Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Long Beach Pride Parade 2011
According to the LBLGP website, the Long Beach Lesbian & Gay Pride Parade has become the 3rd largest in the nation with over 200 marching groups and floats. This year, when a float went by with a huge globe on it that said "Pride Around the World," I turned to my friend and colleague and said "look, a float of old white people representing the whole world!" This was before I realized that was the theme of the entire parade. According to Pat Crosby, co-president of Long Beach Pride, they decided on the theme because “Long Beach is an international city." For me, the idea of "around the world" invoked people in other countries rather than the migrant communities and groups here in the US, and the parade did little to acknowledge (I would say nothing, but one never knows) the overlapping queer and migrant issue of citizenship rights through marriage which are not afforded in the cases of same sex couples.
I don't remember what the "theme" was the last time I went (which was 2009) but I do remember the time before that, in 2008; "I Am What I Am." That year they had Popeye with a can of Spinach and seemed to be arguing that identity, however one identifed, was predetermined and out of their control. Similarly, this year, every other float blasted Lady Gaga's "Born this Way," the anthem of LGBT essentialism. I think there is a reason that Pride doesn't include that "Q," it is decidedly gay rather than queer as it argues for such liberal, inclusionary rights as marriage, aiming in many ways for what Judith Halberstam calls "straight time" or the "middle-class logic of reproductive temporality"which typically assumes that the time line which people live on ends in marriage and children.
As Pride progressed, there were police officers walking hand in hand, corporations such as Disney and Walgreens passing out stickers, and squad after squad of LGBT cheerleaders. There were no signs of queer ideas about fluidity, queer temporality, or queer kinship. Key words in young queer communities and queer theory such as "genderqueer," genderless pronouns such as "ze" and "they" and critiques of homonormativity and homonationalism were absent. Could it be that many politicized queer people wrote Pride off long ago as being homonormative, white and male centric and capitalist in nature and just gave up? It is a hard call sometimes to decide "to go or not to go" to events which many write off as "problematic." But I have always been the one to go, support, and critique where necessary. And I hope that instead of giving up on liberal ideas in "gay" rights, that radical queers can infiltrate, coalition build, and hold those movements which attempt to speak for gays "around the world" accountable for their messages. For me, "born this way" and "i am what i am" just don't speak to my experience - my desires and feelings change constantly. And "pride around the world" seems too homogenizing for me. Universalization, though tempting, cannot begin to take into account the nuances and overt differences in race, class, gender, and nation among heterogenous queer groups.
The short video I made points to some of the classic Pride tropes, dykes on bikes, bondage, politicians, corporations, cheer, dance, marching band, drag queens (and no kings to speak of by the way), and rainbow after rainbow after rainbow. And it wouldn't be Pride 2011 if it wasn't set to the Gaga anthem. Check it out and decide for yourself what Pride means in today's sociopolitical climate.