Title: Pride and Politics Credit: Michael Stevens Comment Thursday 11th February 2016 - 1:49pm1455151740 Article: 17903 Rights
It used to be, as someone remarked to me the other day, that we had nutcase Christians protesting at our events, telling us we were evil sinners on the road to hell. Now we have members of our own community (No Pride in Prisons) deciding to boycott and protest (again) the Auckland Pride Parade, telling us we’re transphobic racist sell-outs for letting the Police, the Military and yes, even Corrections march in the Pride Parade.   Photo: Andrea Because the Pride board has backed down and Corrections will be marching as Corrections, in uniform. Isn’t it interesting how things change! Of course, it all came to a head last year with the NPIP protest, resulting in a broken arm for one of them. They do have legitimate points to make – trans people have been brutalised and treated badly by both the cops and Corrections. Just as gay and lesbian people were not so very long ago. But, and here’s the complex, messy part of it – the parade and Pride are there to be inclusive of our communities, including the LGBTTI staff at Corrections and in the Police. Along with this, some complain about the way so many businesses are getting involved with Pride as well. In my work with the Rainbow Tick I get to meet and talk with staff all across New Zealand from a wide range of companies. I talk to trans staff, as well as gay, bi and lesbian. It’s striking just how happy they are to get the chance to march as out and proud employees of their companies with their workmates in events like the Pride Parade. They find it meaningful. They are part of our communities, and they want to celebrate and why shouldn’t they? It matters to them, and they find it affirming, celebratory and fun. As far as I can make out, Pride globally has never been as overtly political as earlier manifestations of our communities were. Many people are genuinely surprised when they find out the Sydney Mardi Gras has its roots in a riot and police brutality. Pride is not Gay Liberation, and has none of its radical politics associated with it. It is designed to be celebratory, fun, and inclusive. It’s not built for anger and protest. Whether you think that’s right or not is another matter, but Pride as Pride just doesn’t seem to work that way, and that’s at least part of the reason why people got so pissed off with NPIP erupting into the Parade last year. It was like if two people are getting married, and you decide to stand up uninvited and decry marriage as a piece of capitalist patriarchal oppression, well you won’t be popular with the wedding guests or the people getting married. So maybe it’s time for Pride to include space for more politics, to give a platform for real political discussion and engagement. In Sydney they hold the Festival of Dangerous Ideas every year, and it often provokes controversy. Perhaps Auckland Pride could find space to do something like that, something that opens up a space in this time for those of us who do have deeply held ideas and issues they want to raise. I know I’d be interested. We’re not one community, and our various communities are complex. They intersect in some ways and veer off to complete isolation from each other in others. We don’t speak with one voice or agree on the shared importance or relevance of everything. But we can talk about it all, and I think Pride month is a good time to do it. Michael Stevens - 11th February 2016    
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