You can’t write the history of Pride, because a lot has happened.
Back in the Nazi regime hundreds and thousands of papers about sexuality and gender were burned at “The Institute of Sexology”. Further back, when colonizers colonized America and the Africas, their first reaction was to kill anything queer. The indoctrination of tribes in the ways of Christianity helped in the suppression of the queer identity.
Hundreds of stories have been lost to colonization, to religion, to people trying to control lives. Folklores, where we played a central role, have been erased too. Few people, if any, in India remember the spiritual and the historical contextuality of the Hijra and Kinnar movements. How they were the ones blessed by Lord Rama to be the only gender genuinely truthful, or how Islamic tradition has for ages recognized the queer as holy.
Tradition in the queer community is very important. Mostly, because when we enter into this community, we’re often reminded that we’re cutting down roots. But, are we really?
Every queer person of color can walk back into the oldest of traditions and find that queer stories were being told. Polyamory is glorified in texts like Mahabharata. Greek mythos shares many stories with queer identities. Even early Christianity has stories which corroborate this fact.
One of the stories is about a Roman Centurion asking Jesus to help cure his slave, except the term slave isn’t used, the words from an ancient language that’s used shares an etymology with “partner”. Jesus cures the partner of the Centurion and says that the Centurion’s faith was the strongest.
To see it going south, we’d have to trace the state oppression of the queer personality. Procreation has been one of the ways states raised their hegemonic power. So, using religion, subverting it to their wills, the state decided to outlaw pleasure, and freedom, creating a narrative where no one could go beyond the act of procreation. Tribes, where the act of procreation was a normal part of life, and pleasure and desire was celebrated, were told that desire is the tool of the devil.
Part of the mythology extends itself to our interpretation of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden too. Even though there was no sin associated with humankind back then, different interpretations and Victorian plays try to play it through a lens of shame. Certain texts portray clothing as a liberation for the Biblical characters, while the original texts make no mention of that.
The queerest of identities were taken away and turned into a weapon of the state, through a lens of shame, and literature and movements collaborate that.
It has been 50 years since a trans woman said “no” and threw bricks at cops at the Stonewall Inn. The culture of shame had been so ingrained in our populace by that time, that when Marsha was killed some years afterward, no one said a word.
It moved on, life moved on, and Pride became the mainstay for everything cis and white.
For something that rose out of a desire to not be owned by the state, Pride is still exclusionary in many places. We’ve Pride after parties at Five-Star hotels, inaccessible to the poor trans people, Pride fests which have accessibility barriers for any person with a disability.
The truth is Pride is also governed by the straight bias that has governed the colonized world for centuries. The cis-sexual, heterosexual narrative holds its sway on Pride too, with trans people, flamboyance, everything being excluded, with the people asking for an apolitical Pride.
You see, queer bodies might’ve started Pride, but, over the years, the cisheteropatriarchy has tried to control every aspect of it again and again. Ever since the neoliberal narrative took over Pride, corporations have had a stake in controlling the market around Pride.
Today international MNCs have more power over Pride marketing techniques than as queer persons, and that’s a reminder of how Pride itself pushes queer people away.
Then, we fight back. In countries like India, where Pride hasn’t yet been fully co-opted, we create our narratives ourselves. We eulogize our own. We create comics, we create tradebacks, we create stories after stories telling everything we have.
We get beaten up by the police, we get excluded from medical institutions, and we rise again and again.
Who owns pride? We do.
The messy version is the one we own. The one where we fight every year. The Pride where queers are as divided in their opinions as every human has the right to be, but, also, the Pride where they march together for each other. We own a multitude of opinions; we own the violence against us. We own each brick thrown at us, and each brick we throw at every single person.
It is as feasible as anything else. But, I’ve never seen a straight person look at another and instinctively think of them as their sisters. I’ve never seen a straight person raise stones against the cops when they were confronted.
I’ve seen straight people refuse to march with each other for a common cause because of petty disagreements, because of the stakes that weren’t important at all.
Maybe, because they didn’t need it. Because there was no history that would ask them to need it. There’s always someone to eulogize straight people. Someone or someone else would tell the story.
Sure, they can have their Pride.
But, I’m afraid they lack the basic ingredient that makes Pride possible. No straight person has fought for Pride as hard as we did. And you’d never be able to sustain the Pride movement for as long as we did either.
So, go on, you straights.
March this year, march the next, I’m sure you won’t be marching after a decade.
And here’s something about queers that you should know.
“You have beheaded us, killed us, maimed us, burned every last page written about us again and again. The only thing you haven’t managed to do is to silence us fully. You know why? Because darlings, you might be getting tired, but we can do this all day”