It feels as if I’ve been writing about Pride for years. Its ups and downs, its many meanings and checkered history. To someone following these articles, I must seem akin to a lesbian Bill Clinton going ‘it’s the community, stupid!’
As most of you know, Dublin Pride messed up. But after basically every LGBTQ organisation in the country asking them to stop being so goddamn ridiculous, it got better. I expected as much, to be honest. Those of us who’ve delved in and out of Ireland’s LGBTQ activism know it is all held together by professional working relationships, long-term friendships, grudging alliances, mutual goodwill and the kind of empathy you get with a friend who is your ex-lover. Dublin Pride pissed off a lot of people by doing the unthinkable: telling campaigning LGBTQ organisations, for whom rallies are their bread and butter, that the dairy was closed, and the baker wasn’t delivering.
So, everyone’s made nice now, and we can all go home. Let’s get the rainbow flags everyone, and don’t forget to purchase a bottle of Absolut, without whom your entire movement wouldn’t exist?
Oh sorry. Was I being sarcastic and cynical again? My bad.
This is the part where I remind you that the LGBTQ community matters more as a community than as a market for Absolut, Google, Microsoft, and whichever other companies deign to put cash down for the parade; that the interests of a community will not be served by business, which only has profit as its central interest; and that when Pride began, it was not as a fun parade, but as a march to reclaim public space, a march for survival.
This goes beyond. By denying a stage for community groups, Dublin Pride shot itself in the foot, showing its true colours, its focus on being a harmless party with no teeth. Its political content, diluted as it was, is shown as barely even mattering to the organisation anymore. And it’s only the aforementioned links and alliances that made them reconsider.
Last year, me and others organised Pride in Community (PinC), an anticapitalist queer block. We signed up for the parade, and printed out leaflets that talked about the concept of Pride. The leaflet spoke about how proud we were of those in our community working hard for the rest of us through support groups, reaching out to queer youth, working on the helplines, and doing all they could for LGBTQ people to survive. On a separate column, we explained why we were not proud of Pride’s 2012 sponsors, exposing many of their horrible deeds.
For this, the organisers of the Parade decided to inform us, with as much contempt as they could, that we were not allowed to distribute leaflets, despite the fact that the forms we signed said we could, as long as we gave them to people by hand. As the people in question seemed quite eager to tell me it was up to the Gardai, I didn’t trust that they wouldn’t give them my name if they saw us distributing the leaflets. These warnings, of course, didn’t reach the ears of bigger, established organisations, whose leaflets and stickers littered the floor by the thousands before the parade had even started.
I feel this small anecdote reflects on the larger problem with Dublin Pride. It has a greater interest in appealing to a politically timid rather than helping LGBTQ people. While I greatly admire the organisations which protested that they were not to be given a platform to speak, they seemed to be fine by the fact that Pride has become less politicised and more corporate. I can’t imagine there will be many of these organisations marching with signs that indicate how Ireland’s unlimited-dip recession disproportionately affects LGBTQ individuals, or addressing the institutional violence that is still enacted, by the Irish state, on LGBTQ asylum seekers. Some might, and more power to them for that. But, as Izzy Kamikaze, one of the founders of Dublin Pride and Northwest Pride indicated, Pride in Ireland began as a reaction to a murderously homophobic society. It will be a disservice to the memory of many, if we act as if Ireland of today is a paradise for LGBTQ people.
Dublin Pride doesn’t have to be like this. It is a unique opportunity for our community to meet, celebrate, and energise ourselves in our daily struggles. I’m not angry at Dublin Pride out of some sort of irrational hatred, but rather because I’m greatly disappointed in it. Personally, I’m extremely grateful we have such a massive Pride festival where I have felt safe and wanted. A festival that twice invited me, a rather obscure feminist activist to DJ at Dyke Night two years in a row. I want us to be better. I know we can be better. But we have to face our demons first. Happy Pride.
THE LGBTQ SHAME LIST – SOME OF PRIDE 2013’s SPONSORS AND THEIR DEEDS:
-Google: With a list of controversies longer than an outstretched limb, Google avoids taxes in the UK, which is bad, but I’d argue not as bad as collaborating with the USA’s National Security Agency in its electronic surveillance of innocent citizens.
-Facebook: Does the exact same thing. They also consider breastfeeding obscene.
-Absolut Vodka: Owned by drinks conglomerate Pernod Ricard. They are the major funders of bullfighting in France, which is considered by nations to be a cruel blood sport that involves the violation and torture of animals. More information
-Microsoft: With a checkered history of horrid labour practices and collaborating with censorship and surveillance, not to mention unsavoury ways of doing business, Microsoft wears its ‘shame’ badge with Pride.
-Diageo: I hope you hate small businesses, hate a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay, and love poisoning pregnant women with Thalomide. If you do, you’ll love Diageo.