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What’s in a Name? Unpacking the Complexities of Pride

11 July 2019

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Pride month is over. The time for self reflection has well and truly begun. This has always been a complicated time of year for me, and given the commentary around the month it would seem I am not the only one. How should we feel about the concept of “Pride”? In this ever-changing society how can we relate to this term, where further recognition comes with an equal dose of vitriol and public “debate”? Is there a time where we can just sit back, declare the job done and enjoy the fruits of the previous generations’ hard labour? Do we still have an obligation to fight against the rising tide of dissent and factions hell-bent on taking the terms we use to digest our discourse away from us (again)?

I hope to address some of these deeply personal and often confronting issues in this article. As one unused to putting quite this much of myself out there, please forgive me, dear reader, if I am at times a little emotional. With that said, let’s pull up that chin and dive into some controversy.

Take a step back and remember where it all started

At times like this it’s always useful to remember one’s privilege. Any conversation about Pride Month should begin with the recognition of the namesake: June is chosen as Pride Month in honour of those who stood in the Stonewall Riots in New York City, 50 years ago in 1969.

This was an era of great change.

It took an entire neighbourhood to stand up to oppression to get things moving on Gay Rights in America, and even then real change would be hard fought for decades. That fight is still going on today and, although no-one is actively fighting the police in the street (right now) and homosexual acts are no longer a crime (in Australia at least), there is still a lot of work to be done.

Pride parades were initially pegged as both a celebration and a normalisation of non-heteronormative culture and expression. It was—and is—an important event for us to openly express ourselves in a (hopefully) safe place that allows us to embrace that self with joy in our hearts. This attitude is often criticised – carving out a specific space to be proud of yourself assumes your queerness precludes you from embracing it in other areas of your life. Worse, some believe this attitude could indicate you harbour shame for your identity, which requires shadowing your true self in the course of your daily life. There continues to be a complex relationship between shame and pride, despite pride being put forward as a counter to shame.

“We must move past Pride”

This is very easy to say. It may even be true in your life. It could be that, as a member of the LGBTIQ+ community, you are in a position to navigate the course of your identity, your workplace and your social life with minimal threat to your safety, or minimal interruption to your career.

That’s fantastic- for you, Pride could seem like a relic of a time where saturation of these issues had not been reached. Maybe these events, in the modern context, have became more about a fun night out for all your hetero-normative friends supporting their queer folk than highlighting the struggles of the queer.

However, until that reality becomes a norm for more than just the confident, the elite, or the protected, there is still a real place for Pride in my heart.

But what on earth does that mean in the modern context?

Australia – have we really moved forward?

There’s a popular perception Australia is a particularly safe country for non-cis, non-heteronormative people, and all this bluster about queer rights is over nothing. This perception is supported by some politicians, despite all the effort that goes into countering this.

We have only just stumbled through a national marriage equality plebiscite that was considered, even by LGBTIQ+ members of parliament, to be the best way forward towards marriage equality. This process led to obvious lasting and preventable damage to the community. This fact is glossed over by those who constructed it and the community is now taking decisive action to hammer the point home to those in charge. If you can’t bear to listen, you don’t deserve to enjoy the fruits of the platform we have created.

The damage of allowing this debate to be held in the way it was did not end with the new law passing. It emboldened those who wished to discriminate under the banner of freedom of speech. For example, the simple act of considering passing this basic human right into law caused a meltdown in Australian religious politics. A religious freedom review was called to ensure that this ~terrible legislation~ would not impact on people’s right to express their religious views, just in case someone could be asked to bake a cake they don’t want to bake or something. (Apparently Australians have a right to be bigoted, we should never forget.)

The results of the review gave us a clear snapshot of where conservative Australia sits in terms of progressive values around race, religion, sexuality, and gender. It has highlighted how far we have to go as a society to simply let people be themselves, and flourish in a society that can support us all. It does make it difficult when Australian groups are emboldened by their more extreme American counterparts, but this is certainly happening in far more areas than just queer rights.

What Pride means to me

So, this year – in light of the fight we find ourselves in which certainly seems to be gathering public momentum in a way it has not in the last decade – what does Pride mean to me?

It means hold on to your rainbow socks my lovelies, we are in for a rough ride.

It means the push back has reignited, and the simple act of holding hands or wearing your new dress could spark a more provocative response than it has over the last few years. Although we can track violence perpetrated against those in our community in the UK, and we can see its rising, we don’t have a similar metric for Australia. (We do, however, have plenty of lived experience data that reflects a similar trend here)

It means playing and showcasing games from people within our industry that are written and produced by LGBTIQ+ devs. It means seeking out our community online, backing each other publicly and privately, and creating safe spaces like WomANZ for ourselves and others. It means shutting down toxic conversations when you encounter them, and not tolerating them in your own stream.

Most importantly, for our allies, it means listening when we talk about our experiences in society and finding ways to fall into lockstep and combat this surge together. It means taking joy from the LGBTIQ+ tag on Twitch, and using it to spread positivity and joy about embracing yourself.

It means acknowledging that this is hard, and that it may very well get harder before it gets easier.

Where does this leave us?

Until adverse health metrics are down, until self-harm and suicide metrics are down, safety metrics are higher, education programs for the hetero-normative world are embraced and not deliberately misconstrued—we still have work to do. Until such time, every ‘out’ member of the LGBTIQ+ community is still on that front line, whether they realise it or not.

In whatever small or large way you are comfortable, take pride in Pride! If you feel safe, use this time as an opener to talk to your loved ones, your family, and your community. If you do not yet feel comfortable and you are not ready to join the front lines, that’s ok too. Maybe celebrate quietly and privately, and take a moment to remember and appreciate those who didn’t have a choice—and those who are still fighting for your rights and safety.

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