Archive for June, 2013

The Problem with Dublin Pride

“How can I tell you. How can I convince you, brother,

sister that your life is in danger: That everyday you wake

up alive, relatively happy, and a functioning human being,

you are committing a rebellious act. You as an alive and

functioning queer are a revolutionary.

There is nothing on this planet that validates, protects

or encourages your existence. It is a miracle you are

standing here reading these words. You should by all rights

be dead. Don’t be fooled, straight people own the world and

the only reason you have been spared is you’re smart, lucky

or a fighter.”

Have you ever been to Dublin Pride? It’s an experience. I think everybody, or at least every Queer- body remembers their first time. There’s just something about it. Maybe you were out and proud, living with your partner when it happened, or maybe you were a teenager, arriving awkwardly at the Garden of Remembrance by yourself, absolutely terrified that you were going to see someone you knew there. Walking around, you saw so many people, thousands of people, some running around manically with hi-vis vests on, some trying to stick huge papier mache things to lorries with masking tape, some wearing a lot of glitter and not very much fabric, posing for pictures.

Drag Queens wearing so much make- up, looking like they just stepped off a stage, except they are smoking and hugging each other and talking about how hung-over they are. But mostly, mostly you see people like you. Ordinary people in ordinary clothes, maybe with a flag or a whistle around their necks, just walking around and smiling. This is your community. And then you stop worrying about who will see you, because everyone is HAPPY to see you. And you never knew that you could be so happy because a whole bunch of strangers are smiling at you, but you are, and it feels great, and then everyone lines up to march and all of a sudden you’re holding one corner of a giant Pride Flag and yelling and laughing all the way down O’ Connell street, and everyone is laughing with you. Everyone. Someone sticks a camera in your face and you are happy about it. It doesn’t matter where that picture ends up, because you have all of these people on your side, now. You belong here.

        “Being queer is not about a right to privacy; it is about
the freedom to be public, to just be who we are.  It means
everyday fighting oppression; homophobia, racism, misogyny,
the bigotry of religious hypocrites and our own self-hatred.
(We have been carefully taught to hate ourselves.)  And now
of course it means fighting a virus as well, and all those
homo-haters who are using AIDS to wipe us off the face of
the earth.  Being queer means leading a different sort of life.  It's not about the mainstream, profit-margins,
patriotism, patriarchy or being assimilated. It's not about
executive directors, privilege and elitism.  It's about
being on the margins, defining ourselves; it's about gender-
fuck and secrets, what's beneath the belt and deep inside
the heart; it's about the night.  Being queer is "grass
roots" because we know that everyone of us, every body,
every cunt, every heart and ass and dick is a world of
pleasure waiting to be explored.  Everyone of us is a world
of infinite possibility. We are an army because we have to
be.  We are an army because we are so powerful.  (We have so
much to fight for; we are the most precious of endangered
species.)  And we are an army of lovers because it is we who
know what love is.  Desire and lust, too.  We invented them.
We come out of the closet, face the rejection of society,
face firing squads, just to love each other! Every time we
fuck, we win.  We must fight for ourselves (no one else is
going to do it) and if in that process we bring greater
freedom to the world at large then great.  (We've given so
much to that world:  democracy, all the arts, the concepts
of love, philosophy and the soul, to name just a few gifts
from our ancient Greek Dykes, Fags.)  Let's make every space
a Lesbian and Gay space. Every street a part of our sexual
geography. A city of yearning and then total satisfaction.
A city and a country where we can be safe and free and more.
We must look at our lives and see what's best in them, see
what is queer and what is straight and let that straight
chaff fall away!  Remember there is so, so little time.  And
I want to be a lover of each and every one of you.  Next
year, we march naked.”

