PARADES ARE CANCELLED. PRIDE IS NOT.
Pride will certainly not be the celebration we are used to this year. But never in my lifetime have we needed the spirit of Pride more. Let us not forget, this movement was birthed in protest by queer people of colour standing their ground against a culture of oppression enforced by a hostile police force.
Queer communities have benefited greatly from what followed, none more so than white gay men like myself. Our existing privileges (our skin colour, our inculturation, our masculinity to varying degrees) accelerated our integration into mainstream acceptability. Are things perfect for us now? No certainly not. We too suffer higher rates of HIV, substance abuse and mental health issues, we are stigmatized by a homophobic blood donation ban that marks us a health risk to others. At the same time, there is no denying we have it easier than most if not all other members of our rainbow family.
This has me thinking about the importance of allyship and advocacy. Have we been demanding it of straight people while neglecting to embody it meaningfully within our own communities? The answer will vary by person no doubt, but as a group, I sadly suspect the answer is yes.
In my learning, I’ve seen Black activists expressing that the collective and rapid “awakening” of white people has been bitter-sweet. While they are happy it is happening, they are reminded of the price extorted by whiteness and the length of time it has taken. Learning how to be anti-racist must be work we as white people take up. Instead of placing the labour of education on our Black, indigenous and non-Black friends of colour, maybe approach a white friend who knows more first. Take the time to learn independently about racism and anti-racism and especially how racism differently affects trans and non-binary people. Use your social media time to follow queer and trans Black activists doing this work and producing anti-racism resources. Donate to their organizations and causes. Do not be that white person who wanders into conversations clearly meant to be between members of a community you’re not part of. If the dialogue around whiteness right now threatens you or makes you uncomfortable sit with that, interrogate those feelings.
Pride parades may be cancelled this year. But its spirit, the values of diversity, inclusion, acceptance and the fire it lights in us can never be. This year is a reminder of where this movement started, and I hope we can all stand in advocacy and allyship with those once again leading the fight for liberation.
- Rob Higgins is a master’s student researching queer health with the Community-Based Health Equity Research Group. He is the Chair of the Social Dimensions of Health Student Association, and was awarded 1st place overall and the People’s Choice Award at the UVic 2020 3 Minute Thesis Competition