Before I start this piece, I think it’s important to situate myself. I identify as a cis, femme, mixed, queer, woman of color. I am able bodied, in my mid twenties, and have relative class privilege. I live in the Bay Area and am currently in a committed relationship with a cis, white, androgynous/mild femme, queer woman. This piece is based on an experience we had and reflects only our viewpoints and opinions. We do not speak for any other person in the queer community.
Pride Season is upon us, my friends. Do you know how I know this? Mother freakin’ Target, that’s how.
The other day, my partner and I ran to Target for some new carabiners for our keys. (Yes, I know, this sounds like a bad joke cause this is such a classic lady lover stereotype, but I’m not joking. We really were.) Within moments of setting foot inside the store, not only were we bombarded with red, white, and blue everything (which I expected right before the 4th of July), but with rainbow everything too. And that is how we knew that Pride Season had unofficially arrived.
At first glance, one might have concluded “Great job, Target! This is a major step in the right direction! Way to take a stand!” And while I of course think queer visibility is extremely important and necessary, this Target campaign was clearly not about queer visibility. It was simply about profiting off of a marginalized community by turning our complex and vast array of experiences and identities into a distilled, consumable commodity.
The campaign revealed nothing about or identities, experiences, and history.
Among the dollar section knick knacks were rainbow stickers, tattoos, flags, hats, suspenders, and bowties - because duh, all queers wear suspenders, bowties, and rainbow everything.
To my partner and me - neither of whom wear bowties, suspenders, or rainbow - this left us feeling isolated and othered from our own community. To us, it felt like queer appropriation. Target was selling the perfect items for your stereotypical “queer person costume” starter pack.
As we went deeper into the store, we passed a large sign that read “#takepride.” I believe Target meant this as “take pride in your sexuality/identity” but in the context of pride, the way it is often used by straight people as an excuse to party, and the way we have often felt isolated as femme queers, to us it just felt like Target was saying “ha ha, we’re taking Pride from you - it’s ours now. Mwahaha!”
Below this sign was more rainbow clothing, but this time with unicorns (YES! UNICORNS) and sparkles all over.
I will be the first to admit, us queers are magical af. We are. But we’re not mythical creatures. We are real people with real concerns, real fears, and real struggles - all unique to our personal experiences and intersecting identities.
Our identities as queer people, just like any other person, are complex and intersectional. No two people share the same exact experience. But these monolithic acontextual pride accessories perpetuate the idea that all queer people are one big happy family, when the truth is even within the queer community homophobia, classism, ableism, ageism, sexism, racism, and transphobia exist. Target’s appropriation of very specific and acontextual symbols of queerness erases this difference, reducing our community to a stereotype.
This trip to Target brought up a lot for us - but mostly it raised the question, “Who is Pride really for?”
Over the past few years, our experiences at Pride have left us questioning whether this celebration is actually about us and our community. A few years back, we tried the whole rainbow thing, but it didn’t feel authentic to us - it felt like we wearing a costume and we haven’t done it since.
It seems like, as with so many other celebrations (St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo, etc.), Pride has become a party for cis het progressive liberals who want to get drunk, wear rainbow regalia, and talk about that one time they made out with their friend - all to prove their allyship and “okayness” with the LGBTQIA+ community.
Pride feels less and less like a space for queer folx to celebrate our identities, experiences, and community beyond the gaze of the cis-het community.
Like I said before, hierarchies and violence still exist within the queer community. Affluent, gay, cis, white men hold the highest power. Think about it. 50 years ago, it was possible for two gay men to live together and support their household. They weren’t free from the violence of the cis het world, but they were still able to upwardly mobilize themselves. Women, trans folx, disabled folx, and other marginalized folx did not (and many still do not) have that privilege. A good example of this access is the fact that the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) was started by and for rich, gay, White men.
Many in our society, have been tricked into believing that with the win of marriage equality, Gay Rights are no longer an important issue, but don’t be fooled. That is far from the truth. You can get married on a Sunday and be fired from your job and evicted from your home on Monday.
This is not equity. This is not justice.
Now, more than ever, we need to keep progressing. We cannot get comfortable or complacent. We have a long way to go.
As queer people, our lives, rights, and safety are constantly in jeopardy and will continue to be unless we can all lift the veil and critically examine the narratives we’re being fed.
Wearing rainbow clothing & attending Pride does not protect the lives, rights, and safety of queer folx.
Wearing rainbow clothing & attending Pride does not dismantle patriarchy.
Wearing rainbow clothing & attending Pride does not dismantle white supremacy.
Wearing rainbow clothing & attending Pride does not eradicate homophobia.
Wearing rainbow clothing & attending Pride does not prove your queerness or allyship with the community.
But, you know what does?
And a note to the cis het people planning on attending Pride: Remember, Pride is not for you. Show your solidarity by making space - not taking space. Be respectful of your language, energy, and behavior. Take a look in the mirror,examine yourself, and ask what you’re doing in your daily life to actively support the lives of queer folx.
And a last message to all: Don’t get distracted. Don’t be fooled. Stay critical. Stay strong. I love you.