A part of me is delighted – I can walk into a Target and buy merchandise for Pride month that reflects some of the rainbow that represents of our community. Kellogg’s put out a Pride themed cereal this year which manages to allocate a few of the limited inches on the packaging to pronoun choice. Companies switch their LinkedIN logos to have a rainbow colored overlay, projecting solidarity with our community. We seem to have made it to the mainstream – at least for a month.
The fiery history of Pride, where so much was accomplished by protest, some of it peaceful, some of it not, has become just a footnote to a new generation. Protest is inherently a political thing, and I see time and again groups that seem to want to divorce what must be accomplished politically from their organizations. Perhaps worse, I see a clinging by some of our LGBTQ+ orgs to political allies that are only focused on Equality while leaving underserved members of our community behind in poverty, food insecurity and the specter that is our health care system. Too many of our community are left without seats at the table because of their race, ethnicity, location or socio-economic status. The young transgender men and women who would have found solace at Compton’s Cafe’ in San Francisco 50 years ago are still fighting for acceptance today.
In many ways, we’ve done this to ourselves. We’ve created a new model minority in the form of middle to upper class white gay men. We’ve lauded the theory of disposable income which of our community has to gain an acceptance by consumer capitalism that sees our dollars as valuable during June and in driving hospitality revenue year round. We’ve gentrified Pride and made it into a party scene in service to the almighty altar of capitalism. We marvel that big corporations march in our parades now, but their participation seems circumspect and a ghostly thing, missing the spirit of what Pride really means.
I was delighted to get my box of cereal, but later I stopped to think about things that I’ve been through personally, and where the the larger community as a whole has traveled on this journey. The Baby Boomer and GenX generations survived Reagan, two Bushes, and Trump. We watched our friends die from the AIDS pandemic. We’ve marveled as our representation on the big and little screens have evolved from Coming Out and AIDS narratives to representation as people who lead normal lives, and great stories where members of our communities are heroes and even superheroes.
My husband remarked at the very small contingent of anti-LGBTQ+ protesters at Tampa Pride (perhaps they read Governor DeSantis’ new law and stayed home?) and seemed surprised to see them. My memories of earlier Prides recollect larger, more vocal, and dangerous protestors, so I was surprised but in a different way.
Missing from Tampa Pride were the passionate speeches and demonstrations that should have marked a Pride, when just days earlier the Florida Legislature passed a transgender youth sports ban. Complacency is built in the absence of conflict, and I fear without the continued conflict that a Pride based in activism creates we’ve lost a vehicle for expressing our anger and rage in a productive.
But I got my box of cereal.