply chains. Rainbow capitalism is also a distraction from gentrification: the explosion of White corporate gay nightlife is also dependent on the exclusion and marginalisation of Black and Brown queer people from now gentrified areas.  

State appropriation of Pride

Alongside rainbow capitalism, homonationalism (or state appropriation of Pride) is also a violent erasure of the radical history of the queer liberation struggle. Pride is appropriated by the State in order to enact oppression against racialised communities, both at home and abroad. 

The Western world weaponises LGBTQ+ rights in order to argue that the non-European and Muslim world is inherently “homophobic”, “backwards” and “savage” (even though the Western world exported homophobia to its colonies). This colonial and orientalist construction of the Global South is then used to legitimise invasions and oppressive foreign policy, but also bordering, counterterrorism and other anti-migrant measures against migrants in the UK. The attendance of British military personnel, Home Office staff and police officers at Pride events is meant to distract from the violence inherent in the military, immigration and prison industrial complexes.

Homonationalism, like rainbow capitalism, functions as a distraction: Pride is appropriated by the State precisely to ensure that migratised (often Muslim and racialised) communities are pitted against queer communities. The State wants marginalised communities divided and to be blaming each other, instead of blaming the exploitative systems that oppress them all. 

Pride is a revolt

Pride teaches us that colonial systems can never be reformed. They must be dismantled. In the spirit of Pride’s radical history, we must defy the corporatisation, weaponisation and distortion of the queer struggle. We must defy divisive politics, and understand that we are all being oppressed by the same systems. Pride is about justice and liberation, not about inclusion into systems that were designed to be oppressive. 

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