When I first came out in 2012 as a trans woman, I knew little about Pride and what I saw was many corporations supporting Pride. At the time, I thought this kind of corporate support was a great thing. I was a very naïve, freshly hatched, transwoman who still had so much more to learn. I thought it was some sort of kindness being shown by corporations and seeing police at various Pride marches gave me the illusion that they supported LGBTQ2+ people. This was a grave mistake and a terrible misunderstanding.
When I started talking to other LGBTQ2+ people within my friend circles and doing online research, mostly consisting of scouring YouTube and whatever I could find on Wikipedia as starting points, I soon discovered a far more militant, radical, and even revolutionary history of Pride that capitalism hid from me. Worse yet, capitalism perpetuates a very distorted and pink-washed history of Pride, meant to stifle, and defang any-and-all revolutionary spirit LGBTQ2+ people may have at their time of coming out.
I am not going to go into all the details but, in short, on June 28th, 1969, there was a police raid on the Stonewall Inn located at Greenwich Village in Lower Manhattan. There have been many raids before but on this fateful day, the LGBTQ2+ people had had enough and they fought back to the point of overpowering the police and locked them in the bar for well over 45 minutes, before more police showed up, leading to many beatings and arrests. This was a pivotal moment. It was led by many LGBTQ2+ people, along with houseless people as well.
Two major figures emerged from that moment: Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, two amazing and strong transwomen who had had enough of the rapes, beatings, and jailing. They would go on to blaze a trail for gay and trans liberation, like nothing ever seen before in America. This would also kick off many gay power marches, eventually becoming Pride.
It is important to note that Johnson and Rivera would also go on to create the revolutionary organization Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries or STAR for short. This was a revolutionary struggle for not only survival but liberation as well. Since the capitalist system, combined with white supremacy and bigotry, made it almost impossible for many LGBTQ2+ people to find work, let alone housing that was safe. STAR provided housing and food to LGBTQ2+ people due to the tremendous sacrifices Johnson and Rivera, made through sex work, which gave them the capital to care for those no one else would care for.
Both transwomen were truly revolutionary figures. They gave everything they had, and endured the horrors of capitalism and white supremacy, so that I and countless others can one day live in dignity in a society where we are accepted, with our full humanity respected.
Modern day Pride is an absolute slap in the face to everything Marsha and Sylvia and so many others have fought for. The absolute worst corporations like Raytheon, the Pinkertons (literal class traitors who did everything they could to destroy worker’s movements) Coca-Cola, Nestle, and various alphabet agencies – the list goes on and on – who have the extreme audacity to use the Pride Flag on their social media profiles, or try selling us their products at marked up prices because it has a Pride logo slapped on it, ALL THE WHILE donating money to anti-LGBTQ2+ efforts across the country.
Not to mention one of the worst things: that being, police across the country wanting to march in Pride or have a presence at Pride. News flash, Pride is not for pigs, Pride is not for corporations, Pride is not about commodification, Pride is not about capitalist putting on an act one time a year to get our money. Pride is about OUR rights and OUR liberation from this capitalist hellscape which continues to oppress so many of us.
We, as the working class within LGBTQ2+ community, must reject what Pride has become. Instead, we must try to organize marches and demonstrations during Pride month that are anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist-centered, with the goal of maintaining intersectionality with allies and other leftist movements that share our views and want to support us in our quest for LGBTQ2+ Liberation and Rights.
In this moment many of us should look to our comrades in Cuba, which despite grave errors in its early treatment of LGBTQ2+ people for the first decade after Fidel took power, and which he later apologized to the Cuban people for, has now embraced LGBTQ2+ far more than the United States ever has. We acknowledge this more sincere approach thanks to Mariela Castro and her solidarity with our LGBTQ2+ comrades, not only in Cuba but worldwide. Cuba is not only far ahead of the United States in terms of providing gender confirming surgery for Trans people and life-saving medicine like hormone replacement therapy (HRT), but, that medicine is provided free, since Cuba does recognize access to healthcare as a human right. In Cuba, it is not left to private insurance companies to decide whether you get to live or die.
Some final thoughts: We also must never lose sight of the fact that our fellow BIPOC LGBTQ2+ people are still struggling while many white LGBTQ2+ have far more access to resources. We must correct this contradiction within the movement.
A black or indigenous transwoman will always face far more violence and discrimination then a white transwoman. So, for us who are white LGBTQ2+, we must always stand in solidarity with them and use our privilege to speak up when they cannot, and lastly, stand side-by-side with them in this fight against white supremacy, capitalism, and imperialism.
I leave you the reader with a video of Sylvia Rivera in 2001 https://vimeo.com/38227391 Rivera goes on to say, “This Movement has become so capitalist, it is a capitalist movement. The first four years were basically fun, I mean the festival took place right on Christopher Street and everything was moderately priced. I did not believe that I would have to sit here 32 years later and basically bitch about the fact that they have become so capitalist. This is no longer my Pride, I gave them their Pride, but they have not given me mine.”