No Pride In The State

[Image description: Cartoon-style business man and policeman holding a rainbow flag between them. In thought bubbles, the business man is thinking of a dollar sign and the policeman is thinking of a pride flag crossed out.]
Article by: Amelia A. J. Foy
Art by: Nysha Tan

In recent years, Pride has become a hub of state-involvement and corporate sponsorship, to the dismay of many in the LGBT+ community. Pride itself started as a riot against the police at Stonewall in 1969. It was a push back by trans women of colour, such as Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, against the queerphobic violence they were experiencing at the police's hands. Now, the police are manning pride and even marching in the parade - parades led by banks and businesses, that regular queer people have to stand back and watch, or get wristbands to enter.

[Image description: Barclays bus at London Pride, with a rainbow on the back and blue balloons. Reads along the side: “#FreedomTo make a statement”, their campaign slogan.]
Image courtesy of startdesign.

[Image description: Virgin America airlines’ float at pride, with a rainbow along it and people dressed in white on top.]
Image courtesy of Steven Damron.

This year at DC Pride, there were protests held against the involvement of the state at Pride in the form of collaborations with the police and companies who sponsored the Dakota Access Pipeline (
DAPL). These demonstrations, which can be found at the hashtag #NoJusticeNoPride, highlighted the state’s complicity in the oppression of people of colour and queer people, and those who live at the intersection of these communities. They argued against the state’s increased involvement as an insult to the legacy of the trans revolutionaries who kick-started the LGBT+ movement in America, and across the world.

[Image description: Policemen in Toronto Pride take a selfie together, one wearing a rainbow flower necklace.]
Image courtesy of Chris So.
[Image description: A crowd is assembled at DC Pride 2017 behind a large purple banner at the front of the picture, reading “NO PRIDE IN POLICE VIOLENCE” twice, with the tagline “#NoJusticeNoPride”.]
Image courtesy of Twitter.

Last year, at Pride in London, masses of queer people either boycotted or protested the parade due to the involvement of the military in the celebration. The
No Pride in War movement stated that the RAF Red Arrows flyover at Pride used queer struggle to promote military recruitment and international war efforts, values which fundamentally conflict with what the LGBT+ movement has been built upon. Similarly, this year, a small group of queer protesters formed a blockade in front of the police in the parade, using the hashtag #ViolenceHappensHere (a play on the theme of 2017 London Pride, #LoveHappensHere) to discuss the mistreatment of transgender individuals in police custody, and the disrespectful nature of having police at Pride in general.

[Image description: Red Arrows flyover at London Pride 2016. Red, white and blue smoke trail behind the seven planes in the air as they start to dip.]
Image courtesy of PinkNews.
[Image description: Two people in masks holding fake-scythes, resembling the grim reaper, hold a banner between them reading “NO PRIDE IN WAR” and bearing a logo resembling that of Pride in London’s, except using images of guns and grenades. In front of them is a fake body bag.]
Image courtesy of CAAT Blog.

Now, you may be thinking: but times have changed since Stonewall! Homosexuality was decriminalised fifty years ago exactly (in the UK)! We have marriage equality now, and more workplace protection!

However, these factors don’t mean that the state have a vested interest in protecting LGBT+ people or our values; they’re a reflection of decades of hard work done by queer people for queer people. Yes, homosexuality was decriminalised in 1967 (if you were a man over 21 and in private, mind you); despite this, hundreds of thousands of gay men still died of AIDS in the 80s. The government didn’t suddenly start to care about our community, we were just too loud and disruptive to ignore any longer. If they truly cared, wouldn’t this year’s Pride in London have honoured half a century since the Sexual Offences Act? Why was that rejected in favour of “Love Happens Here”? Because corporate sponsorships hold more weight than the queer community’s voices, and “Love Happens Here” is much more palatable than reminding the public how little time has elapsed since the government acknowledged our existence.

Further, queerphobia endorsed by the state is not a thing of the past. The queer community is comprised mostly of people of colour: the state-sanctioned violence that people of colour receive from the police and judicial system, especially black people, is not “prideful” or supportive. The assault on foreign countries in the name of imperialism is not a reflection of queer values at all. The continual placement of trans women in men’s prisons and the pattern of them dying in police custody is not an indication that we can trust the state. Neither is the disproportionate imprisonment of queer people and people of colour. Neither is the abuse that queer people face in detention centres, queer people who have fled persecution in their home countries for their identities. Neither is the neglect of the working-class, who have historically collaborated with the queer community and have also been the queer community, by the state, who let their homes burn and cut their welfare.

There is no pride in the state. The state is not an ally to the LGBT+ community.