With yet another vote on “police participation” coming up Tuesday night at Pride Toronto – after Pride TO has contravened Pride TO membership votes TWICE in the past two years to ban institutional police participation, an utter (and probably illegal) abuse of process – it’s time to debunk the rhetoric of “inclusion” that is now consistently marshaled to EXCLUDE queer and trans people from LGBTQ spaces.
The rhetoric of “inclusion” is now frequently used by non-queer and trans people (and some LGBT collaborators) to allow the very institutions that pride was established to protest – for example, police and heteronormativity – center stage in LGBT spaces.
Queer and trans people say we don’t want cops in Pride, that Pride originated as a protest against police violence, and that the parades of fascism with institutions such as the police and military marching in Pride pushes out masses of our community who are still consistently targeted with violence by these institutions. Cops and their allies ignore this history, this present, this ongoing pain, violence, and trauma with facile nods to inclusion: “but Pride is for everyone!” they exclaim. No, actually, it is not. If you are not on board with ending police violence in our communities and everywhere, Pride is not for you.
Queer and trans people say we are tired of straight people taking over our spaces, playing tourist in order to feel dangerous for venturing into our dark and dirty world for a twirl. From bachelorette parties in gay bars to hordes of heterosexuals parading at Pride, straight people take up the banner of “inclusion” to insist on their right to be in LGBT spaces. “But isn’t Pride for everyone?” they lament, when we ask them to just stop. No, it is not. We have so few spaces that are not dominated by hetero-cum-homonormativity. We don’t need or want you gawking at us, we do not exist simply to titillate you, and if you aren’t focused on on doing something about ending queer and trans oppression – oppression by the police, the state, corporations, settler colonialism, and heterosexuality and all the other institutions of capitalism and white supremacy – then no, you are not acting in solidarity with queer and trans people. You are using us for your amusement.
Queer and trans spaces and activism have NEVER been about inclusion, in the way the term was originally intended, nor in the sense of the fascistic method of erasure in which it is deployed today. Queer and trans spaces usually operate, or try to even as they fail, as a sanctuary away from heterosexuals, the police, and the boot of the state on our necks. Queer and trans activism is about ending institutional violence and oppression. What both are decidedly not about is welcoming and “including” those very people who oppress us.
“I hate straights!” proclaimed Queer Nation over 25 years ago. This statement was offered as a provocation, not a proclamation of fact, to jolt the reader out of a normativized acquiescence to the dominance heterosexual perspectives and ways of understanding the world. Queer nation writes: “They’ve taught us that good queers don’t get mad.” And that is what they continue to try to teach us, to shove it down our throats until we choke on it, when they weaponize the word inclusion against us.
But we have every reason to be raging with anger. Now we must fight not only state and other institutions of violence, we must fight those in our own community who are collaborating with those who continue to mark us for death. Enough is enough.
For those of you who are current Pride Toronto members, please vote NO this Tuesday to police participation in Pride. It is unconscionable that not only has the fiscal mismanagement by the Pride TO board and Olivia Nuamah, the Executive Director of Pride Toronto, run up outrageous deficits – due to such poor decisions as spending hundreds of thousands of dollars each on celebrity (often straight) performers and signing contracts with absurd penalties and giveaways to businesses – that jeaopardize the stability of the organization. They are now using their own incompetenace and lack of prioritizing our local communities as an excuse to insist cops must be allowed back into Pride.
For those who are not current members, or who may be not queer, this is your opportunity to be real allies by shutting down these false rhetorics of inclusion, and by letting Pride Toronto in particular know that you are watching them. You can also support queer and trans spaces that are run by AND FOR queer and trans people. Some of those spaces that have formed in recent years are the Toronto Queer Film Festival and Bricks and Glitter (please feel free to list more in the comments!). Give them your money and other support, but in the meantime, here’s the contact info for Pride Toronto so you can express your opinions about their selling out of our communities directly.