Problematically Joyful: Why I’m Struggling This Pride Month

I have never been less excited about pride month. Not just unenthused, but literally exhausted. Since I came out in 2015, pride has always felt problematically joyful; whilst I revelled in the chance to shamelessly express my sexuality, I was always acutely aware of those around me detaching the party from the parade, the commodity from the cause of genuine liberation. Nonetheless, I always felt like I had something to say about pride, and as though that something might actually be productive. Instead, this year, as I was trying to research an angle for this piece you are about to read, I felt so deeply uninspired, disillusioned, and, quite simply, depressed.

There were a couple of days last week during which I couldn’t go on twitter without finding myself in tears. The internet is quite trying at the best of times, let alone during pride – everyone has something to say about everything and it is rarely of use. However, what distressed me is the fact that a quick scroll for me meant trudging through a relentless stream of that same image of the lesbian couple, covered in blood, after being attacked on a bus in Camden. Naturally, people threw their two cents into the discussion at every chance, making worthwhile cases about the unique brand of homophobia they fell victim to as two women, one that is fundamentally misogynistic. Arguments were made, the disgust was palpable, as was the clear shock people felt at the fact that something like this could happen in London, now, in 2019.

Sadly, I can’t shake the feeling that this outrage, from many, is simply performative. I am furious and deeply upset for the two women. However, as a lesbian myself, what this inspired in me was little more than a very depressing – but not unexpected – reminder of what I still do face every day. The photo screams at me what could have happened that time I kissed my ex-girlfriend on the cheek outside ASDA and a kid walking past mumbled “that’s disgusting” to his friend, or any of those times I (rightfully) told a guy to do one for leering at me with another girl on a night out. It yells “you know all of those micro-aggressions? They could have and still always can lead to physical aggression,” but that doesn’t shock me the way it does straight people, who don’t experience the relentlessness of presenting gay every day, not just during pride month.

None of this means I don’t feel proud to be LGBTQ+. I am more certain than ever that it is impossible for me to muster up any kind of shame surrounding who I am, who I love, and those with whom my identity associates me. However, I am struggling to navigate my feelings of pride as pride month goes on. I find myself too often raging at how other people choose or, choose not to, adopt ‘pride.’ I feel rage at the fact that, since June began, people have pretended to be shocked that Ann Widdecombe still thinks science could provide a cure for being gay; NSPCC have severed ties with trans activist Munroe Bergdorf after a Times journalist launched an online hate campaign (reminding us that The Times is already being sued by a former editor for anti-trans discrimination); and disgusting violence, both physical and verbal, on the streets and from our politicians, has grown.

It being Pride month doesn’t halt any of this, but it makes me angrier when the people and companies enacting real and symbolic violence on the LGBTQ+ community are doing so with a limited-edition rainbow flag logo in their icons. Whilst politicians are arguing that primary school children aren’t emotionally mature enough to be told that queer people exist, teenagers are out there bloodying a lesbian couple for not performing their sexuality for them in the way they have decided they should expect from porn. That the kids arrested for attacking Melania Geymonat and her girlfriend are all between age 15-18 makes me shiver. The kid that called me disgusting outside ASDA was no older than 12. When are they old enough to learn about us? When they have already learnt to hate us?

To say that it is all getting to me slightly more than usual is probably an understatement but, while it all feels very personal, I know that a lot of my queer friends are feeling the same. We are all struggling to find something, anything, to say about it that hasn’t already been said by people much more qualified, or by some stranger on the internet. Everyone wants us to believe that it gets better, looking to history for proof that it does. Once we are convinced, we are supposed to give them our money and go on pretending that a fake-smile and a branded rainbow t-shirt is the outfit we want to be wearing for these draining thirty days. I think the hope that I am looking for, because hope is the note on which any grievance with pride must end, lies in the fact that anger, sadness, and exhaustion have always been crucial seeds for progress. They don’t fuel revolutions, but no one seeks to change what energises them. Pride doesn’t energise me at the moment, but the queers I surround myself with do and I think we are craving for things to change.

Sophie Chapman


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