After the parade, everyone is herded into the rally, and you are on a high. The space around you is filling up with people, people who are just as drunk on happiness [and probably beer] as you are. And then someone comes on stage, and welcomes you to Pride, and tells you that today is going to be the best day ever, but you already knew that. And then they hand over the microphone to someone, and they step up to centre stage and they tell you The Truth, They tell you that today exists because every other day is a struggle. They tell you they have no money, no support, no reason to be doing what they are doing except that it’s right. They tell you that young Queer people kill themselves too often. They tell you that our government will not pass legislation which would legally allow them to have an identity of their own. They tell you all the reasons civil unions are not and never will be marriage.
They tell you about your history, about Stonewall, about Declan Flynn, a gay man murdered in Fairview Park, an event which made Irish LGBTQ people stand up and say they weren’t going to take it anymore. They tell you that WE are not going to take it anymore, that we are going to keep fighting until we get what we deserve, and everyone yells and claps and stomps their feet. This is our community in action, and it feels powerful with rage but also with optimism. You get the feeling that the noise we made coming down O’ Connell street can reverberate all over the country, could do anything we wanted it to do. This is a protest, and it’s a protest that isn’t going anywhere until it gets what it wants.

               “   A crowd of 50 people exit a gay bar as it closes.
Across the street, some straight boys are shouting "Faggots"
and throwing beer bottles at the gathering, which outnumbers
them by 10 to 1. Three queers make a move to respond,
getting no support from the group.  Why did a group this
size allow themselves to be sitting ducks?
   Tompkins Square Park, Labor Day.  At an annual outdoor
concert/drag show, a group of gay men were harassed by teens
carrying sticks. In the midst of thousands of gay men and
lesbians, these straight boys beat two gay men to the
ground, then stood around triumphantly laughing amongst
themselves.  The emcee was alerted and warned the crowd from
the stage, "You girls be careful.  When you dress up it
drives the boys crazy," as if it were a practical joke
inspired by what the victims were wearing rather than a
pointed attack on anyone and everyone at that event.
   What would it have taken for that crowd to stand up to
its attackers?”

This February, I was walking with my girlfriend through Rialto, where I lived at the time. We were holding hands. Some kid started bothering us because of this, and I dismissed him. In response, he threw binbags- binbags full of other people’s waste, which had been sitting in the street al day in the rain- at us all the way to the top of the street. This is my neighbourhood, nobody helped.
Recently, a friend of mine was called the F- word and hit in the head with a bag of cans in front of a busy café. Dublin city centre. Nobody helped.
Two fucking days ago, my sister and her girlfriend were called ‘half men’, verbally assaulted and hit with eggs walking down Aungier Street in the middle of the day. Nobody helped.
Buzz O’ Neill got hit in the head right outside the fucking George, and nobody helped.
These are just the examples I have off the top of my head. Be assured, there are more.
I am angry. I am angry that it is 2013 and this is what my country feels like to live in. It feels scary. It feels unsafe for me, for my Queer brothers and sisters and people of no gender at all. It feels like there is a real fight, a fight to take control of our streets going on, and it doesn’t feel like we are winning. That’s why Pride is so important this year. Our community needs to feel like we can walk where we want to walk, yell where we want to yell, and just be who we want to be, and we need to feel it soon.
That is why, more than anything, I am angry at Dublin Pride. They are allowing us to take to the streets for a day, but in Nissan-sponsored ways. They have- in a year in which we were promised gender- recognition legislation that we aren’t getting, in a year when the constitutional convention happened- themed the parade something inane, something childish. Something which isn’t scary. They have made it so that only groups which fit their definition of what it is to be an LGBT activist can march in it. They have removed politics from the rally.
This decision is not only morally wrong, it is morally fucking dangerous. A Pride parade without teeth is just what every right- wing, homophobic person wants us to have. It makes everyone in it look ridiculous; it turns a man in a tiny pair of leather shorts into a laughing stock, instead of a deliberately provocative take- over of what heteronormative society says we can wear on the streets. It turns our community into a group of people who drink together, instead if a group of people who stand together. It gives us no defence when people question what we are doing, because what we are doing is just another Paddy’s Day. Just an excuse to get drunk in public. And worse than that, it deprives anyone who is heading to Pride for the first time of the vital knowledge that our community has goals and we are working towards them. It removes the spotlight from community groups who need occasions like this to continue to function on a large scale, and it creates a generation of young gay people who accept the fact that sometimes they will get beaten up or egged, but that somehow that is all OK because we can drink in Temple Bar one day a year.

