The Rainbow Weekend - a Party, Protest, or both?

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 dykemarch.jpgCross-posted with Equal Writes, Princeton's feminist blog.

Pride invaded NYC a few weekends ago, and like many queer women, I partook in some of the festivities. Note my choice of language. Festivities. I just read a Gawker article "A Straight Person's Guide to Gay Pride" where they describe Pride as "a giant celebration of living somewhere over the rainbow." Yet the organizers of the Dyke March, an event in Pride weekend, describe it as "a protest march, not a parade." So, what is Pride? A party or a protest? What does it represent to the LGBT community, LGBT individuals, me and you?

 My personal point for comparison to this past weekend was the National March for Equality back in October, which EW editor Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux called "transformative" and "an incredible high" because we were "fighting for what was right." I felt similarly high from the day. I had spent many hours organizing to get our busload of Princeton students to come march for equal rights, and the fruits of my labor tasted sweet indeed.

The Dyke March, on the other hand, did not feel transformative, at least for me.  Although I wanted it to be a protest, it didn't feel like such for a few reasons. Most importantly, I hadn't been invested in the organization of the march, and therefore hadn't really thought about what the march meant to me - it was happening, and I felt like since I was in the city partially for Pride and consider myself an activist in some respects, I should go. Amongst the people I marched with, I felt we shared this sense of not exactly knowing why we were marching. A couple of people thought we were going to be watching a parade, rather than participating in a protest. Once they realized the nature of the march, namely that it was a protest rather than a parade, they asked what we were protesting. I ventured a vague answer about protesting homophobia, but even the question made me insecure about not being more informed about what the march was about, as a whole, and for me personally.

 

As I was thinking about what I was marching for the day before, I had identified what meant and means the most to me personally right now - acceptance of LGBT children by their parents and family. I thought writing a slogan encapsulating that on a shirt would be cool both during the march and as a keepsake. I am happy and proud that I took the time to invest in my idea. However, at the march, it didn't prove as valuable for making me feel engaged. People didn't seem to read it like they would read and interact with a sign.

Also, it turns out not having the physical task of carrying a sign made me feel less physically engaged with the march. I wrote a paper about this connection between physical experiences and knowledge last fall for my Performance Studies class (highly recommended). I concluded that a reason for the psychological success of the march for myself and many others was that we were engaging physically for something we believed in, encompassing the way of knowing from the body in addition to from the mind. Chanting, and carrying heavy signs, all parts of my Princeton marching experience, were absent from my Dyke March.

In direct opposition to my reasoning that I would have enjoyed the Dyke March more if I had felt more engaged physically and politically, the Gawker article describes the main Pride event, the Gay Pride Parade on Sunday, as "no longer very political. It's mostly about corporations telling us that they're 'down with the gays' and an excuse for gay people party." After which they write, "Don't judge us." Why judge? I might if I got up on my high horse, but really, I think I would have enjoyed the Dyke March more if I had fully embraced whatever I wanted to get out of it, whether that be political engagement or just a grand old time with old and new friends. The Dyke March website also acknowledges its celebratory aspects by describing itself as "in celebration of LBTQ women" in addition to its purpose as a "protest against ongoing discrimination, harassment, and anti-LBTQ violence in schools, on the job, in our families, and on the streets."

Whether you love politics, partying, or both, Pride can be incredibly fun, engaging, and important. (Especially for the urban gays, because I would like to acknowledge that the major cities' gay pride parades do cater to and represent an urban crowd.)  And regardless of all this internal mumbo jumbo, whether you were clear on your intention for being at pride, or not, like me, being there does count for something for the LGBT community. Visibility. As they used to and still do chant on the streets, we're here, we're queer, get used to it.

Image courtesy of Elizabeth Cooper. 

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