6 Instances Prove How Pride Marches Are Political And Intersectional

The history of the pride parade comes from less celebratory roots, tied more to political activism and protests. Born out of necessity, pride marches have been a living, breathing manifestation of a political protest. Pride marches have been intersectional as they provide an inclusive platform to understand how the oppression which LGBTQ people face is not only because of patriarchy and heteronormativity.

The case studies below illustrate how the LGBTQ rights movement has always taken into account the macro-structures of oppression like class, race, gender, politics and caste, in its fight for equality.

1) Stonewall Riots – Race, Sexual Orientation And State Patronage Of Police Brutality

Stonewall Riots, 1969.

Context:

Stonewall Inn was a famous gay bar in the Greenwich Village of New York City. It was a haven for the queer community in a time when homosexuality was criminalised and cross-dressing or masquerading as the opposite sex in public was a crime.

A Political And Intersectional Protest:

As Greenwich Village was a safe space for queers, it was ghettoised as a problematic area. The then Mayor of the region, to clean up the image of the village, had recommended frequent police raids to dispel the queer crowd from the area.

In one such incident, when New York Police Department forces decided to raid the Stonewall Inn in New York City in 1969, what transpired laid the precedent for 50 years of pride as a platform for political protest and consciousness-raising. In the raid, the police to send out a strong message to the community had rounded up and arrested community patrons and drag queens.

Two transgender women of colour, Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, were said to have resisted arrest and thrown the first bottle (or brick or stone) at the cops, respectively. This led to a riot which helped in the first significant mobilisation of queer community members and rights group in New York to demand equal protection under the law for community members.

To commemorate the Stonewall riot, the first pride march was organised on its first anniversary to highlight discrimination against queer persons. It was in the aftermath of the civil rights movement and at the height of women’s rights movement that Marsha P Johnson had strongly advocated how there was no pride for some of us without liberation for all of us, highlighting the intersectional nature of people’s movements aimed at equality of any kind.

2) Brazil – Prides As A Political Protest Against The Conservative Government And Its Policies

Sao Paulo Pride, 2014. (Photo: Ben Tavener/Wikimedia Commons)

Context:

In the recent presidential elections of Brazil, a far-right, anti-LGBTQ leader, Jair Bolsonaro won the presidentship. President Bolsonaro is a climate change non-believer, pro-corporate, anti-tribal-rights leader, whose policies have adversely affected the Brazilian queer community.

A Political And Intersectional Protest:

The Sao Paulo Pride parade this year strongly mobilised against the increasingly conservative and regressive political climate. It condemned the idea of the president to recriminalize homosexuality, his regressive crackdown on political opponents and former president Lula da Silva who has been in prison since April 2018 due to a politically motivated sham trial. The Pride was also attended by a large group of Amazonian tribes demanding for the conservation of Amazon forests which reiterates the intersectionality of pride marches.

3) Canada Pride Marches Against Colonialism, Racism And Police Brutality

Justin Trudeau at the Vancouver Pride, 2018. (Photo: GoToVan/Wikimedia Commons)

Context:

Canada, which has a well-documented history of the evolution of Pride marches, was one of the first countries to decriminalise homosexuality and head towards equal marriage rights. The queer community in Canada has been very vocal about the differential treatment meted out to them by the state, the police and the law since the 1960s.

Political And Intersectional Nature:

Prides in Canada since 1969 have been protesting against the oppression from state institutions. The Pride marches have been a site of dissent against police targeting the LGBTQ community disproportionately, immigration policies being sternly anti-LGBTQ, land grabbing by the government affecting indigenous LGBTQ folks and lack of accessible and affordable medical care for LGBTQ persons.

In recent years, Pride Marches in Canada have also become increasingly conscious of corporations funding pride marches as the same companies go on to fund conservative candidates in political races who get on to powerful positions and make adverse policies impacting everyone. Community members have also strongly demanded the boycott of policemen in uniform from Pride marches as a response to the neglect of the police forces towards crimes against trans-community members in Ontario and other regions in Canada.

