Reclaiming Pride and Challenging White Privilege in Queer Organizing

Posted by admin on Apr 20th, 2010

For queer indigenous and queer people of colour, challenging white privilege within queer movements, while challenging homophobia and transphobia within more mainstream anti-racist spaces, is an ongoing task. As Audre Lorde writes, “there is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.” Yet this division of our communities and allegiances is a typical colonialist strategy within a white settler state such as Canada. It not only breaks up our movements and the force of our resistances, but breaks those bodies marginalized on multiple fronts, making them disappear.

The double impacts of racism and homophobia are felt on numerous levels. In Vancouver, and in the aftermath of the attack on communities launched by the Winter Olympics, the devastating impacts of oppression are palpable. While billions (the overall cost of the games is now estimated at $ 6 billion) were spent on a two week spectacle and party for the elite, large-scale evictions and homelessness were the reality for others. As part of the plan to clean up and secure the city in the name of nationalism and corporate greed, undesirable or dissenting communities experienced the fear and force of heightened surveillance and policing on their bodies.

Undoubtedly, indigenous people, people of colour, poor people, elders and youth, disabled people, those living without status or citizenship, sex trade workers, queer and trans people, and people fighting chronic illnesses or addictions are always the hardest hit. We’ve heard the stories of activists visited by police in their homes or followed on their routes to work. For many the city was a veritable ground prison, with police and state brutality on the rise, which as we all know has a specific history of targeting racially and sexually marginalized communities.

In Toronto this summer, the G20 summit – a meeting of representatives from the world’s most dominant governments and corporations with the intent of furthering their control over the world’s economic and ecological systems – is deemed to be the biggest security event in the history of Canada, much larger than the Olympics and what we just saw in Vancouver. The city of Toronto is being called a “fortress” to describe the threat and terror inflicted by the police state in its efforts to clamp down on resistance. The summit coincides with this year’s Pride Week, and queer and trans communities are feeling the impacts of the security state. The City of Toronto, which funds Pride, has already threatened to close down Pride in the event that it causes any kind of disturbance, but specifically targeting the involvement of long-standing groups such as Queers Against Israeli Apartheid.

My desire for Pride this year, wherever we may be located, is for us as queer people of colour to mobilize. I am reminded of the words of a queer activist, J.D., recorded in 2003 at a San Francisco anti-war rally: “Every day we’re told that we don’t exist. Well, that’s a lie like everything else. We have to combat that lie with our presence.” Let us reclaim the radical foundations of Pride, in which people of colour, poor and working class people, and transgender and transsexual communities have historically led the struggle. These histories are often erased or co-opted by the white middle class. Let us shout, “There is No Pride in Occupation” from Canada to Palestine, and rise against the daily impacts of police and state regulation, corporatization, colonial violence and white supremacy in our lives.

Written by Proma Tagore, a member of the No One Is Illegal-Vancouver (Coast Salish Territories) collective.

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