Pride Parades: Symbol of LGBT Protest Or Shameless Corporate Self-Suck?
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Amid the waving rainbow flags, floats, and LGBT groups marching in any modern-day Pride parade, you’ll also see numerous businesses: Chipotle, Heineken, Apple, Google Facebook, Zipcar, Coca-Cola, Wells Fargo and AT&T — all promoting their services with flyers, buttons and free merchandise. Funny, considering that the first Pride was a commemoration of the Stonewall riots — Pride was about politics and the right to live without harassment, not low prices.
Now several groups are getting upset that an event once used to celebrate the courage and power of queer people is now more of a marketing tool — an increasingly accepted phenomenon as companies jump onboard to be known as an ally to the LGBT movement. Queerbomb — an alternative Pride event in Austin and Dallas, Texas — and the older (and seemingly now defunct organization) Take Back Pride are looking to do exactly that: take back Pride.
(Disclosure: Unicorn Booty’s editor is a founding member of QueerBomb Dallas)
QueerBomb Austin calls itself “a family of LGBTQIA individuals gathering to reclaim the radical, carnal and transgressive lineage of our ever-changing community while celebrating every facet and form of our people as a unique and vibrant whole.” QueerBomb and Take Back Pride hope to recapture the meaning and origins of Pride, bringing it back to its roots and moving the focus back to LGBT issues rather than commercialism.
Riley Kollaritsch — writer and creator of the website Project Queer — told the Chicagoist that the corporate representation in Chicago’s Pride parade this year surpassed that of LGBTQ groups. His graph shows that there were 132 floats or parade slots held by corporations, compared to 11 LGBT groups, one bisexual group, one trans group, and five groups related to queer people of color.
“Pride has become a very heterosexual spectacle nowadays,” Kollaritsch told the Chicagoist. “It’s not about the roots of why Pride was started, and it’s not about the people who started it anymore.”
Pride started in June of 1970 commemorating the one year anniversary of the Stonewall Riots — the week-long uprising between New York City youth, queers of color and police officers following a police raid of the popular gay bar the Stonewall Inn. The uprising brought the LGBT civil rights movement into national spotlight.
Thus, Pride marks the first time when the queer community made sure the world knew that they’re here and here to stay. Even though there are corporations who do support LGBT rights, corporate acceptance emphasizes how far the LGBT community has come, and many non-LGBT holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving have become synonymous with shopping, the fact that corporations are now more prevalent in Pride than actual queers minimizes the political and social challenges that LGBT folks still face in place of a sanitized, shopper’s showcase.
“A lot of the corporations that take part happen to be quite harmful to our movement, like alcohol companies that target our communities even when something like 30 percent of our community struggles with alcoholism and drug addiction,” Kollaritsch said, “I’d like to have the support of a company that genuinely cares but if it’s somebody just trying to take advantage without doing anything to give back to the community, then I don’t think it’s appropriate at all.”
Below are two QueerBomb videos: one of the speeches from Austin’s 2010 rally, and the other promoting Dallas’ inaugural 2014 event.
(featured image via Shelley Neuman)