Society Magazine

How I Fit Into Mainstream Pride Events As A Queer Black Woman

Posted on the 22 August 2016 by Juliez
How I Fit Into Mainstream Pride Events As A Queer Black Woman


I realized that I wasn’t straight when I was about 15 years old. Soon after, I got involved with my high school’s Gay-Straight Alliance. During one of the club’s meetings, the steering committee chair of an organization called PFLAG (Parents, Friends, and Families of Lesbians of Gays) joined us as a guest speaker. That day proved to be a pivotal one for me. After the committee chair spoke, I attended a PFLAG meeting and became a member of their youth group: Rainbow Youth and Allies. I am now proud to facilitate this group.

Actually coming out, however, was a process that started after I had begun attending PFLAG. I was fairly open about my sexuality at school and was not shy to stand up for myself and for the GSA (of which I would later become president), but I faced backlash. A particular group of boys took a strange interest in my sexuality and bullied me, doing things like throwing my belongings out of the classroom during lessons. My teacher witnessed this bullying but did nothing about it, sending the clear message that this type of discrimination wasn’t taken into account as something that was harmful in my community.

I felt this resistance at home, too. I remember one particular incident, when my mother picked me up after a PFLAG meeting. She told me that it was okay to go to meetings like this as long as I didn’t “feel that way.” That night, after crying in the car, I wrote her a tearful letter explaining that many of my friends were LGBT and that I may be LGBT myself. I later come out to her as bisexual. While that is not how I identify now, I was relieved to finally tell my mother that I identified with the LGBT community.

When I turned 18, I began to march in Pride parades with PFLAG. Participating in these marches quickly became one of the biggest highlights of my experience as a young queer girl. At those parades, and at that moment in my life, I felt I could be unapologetically myself. While walking those five miles in the D.C. parade, I felt an outpouring of love and affection that was both overwhelming and gratifying. Parade-goers would see PFLAG and begin to cry, reach their arms out to hold us, and tell us how much they appreciate our organization and what we do. After watching me march in Pride for a few years, my mother admitted that her reaction to my coming out was due to the fact that she was scared for me and didn’t want me to get hurt.

But as important as those parades were to me at that time, as I got older, I began to see Pride as more of a capitalist event that caters to middle-class, white, gay men. At Pride block parties, I noticed LGBT organizations seemed more focused on selling products than about celebrating a shared marginalized identity. I began to feel that Pride events were increasingly becoming something I didn’t want to be a part of any more.

At this time, I also began to question if I had truly been a fully respected and accounted for part of the gay community. I began to notice the widespread lack of representation — and even erasure — of queer people of color in the movement. For instance, media coverage of the LGBT community focuses widely on the experiences white, gay men and tends to ignore the important intersections of race, gender, and sexuality. Where did I fit in as a queer black woman?

This point was particularly driven home for me when I heard about the deaths of 50 people, most of whom were people of color, at the gay nightclub Pulse in June. That these deaths were infrequently described as a hate crime is more than saddening. Considering this was the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, our nation needs to look at all the factors that led to this event. While gun control is certainly one of those factors, so are homophobia, racism, and the stigmatization of people of color. Ending the lives of gay club-goers who were out enjoying themselves and celebrating not only their own personal pride, but supporting their friends as well, was undeniably calculated: June is Pride month and the night in question was “Latin Night” at the club.

No matter what the Pulse nightclub shooter’s intentions were, though, the result is clear: People in the LGBT community are scared. Admittedly, I am scared too, but more for the LGBT kids with whom I work than myself. I want to protect them from a world that constantly tells them that being who they are deserves punishment rather than pride and that their lives won’t change for the better, but only get worse.

Moving forward, I will continue to take pride in not only myself, but the strength of those who were and are effected by this horrible tragedy. It had been years since I marched in a Pride parade, and while I still take issue with certain aspects of these events, I knew that this year it meant more than ever to participate. Being back at Pride this past month (Baltimore, where I live, holds the parade in July), was a surreal experience. The parade was charged with all of the energy and fervor it always had, but was also imbued with something else: a sense of somberness. We chanted for the Pulse victims and kept them on our minds as we marched that hot afternoon.

Our fight is far from over. We cannot ignore intersectionality in the LGBT movement and must do better. But right now, grieving, supporting one another, and taking care of ourselves is an important part of the process to achieving that.

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