Gay Pride marches tend to be such joyful experiences, it could be easy to forget that their origins are in the protest movement. In truth—although, these days, they're often described as parades—Gay Pride marches have much in common with the events unfolding on our streets right now. In honor of Pride Month, we reached out to Matthew Riemer, co-author of We Are Everywhere: Protest, Power, and Pride in the History of Queer Liberation, to share his thoughts.
"Protest, Power, and Pride in 2020"
By Matthew Riemer
After the first Gay Pride marches in June 1970, activist Kiyoshi Kuromiya described the experience he’d had with thousands of other queer people marching from Greenwich Village to Central Park: “We came battle-scarred and angry to topple your racist, sexist, hateful society,” he wrote. “In one fell swoop, we came to destroy by our mere presence your labels and stereotypes with which you’ve oppressed us for centuries. And we came with love and open hearts to challenge your hate and secrecy.”
As June 2020 arrives, I know that many queer people—and our allies of good conscience—have questions about how, or if, we’re supposed to commemorate Pride. These annual events are so-often marketed as unmitigatedly feel-good affairs that one hesitates even to recognize their existence in the midst of a pandemic, murderous racism, police riots, and a rising tide of totalitarianism. But the struggles all around are what make Pride 2020 so important, even if the rainbow-drenched parades never step off. Because we remain “battle-scarred and angry,” more committed than ever “to topple your racist, sexist, hateful society,” Pride itself can never be cancelled.
This year, take time to connect the past and present in order to create a liberated future. Learn about and from queer history and let it guide you to radical action. Though I’m biased, I strongly recommend starting with We Are Everywhere: Protest, Power, and Pride in the History of Queer Liberation, in which my partner and I use meticulously-researched narrative and stunning imagery to tell radical queer history. I’m also excited about Amazon Music’s Pride History playlist, a month-long series of queer stories narrated by Melissa Etheridge, Tegan & Sara, and Kim Petras, featuring the music of queer artists from Gladys Bentley to Wendy Carlos to Sylvester.
“Each one of us is here because somebody before us did something to make it possible,” Audre Lorde taught. Although we live in difficult times, it’s our responsibility to do something to make life possible for those who’ll follow us.
Learn history, change the present, shape the future.
Happy Pride. Black Lives Matter.
Author Matthew Riemer shares his thoughts at the onset of Pride Month.