Pride; A Dissection

Columbus Pride was this past weekend- one of the largest prides in the Midwest. To start out the weekend I semi-butched it up with the troupe at the Royal Renegades’ annual pride drag show at Wall Street.

With fellow Black Mondays performing at the Royal Renegades Pride show, Columbus, Ohio

[image: four drag king performers looking at the camera, all dressed in white shirts with black coats, looking cool]

The show was a fantastic time, but it reminded me how different Pride – and its spaces, scenes, and people are compared to every other time of year. Maybe folks think of Pride as a way to give a dose of gayness to the rest of the world, to remind them we are here. But out of sight, out of mind. Maybe its just me airing my activist baggage, but I can’t help but get angry during Pride. I look around and see people so excited to be queer, having all this “pride” but try to get a thousand volunteers for something in October, or get people out for an event in February, good-fucking-luck. Its like Queer Pride is seasonal or as needed. What good is a parade to promote community visibility if afterward the majority of the community disappears again, back to their homes to hibernate until next year when its again time to wear rainbows and get drunk in public?

Pride is great because it is like we own the world for a day, all the communities that make up the mass that is greater queer community out and about. But it doesn’t last. The next day and I went in search of brunch (naturally, queers love brunch), but I was afraid to go anywhere. Once again I was thrust back into being aware of my outcast standing. As things are now, pride is the one opportunity I have to be in my own state, my own local community, and not stick out like a nail waiting to get hit. I like pride for that reason, its an opportunity to relax and feel like I’m in a visible community that understands me… but I’m still not. Just like every year, I met several people who didn’t know what I was and when I told them I was a transguy they didn’t know what the hell I was talking about. Its hard to feel included when people still don’t think I even exist. I don’t bother explaining because I think that of all days, I should not have to be an educator at Pride. I just want to have fun too. When I express my impatience, I’m seen as hateful or irrational. I’m supposed to support organizations that are taking their time on trans education. I’m supposed to be proud of a queer community that still doesn’t recognize me. I’m supposed to think its great that our parade is reduced to corporate shills and advertisements instead of education and action.

I find trans-visibility at pride interesting because it is either really easy to be seen, or nearly impossible. I met Chrissie at the parade, and I was surprised and excited to see such empowering, unashamed trans visibility.

Chrissie and Garth, Columbus, Ohio

[image: a couple facing the camera and smiling – a trans woman and her partner wearing shirts reading “meet my girlfriend and boyfriend” and “my girlfriend is my boyfriend”]

“I’ve been a T-girl all my life,” Chrissie told me as soon as we met, excitedly shaking my hand. She said her t-shirt was intended to make her stand out, showing her t-girl pride. “If you pass, people just aren’t going to know… It isn’t easy to find people who understand.”  Similarly, a friend of mine walked shirtless, saying his chest surgery scars were his “little way of being seen.” Last year was my first year walking around in my binder, not out of pride but because it was super hot out. But I was determined to not care what people thought I was, and maybe if I got lucky people would know. People didn’t, and as usual I was read as a lesbian. I did the same this year, and like last year, it didn’t gain me any trans visibility with anyone who wasn’t trans and knew what a binder was. Visibility isn’t just an issue for trans folks either. A friend mine who is femme stressed her need to wear stickers “I have to or everyone will think I’m straight. I want them to know I’m queer.” This desire to be seen fascinates me, especially because the majority of the time we are forced to hide in order to protect ourselves. All the more reason to want a moment in the sun, a moment where we can be seen for who we really are and accepted. To want others in our community to know us, to understand us.

I wonder how other activists can be so cheery and excited, walking in the parade so proudly. I’m too angry and frustrated to walk in a parade, unless I was allowed stop and harass each person, demanding to know what they’ve been doing that year to help the cause. I shouldn’t judge people for not all trying to save the world… at least that’s what my conscience tells me. When you’re queer, you’re queer where ever you are; living your life as a queer person in and of itself is a form of action. I don’t dispute that. My frustration lies within actual community building issues; no matter how I try to reason it out, I am continually resentful of people who aren’t making some effort to educate themselves and others, and help the greater cause of an inclusive, accessible queer community.

I don’t know what I’m expecting from the queers, but I know what I want. I want a sense of legitimacy for my community, and I want that same legitimacy for the other facets of the queer community that are not the able-bodied, young, white gay or lesbian majority represented by the HRC and its corporate sponsors. Columbus is sprouting what I would like to see, but as usual there is more to be done. I am strangely optimistic that Columbus Pride will continue to become more representative because I know there are some great people working for it, but when? And what about all the other prides out there?


