Written by: Vena Kurup
With Pride month in full swing amidst the current uprisings across the globe, the political origins of the typically jovial festivities have resurfaced.
Growing up in the GTA, I became aware of Pride and the concept of the LGBTQIA+ the same way most folks do; peers and the Internet. My initial understanding of Pride came from the first time I attended in 2016— it was a celebration of self expression. I went to some block parties, drank a lot, danced everywhere, and had a generally good time.
I remember my best friend telling me that this was “like his Caribana," which would hold a much deeper significance to me in the coming years.
During that same year, the Pride parade was halted by Black Lives Matter Toronto in protest of anti-Blackness and Black queer erasure within the LGBTQ community. Additionally, BLM Toronto called for the removal of police floats and police affiliation with Pride. At the time, I didn’t understand the connection between police presence and anti-Blackness.
I didn’t understand that BLM commanding space at Pride 2016 was more than a publicity stunt, rather a protest of the commodification and gentrification of Pride.
“The first Pride was a riot," is a phrase that has been ringing throughout social media since the BLM movement has swept into the summer. This is in reference to the Stonewall Riots that occurred in 1969 following a New York City police raid of the Stonewall Inn; a popular gay club in Greenwich Village. This was a turning point for the LGBTQ movement and sparked global interest on gay rights. The names Marsha P Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and Storme DeLarverie have been echoing within the LGBTQ community on social media with purposeful attention to the historical erasure of Black Trans/Queer activists and community members. With all of this in mind, my understanding of Pride has shifted from the initial commercialized version I once knew.
Pride has always been more than a parade and has always carried a deeper political foundation.
Similar to Carnival observed in the Caribbean, the Pride parade serves as a liberating celebration for it’s respective community members that is intended to be free of policing of any form. Carnival evolved tremendously from initially being only for the white and wealthy elite. The rich musical and artistic history of Carnival that we know today is a direct product of protest by the black and brown descendants of slavery and indenture. With this perspective in mind, it’s crucial to address our role as Indo-Caribbeans within the LGTBQ community as we take up space in these settings. With the current sociopolitical climate surrounding systemic racism and the global calls to action for defunding the police, it’s even more important that we recognize the work of the Black Trans/Queer individuals that allow us to exist in these spaces. The gay rights movement in the Caribbean and diasporic communities is fairly new, and undoubtedly built from the foundation of Pride in our Western society.
Although this Pride looks and feels a lot different than any other we’ve experienced, the politically charged roots of the gay rights movement ring truer than ever.
Moving forward through this month, it’s integral that we recognize our privilege and opportunity to amplify the calls to action put forward by Black Queer leaders and support their reclamation of space in the LGTBQ community. It’s our responsibility to understand that defunding the police is the first step towards a future where Black Trans lives are truly valued, and that the abolition of police is a matter of survival for these communities. As Indo-Caribbeans with an appreciation for centuries of oppression, it is our rightful duty to recognize the marginalization of Black Trans lives right in front of us every single day.
Photo Credit: https://bloomingtonpride.org/