For better or for worse, Dear Reader, the signs of summer are here: Emptied Radlers stand at attention under bins in the street, there are no fewer than three new ice creams at every Späti and the city’s shelves will soon be barren of electric fans. The birds are singing. The Rotkäpchen is uncorked. The summer streets are sticky and hot, and the takes? They’re even hotter.
While the first of June marks both the official start of summer and the beginning of Pride, I would personally argue that Pride began weeks ago. Like football or Drag Race, Pride is and has always been the subject of off-season discourse. The seeds are sown in the salad days of spring, when headliners like Britney and Ariana are offered top billings at the summery festivities before blooming into an undergrowth of tweets and takes as June quickly approaches. A hushed whisper spreads across queers around the world, asking a question answered far more often than it is asked: Who is allowed to go to Pride?
Dear Reader, I think there are a number of reasons that people of all sexualities love Pride. For some, it’s a place to gather and celebrate a life outside of limiting expectations of sexuality and gender. For others, it’s a time to reflect on our shared histories, and to remember those who came before us. Of course, every year the parties draw a crowd in and of their own right: There are parties on the sunkissed street! There are parties cloaked in the shadows of the darkrooms! Once I found someone who sold corndogs at Pride: It was like a party in my mouth!
Pride’s mainstream popularity, however, comes with its commercialization, which leads to the same patterns of gatekeeping that mark most queer spaces and projects. This is in part out of necessity: While hate crimes on an individual and institutional level rise, gay spaces from bars to saunas to club nights are closing at an exponential rate. Where’s a gay to go to dance, to drink, to relax, to feel safe or just to hang out and quietly wonder if they should go to law school without worrying about home of phobia?
In my experience, Dear Reader, these questions quickly devolve from existential to essential in their nature. Consider the recent debate over whether or not kink and fetishes create an atmosphere that’s inappropriate for children who might be brought to Pride by queer parents or might be queer themselves. Should we ban leather harnesses and blowjobs in the street at Pride? Can we just ban children instead? What does it mean to be queer under capitalism? Is public sex an inherently queer experience? Are Oreos gay?
Dear Reader, I jest, but while it would be beautiful to know exactly what is and isn’t queer in a straightforward, objective and infinitely discrete way, it would also be of little use to me. There are reasons that people celebrate their own queerness, and there are reasons that people stay silent about their sexuality—I worry that prescriptive understandings of who or what are queer might favour the former while disenfranchising the latter. I’m not interested in defining what being queer means to me; I’m equally disinterested in offering platitudes that define, validate or deny the queerness of others, because I frankly don’t care as much about other people’s sex life as much as they do.
At times, it’s an exercise in trust and patience: I, too, have been on the receiving end of a polyamorous man’s navel-gazing thoughts on his own relationship with the queer community because he likes the idea of having multiple girlfriends. Still, for every conversation I’ve had that’s led me to wonder if some people are guilty until proven bisexual, I’ve had a dozen conversations where someone felt let down by the queer community. Racism, ableism, transphobia and classism are alive and kicking in spaces aligned for queer people because, as we often try to remind the hetties, we’re people too.
This is not an excuse—it’s a call to arms. As we rally around visibility, equality and acceptance of marginalized sexual and gender identities, it’s time to examine the ways that our spaces and communities replicate the languid, boring exclusivity of majority-hetero spaces. What kind of childcare options do Pride celebrations offer, Dear Reader, and how might we make our parties more accessible for those with disabilities—both visible and invisible? Are there events at which sober people will feel comfortable, for example, and are tickets offered at a sliding scale to afford working class people the same access to queer community spaces? Why is it acceptable to have armed police at Pride, and what can we do about floats owned by corporations that invest in homophobic or transphobic politicians? Are there even gender neutral toilets?
Until these questions of access are answered, I’m not interested in debating whether or not your bisexual friend’s straight boyfriend is allowed at the Pride parade because I’m not particularly invested in the sex or dating life of anyone but myself. I’m not keen on sussing out whether fellow attendees belong at Pride by asking about their past sexual partners, or about their experience of gender and sexuality—I’d rather be experiencing and celebrating my own, sorry! Instead, Dear Reader, I’m here to offer some Pride Season advice for all those attending: Stay hydrated, slap on plenty of sunblock, and wear comfortable footwear—blisters are, among other things, homophobia at its finest.