12 thoughts on “Pride; A Dissection

  1. E says:

    But doesn’t your community also include “the able-bodied, young, white gay or lesbian majority represented by the HRC and its corporate sponsors”…?

    Even the Log Cabin Republican types?

    If you want to feel included you have to push yourself to be more inclusive as well.

    (Overall, I thought this blog was amazing… as usual… I just wanted to “push”)

  2. Rae says:

    Snaps, major snaps. This is something I’ve been professing for awhile, that Pride does not represent what it should; it doesn’t accomplish what it should.

  3. nome says:

    I also wore my binder out, hoping someone would notice my fine 988 and recognize me as *something.* I mean, I figured I’d be read as wrong (transmasc at best, lesbian as per-usual) and was right. But I think there is something so powerful in feeling that connection with someone that’s like “hey.. we are the same.” I don’t get it often so cherished my few hours at pride.

    The pride in my town is very small, just a 1 by 1 block radius of venders, mostly gay orgs and a couple local businesses. I only saw one specifically trans-oriented brochure in the whole lot. The rest was general queer stuff, which means white-well-off-cis-able-bodied-les/gay-dominated spaces. :S

    I’ve given up on it being anything to do with activism, and everything to do with a little time away from the hetero-dominated spaces.

  4. Just Some Trans Guy says:


    The point isn’t to disinclude the more privileged queers but that they’re already over-represented in the LGBT organizations. Which, they are. They don’t need to be MORE included … they need to take a step or two back to make room for everyone else in the LGBT communities, who have been forced to the fringes for way too long.

    For the OP,

    I made a shirt that reads “Trans Man” to wear at the local Pride, for visibility reasons. Results have been mixed, but it makes me feel better. I’m sorry Pride can be so frustrating in this way.

  5. Alli says:

    I’m with Ale. I always felt like pride was a little to “gay” for me. I always end up going home disappointed and frustrated year after year. I understand it’s a day of celebration, but I just feel like many people view it as just another excuse to “drink it up”. I’m currently not into activism, but have felt called to it for awhile. Thanks for the inspiration! It’s nice to know there are people that feel the same way.

  6. Jake says:

    I personally feel that transitioning and then demanding visibility as a transperson is counterintuitive. I don’t feel that I need to be visible as a transsexual in order to be an activist for trans rights. I can educate others without revealing the details of my medical history just fine. Again, I realize that other people may view their trans status differently than I do and I respect their right to do so, I just feel as if I often don’t get the same type of respect from the rest of the trans community. This becomes clear to me whenever I hear another trans person make a derogatory remark about straight people and I wonder exactly why they would assume I identify as a non-straight person despite the fact that I am a man who has a female partner. I was also dismayed when searching for scholarships to find out in order to qualify for any that target trans people, I would have to be “out and proud” not only within the queer community but in every aspect of my life. I wonder sometimes if this type of exclusion only furthers the “deceptive trans person” myth. Furthermore, it alienates those of us who transition in order to reconcile our mind/body issues and then get on with our lives.

    • JAC says:

      Hi Jake,
      I agree with you that many do scrutinize those who live a more “passing” or “stealth” life, and I don’t agree with that at all. We should be able to live our lives as we want them, and that includes being straight or not being what some might describe as “out and proud” (as if someone can objectively measure that in the 1st place). I feel that often people equate levels of passing with ignoring trans identity which, though it does happen, is often not the case. I do feel that trans-visibility is important though, in all expressions and varying levels, including that which you described. Without the visibility of your own trans-experience here on this blog, maybe others wouldn’t know that folks like you exist! :)

  7. N says:

    Typically, pride just aggravates me or makes me feel gross. I can’t help but feel that I am having ideas pushed on or sold to me, simply for my identity. Things like the HRC make me livid because they consistently throw trans folks under the proverbial bus. It would be nice to just feel proud of who we all are every day and not have an increasingly commercialized holiday to remind queer folks that they ought to feel prideful.

  8. Danny says:

    this is definitely the most frustrating part of pride for me! As a gay trans boy, I really am tired of how when I go there with my other gay trans friends, people ask us if we’re girlfriends, even though we pass most other places fairly easily. The idea that I’m most invisible within my own community is what annoys me.

  9. Sarah says:

    JAC, very sorry I didn’t get a chance to see you during Pride. Understand your feelings towards it though. We were running around with the kids and being our visibly gender queer selves. Her being her beautiful trans self and me just doing the non-normative thing I do so well. One of the kids asked where the other kids of trans were. They wanted to see other families like us. I think that’s what we all need at times. To see our experiences reflected back at us.

    Next year’s Pride is the 30th anniversary and I’ve already been looking into things we can do to make the event more inclusive and more fun for our community. If you or any of your readers have any ideas please let me know.

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