4) Pride Marches In South Africa Against Discrimination Based On Sexuality And Colour

Johannesburg Pride, 2006. (Photo: Diricia De Wet/Wikimedia Commons)

Context:

South Africa is a highly stratified society, where class, race and gender continue to be strong markers of inequality. The LGBTQ movement in South Africa focused on fighting against anti-queer laws passed on by its colonisers. Like in its western counterparts, police brutality and restriction on access to public spaces disproportionately affected queer persons of colour in white dominated social order.

Political And Intersectional Nature:

Even after the anti-apartheid movement, pride events in South Africa are still predominantly attended by the white middle class, excluding queer people of colour. In the recent Cape Town Pride, this exclusion was strongly questioned by queer rights and trans-rights organisations in South Africa as violence against queer people of colour was exceptionally high in South Africa, with multiple murder and assault cases being reported.

At the end of 2017, News24 published a report about the high levels of violence that the LGBTQ community faces in South Africa. According to the report, race, religion, culture and geography played a role in the increasing levels of intolerance and violence towards the LGBTQ community in South Africa.

5) Israel – Queer Demonstration Against Illegal Occupation

Photo: Leonhard Lenz/Wikimedia Commons.

Context:

According to Queer Solidarity Palestine, Israel, a developed Jewish state in the Middle East, has started using pride as a platform to appear liberal and progressive to cover up its human rights violation against Palestinian people in Gaza and West Banks (occupied/disputed territory).

Political And Intersectional Nature:

Several hundred LGBTQ activists blocked the path of the Pride Parade in Tel Aviv in 2019 protesting the Israeli government’s use of the LGBTQ community to cover up its discriminatory and racist policies and the maintenance of the occupation of the West Bank and the siege of Gaza. One of the demonstrators said, “While we’re demonstrating here, just a few kilometres away Israeli soldiers are shooting people exercising their right to protest.”

6) Pride Marches In India – A Political And Intersectional Manifesto

A group of people marching with placards that say "377: No Going Back"
Pride march against Section 377. (Photo: Mohd Zakir/Hindustan Times/Getty Images)

Context:

India takes pride in its people and its diversity, but this pride has always fallen short of making the Indian society progressive, inclusive and accepting in practice. Religion and its patriarchal norms make India a tough terrain to fight for equal rights, where even conversations around sex are considered to be a taboo.

The struggle for equal rights has seen the workers’ movement, women’s movement, Dalit and Adivasi movements change the political landscape in India. Till date in India, until and unless, you don’t become a significant vote bank, the political class ignores your grievances.

Political And Intersectional Nature:

It was on the shoulders of the women’s movement in India that LGBTQ struggle took its leap of faith questioning the unequal treatment meted out to LGBTQ persons. NGOs in India started questioning the disproportionate targeting of trans community members in HIV AIDS outreach programme, they also highlighted the implication of IPC 377 in furthering the LGBTQ community from the mainstream by stigmatising and criminalising their gender identity and sexual orientation.

Rights groups and trans-collectives across India started highlighting police brutality, lack of education, job opportunities, accessible healthcare and legal aid due to the homophobic nature of these institutions. Restricted access to public space and lack of opportunity in decision-making processes made pride marches across India a walking and talking protest manifesto.

Queer persons in India come from diverse social locations with their own stories of oppression. These oppressions manifest in different forms and degrees but root back to the same dominant macro-structures of inequality – class, caste, race and gender. Therefore, the queer response to it has always been and needs to be intersectional (rights for all or rights for none).

In conclusion, these stories from across the world are a testament to the idea that LGBTQ movements are not disconnected from the struggle for the rights of others. In every struggle that celebrates freedom and liberation, queer persons will be there to protest against the crimes of power, prejudice and privilege committed in their names.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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