Proudly lesbian, I no longer go to Pride

Essayist and radical black feminist and founder of the blog Sister Outrider, Claire Heuchan attacks the misogyny of the LGBT world, pornography and rainbow merchandising.
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by Claire Heuchan

I still remember my first Pridealmost a lifetime and a half ago. I was fifteen years old and spending a day in Glasgow with my mother when we saw the parade start from Queen Street. In the years since then, I have often wondered whether the choice of that route as a starting point was intentional or not. But at the time I was not familiar enough with gay culture, or with the ironic claim of insults to seriously question it. Besides, the flamboyant feathers and ostentation were so far removed from what I had seen in my own life that they demanded my full attention.

My mother seemed quite enthusiastic about attending the parade. She is a lesbian while I, at the time, still considered myself bisexual. We stood together on the side of the road watching the parade. I remember being enchanted by a float that had a banner about gay fatherhood and on which a dozen gay men were blowing kisses to the crowd. It was one of the few occasions in my adolescence when the attention of unknown adult men did not bother me.

But the situation became a little more awkward when a group of men started duelling with giant inflatable penises. Witnessing anything remotely sexual alongside your parents is always extremely embarrassing. Today it seems so trivial compared to the fetish accessories that porn culture has incorporated into the mainstream. If there had been overt BDSM on display, like some of the images I see circulating on Twitter every Pride season, I'm sure my mother would have asked to leave. And I would have been all for it.

In those days, it would have been unthinkable for me to - as an adult woman who has the freedom to be able to participate in Pride every year - choose not to participate. Yet I haven't been to Pride in years. And I am not the only one. A recent survey found that 53% of lesbian and bisexual women do not feel comfortable at Pride. Less than half of the women surveyed said they would like to attend Pride.although the vast majority of them live in countries or cities where Pride is organised regularly.

Something has clearly gone wrong in the LGBT community if most women feel alienated from Pride.. And although I remember my first Pride with fondness, I only now realise how few women were present at the march. The only all-female group I saw that day was SheBoom, Europe's largest female drumming group. For the rest, men dominated the parade. The sexism has damaged our community since it was formed, damaging pioneering groups such as the Gay Liberation Front. E until the issue of misogyny within LGBT spaces is addressed.nothing will change.

Pride began as an act of protest. It was a way to commemorate the insurrection of Stonewall, which was triggered by a biracial lesbian woman who fought against police violence and brutality. His name was Stormé DeLarverie. Despite the Stormé's name has almost been deleted from LGBT history - set aside for the benefit of his contemporaries - there would be no Pride without his courage. I often wonder what would Stormé think of uniformed police officers joining the march, of rainbow merchandising produced by corporations or of Pride sponsorship by international banking giants.

The rainbow capitalism has little to offer a lesbian womanwho on average are more likely to live in poverty than a straight woman or gay man. Yet at every possible opportunity we are fed lies by various brands eager to make money out of gay rights, reducing the liberation policy to a marketing trend. This cynicism and greed of certain corporations, combined with the increasingly prevalent misogyny in LGBT spaces, are driving women away from Pride.

These values do not represent me in any way as a lesbian.. When I think about what it is that makes me really proud to be a lesbian, I realise that are the women who make up the lesbian community, with very little reward or recognition. I am proud to belong to such an exceptional group of women. I am proud that the older lesbian women in my life have seen something in me that deserves to be nurtured. And I am proud that I can do the same for the younger lesbian women in my life. But I don't feel at all proud of a movement that repeatedly turns its back on lesbians.

When groups like the Lesbian Rights Alliance challenge Stonewall, or Get the L Out, protest against Pride, are denigrated and condemned. But it is easier to pillory lesbian organisations than to ask what drove women to form those breakaway groups in the first place. Since we are conditioned to expect women to submit to our needs and take on most of the care work, people may have an instinctive dislike of women who focus on themselves and on other women: thelesbian separatism has always been viewed through the lens of suspicion. And this misogyny only widens the gap that threatens to fragment the LGBT community.

Original article link heretranslation by Angela Tacchini

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