During Pride, a Call for Solidarity and Liberation
Pride – which started with the Stonewall riots, an anti-police protest – has strayed far from its roots. As a group of queer women of color reproductive justice activists, we think it is particulaly important to note how annnual Pride celebrations have been coopted for the purposes of the carceral state and sanitized because capitalists have realized they can use Pride and our issues to sell products.
Pride is an event celebrated across the nation and the globe, a time full of color, parades, music, and people, these same things are always portrayed on social media feeds, magazines, and even billboards. In 1969 the thought of commercial ads portraying same-gender couples on national television would have been only a desire—far from reality. 51 years later, it is a reality, but the desire has changed, or more, it feels unfulfilled.
Is an ad of two men in boxer briefs kissing actual validation and acceptance? Does having police march in a local Pride show how the queer community show that we are mainstream and normal?
Black trans womxn were at the forefront of PRIDE, they were the ones that channeled and initiated frustration into action – yet while Pride has become mainstream, Black trans womxn are murdered at alarming rates, Brown and Black people continue to be massively crowded into prisons, and undocumented people are treated more inhumanely than ever. It seems that the problems of many queer people of color are simply hushed into the darkness to appear “fixed”.
Pride is coopted both by people who want to put people in cages, and people who want to make a profit. Even stores like Victoria’s Secret, a company that explicitly said they would never hire a trans model to wear their lingerie, later, explicitly released rainbow-themed clothes in “honor” of PRIDE. Many corporations have taken part in this rainbow capitalism- many do not care about the collective queer community, but do care about getting their money from us.
We view reproductive justice as a movement that goes beyond reproductive rights – it’s about people’s ability to have children or not if they want to, but beyond just basic control over our own reproductive systems, it is also about being able to raise those children in healthy and safe environments. We believe that everyone deserves full access to reproductive health care, and that simultaneously, everyone deserves to live in communities that are safe, healthy, and nurturing. Because our movement is beyond just the mainstream reproductive rights movements vision of mainly access to abortion and contraceptvies, reproductive justice also includes and intersects with many other political movemnts for freedom and liberation – like prision abolition and queer liberation.
It is irresponsible to assume that we can be exclusively queer, and exclusively aligned with the carceral state separately, and collectively at the same time. During the earliest days of American prisons, Black and white incarcerated women were separated unlike their male counterparts. Corrections officers of the time asserted that incarcerated Black women (especially those who were openly gay or queer) posed a threat to their would-be white cellmates due to their perceived “masculinity and insubordination” – an additional layer of overt racial discrimination – leaving a legacy of disdain held by the criminal legal system towards Black women that lasts to this day.
We are both queer AND oppressed by systems that collectively oppress our community and people that are a part of it. Prisons perpetuate the narrative that there are “bad” people and that those same people are disposable and should not be a part of a “free” world. But were queer people not seen as “bad” people? Are we not STILL seen as “bad” people or “wrong” people by many?
Tracing back time, to the deep roots of PRIDE that began in June 1969, there is a clear road that was left for us to continue to build. These queer revolutionaries revolted against the police state that deemed them criminals for the simple act of expressing their identities and sexualities. They were choosing to oppose societal norms, create their own kind of families and culture that fully celebrated and accepted them. It was not about “following” restrictions or rules, it was about having full autonomy to choose the kind of life they wanted, to live how they wanted, with respect, and most importantly love. For this year’s PRIDE, it is crucial to emphasize the overarching structures that weave carcerality, capitalism, and queerphobia into each other.
This piece was co-written by Ana Hernandez, Moira Tan, Namaka Auwae-Dekker, and Kinjo Kiema for the Black and Pink newsletter. The Young Womxn of Color for Reproductive Justice Leadership Council (YWOC4RJLC) is a group of 14-24 year old young womxn of color organizers who are working to educate, empower, and fight back against issues impacting their community through a reproductive justice lens.