               “I hate having to convince straight people that lesbians
and gays live in a war zone, that we're surrounded by bomb
blasts only we seem to hear, that our bodies and souls are
heaped high, dead from fright or bashed or raped, dying of
grief or disease, stripped of our personhood.
   I hate straight people who can't listen to queer anger
without saying "hey, all straight people aren't like that.
I'm straight too, you know," as if their egos don't get
enough stroking or protection in this arrogant, heterosexist
world. Why must we take care of them, in the midst of our
just anger brought on by their fucked up society?!  Why add
the reassurance of "Of course, I don't mean you.  You don't
act that way." Let them figure out for themselves whether
they deserve to be included in our anger.
   But of course that would mean listening to our anger,
which they almost never do.  They deflect it, by saying "I'm
not like that" or "Now look who's generalizing" or "You'll
catch more flies with honey ... " or "If you focus on the
negative you just give out more power" or "you're not the
only one in the world who's suffering."  They say "Don't
yell at me, I'm on your side" or "I think you're
overreacting" or "BOY, YOU'RE BITTER."
   They've taught us that good queers don't get mad.
They've taught us so well that we not only hide our anger
from them, we hide it from each other.  WE EVEN HIDE IT FROM
OURSELVES. We hide it with substance abuse and suicide and
overachieving in the hope of proving our worth.  They bash
us and stab us and shoot us and bomb us in ever increasing
numbers and still we freak out when angry queers carry
banners or signs that say BASH BACK.  For the last decade
they let us die in droves and still we thank President Bush
for planting a fucking tree, applaud him for likening PWAs
to car accident victims who refuse to wear seatbelts.  LET
YOURSELF BE ANGRY.  Let yourself be angry that the price of
our visibility is the constant threat of violence, anti-
queer violence to which practically every segment of this
society contributes.  Let yourself feel angry that THERE IS
we are not targeted for hatred and attack, the self-hatred,
the suicide --- of the closet.  The next time some straight
person comes down on you for being angry, tell them that
until things change, you don't need any more evidence that
the world turns at your expense.  You don't need to see only
hetero couple grocery shopping on your TV ...  You don't
want any more baby pictures shoved in your face until you
can have or keep your own.  No more weddings, showers,
anniversaries, please, unless they are our own brothers and
sisters celebrating. And tell them not to dismiss you by
saying "You have rights," "You have privileges," "You're overreacting," or "You have a victim's mentality."  Tell
them "GO AWAY FROM ME, until YOU can change."  Go away and
try on a world without the brave, strong queers that are its
backbone, that are its guts and brains and souls.  Go tell
them go away until they have spent a month walking hand in
hand in public with someone of the same sex.  After they
survive that, then you'll hear what they have to say about
queer anger.
   Otherwise, tell them to shut up and listen.”

Something needs to be done. The year is 2013 and I can quote Queers Read This, a publication made in 1990, and not only is it relevant, but it’s relevant within our own community. We are not in a place where we can afford to turn Pride into a party yet. The party is always a part of it, but we are not living in a world where it’s OK to ignore the protest. We are not safe yet, and anyone who tries to convince you otherwise is either misguided or a goddamn liar. This includes the entire commity of Dublin Pride this year. They are sanitising your community, and they are depriving you of your right to stand up and ask to be treated with dignity. They are not on your side in the fight for equality.
Let’s do something about it.

Here are the contact details for Dublin Pride. Let them know that you are going to let yourselves be angry, whether they like it or not.