Another June has come and gone with its annual plethora of Pride Month events, parades, and online posts. As is often the case with Pride there are some events and communities that stand out not for the excellence of their pride events, but because they have failed, often spectacularly. Most notable this year, 2017, is London England’s pride. They started off with what, on the surface, is a promising video talking about all the letters of Pride, the LGBTQIA* alphabet soup. Their materials included posters as well that were promoting pride and inclusion of LGBTQIA* people. They failed.
First, the video. I watched for all of about 20 seconds, if that. Being an alphabet based video they started off with the letter “A”. When I think of “A” in the context of pride the two words that leap to the top of my list are “Asexual” and “Activist”. Both are important in the context of gender and sexually marginalized people. What did the video start with? Ally. They were not using it to refer to people in LGBTQIA* communities who go by the name Ally. They were using it to refer to allies of LGBTQIA* people.
The poster campaign for London’s Pride events were also heavily focused on allies and not LGBTQIA* people. The slogans used are ones that are about straight people supporting lesbian and gay people. Based on the ones I saw asexuals, bisexuals, and transgender people were left out of even those. Pro tip, the ”A” is NOT for Ally.
All too often organizations that purport to be supportive, and for, the whole of the LGBTQIA community are only really about the white gay men, sometimes they include lesbians. Much of the time the trans, asexual, and bisexual people are forgotten about and left out. Convenient only when they can draw sympathy that leads to more money coming in to the organization. I’ve said it before, Ally is a Four Letter Word.
Organizations and events must do better!
The reality is organizations must do better when they say they represent the LGBTQIA* community. The community is more than white people. It is more than they gay men. It is more than gay men who perpetuate a drag culture that is harmful to transgender people. It is more than gay and lesbian people who want to have an LGBT culture that is a copy of heteronormative and cisnormative society.
Our community includes asexual and aromantic people. Not everyone is sexual and/or attracted to people sexually. Most of the messaging and imagery around Pride is related to one or both of these things. In particular, gay male culture has a history of being one where men hook up with other men, often anonymously, for sex. This is not for everyone, but has become a dominant narrative. Not everyone is romantically attracted to, or enjoys romantic relationships. Asexuals and aromantics need recognition, too.
Bisexual people exist. Really. Just because someone is in a “straight” relationship does not make them any less bisexual. If they are in a gay or lesbian relationship they are no less bisexual. If they don’t have any partner they are still bisexual. Being bisexual does not mean that bisexuals jump on any person who comes their way. It does not mean that female bisexuals want to have sex with a woman while the woman’s male partner watches and/or joins in.
Transgender people exist. We’ve been here since the beginning of Pride events. We are not here just for organizations to bring out at photo ops and for publicity. Trans women in particular exist, even though we are very rarely represented in the upper management of organizations that purport to be for queer people and trans people. We exist even though people label us as predators. We exist even though people beat us and kill us for being transgender, and the violence is worse against transgender women of colour.
People of colour exist. If you do not see skin colour and race, you are not paying attention and choosing to remain willfully ignorant. Systemic racism exists. It is in our communities. Police disporoportionately target and harass people of colour. We do not like to acknowledge that this exists in queer and LGBTQIA* spaces.
What can we do?
First and foremost, be aware of the space different groups are given by organizations and communities. When an already dominant group is taking more space and pushing out the voices of those who are marginalized tell them to sit down and shut up.
Second, be aware of your own behaviours. Are you wanting cookies for your work, or are you acting in solidarity and helping to ensure that the diversity in our communities are represented? Work to ensure your own behaviour is supportive and not working to erase other marginalized members of the community.
Third, get to know people who are members of groups that are often erased. You will probably learn a lot of new things and make new friends. Pay attention to their stories and experiences. Support them in the ways that they are asking to be supported.
We, all of us who are queer, who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, and/or asexual, are here. The “A” does not stand for “Ally”. All too often there is an “E” for erasure. Let us strive to erase the “E” from our communities. The wide queer umbrella faces erasure from enough people, we do not need to perpetuate it from within, especially when it is erasing asexuals, bisexuals, and transgender people.