This is the time of year where queers all over this lovely country of ours put on their shortest of shorts, their most glittery of glitter, their most bronze of bronzer, and work on making their hair as high as humanly possible. We primp, we preen, we curate the most fabulous ensembles in hope of catching the eye of that gender fucking Femme who works at the only bookstore in town that carries Curve (that’s still a thing, right? Okay, Original Plumbing, then).This is the time of year that we all wait so patiently for: The time of year where we are allowed to be bold and brash.
The time of year where we put on our rainbows, grab fistfuls of money, and dance in the streets.
That’s right, queermos. You know it, you love it: PRIDE!
It’s Pride Month! The one time of year when we’re allowed to walk down the streets in gold lamé without fear! The one time of year we get to be seen in the daytime! The one time of year when you can assume everyone wants to fuck you without looking like a narcissist! And y’all, you know Pride is good, because it’s one of the seven deadly sins.
But with Pride comes one of my least favorite things in the world: Pride Festivals.
You think I’d love them, because they’re chock full of free shit, gaymo performances, daytime drinking, and sweaty dancing. But you know what? You’re wrong. To me, Pride Festivals have become one of the most hypocritical events to happen to queer communities in recent years.
I know, I know. That’s maybe a controversial opinion to have, but hear me out.
Pride is something positive that originated out of something super shitty. It’s a self-affirming visibility project built up as a response to physical and psychic attacks on queerness. That part I can get behind.
The issue I take with Pride Festivals across the country is the rampant sponsorship put up by addictive and dangerous products. Don’t act like you don’t know.
Let’s look at Oklahoma City Pride as an example.
(This is the part where I make a disclaimer about using Oklahoma City as an example. This is not about blasting OKC’s Pride. I think that the organization has an amazing mission, and the amount of passion and drive it takes to pull something like Pride off is commendable. This is about larger issues related to equity and justice when we’re talking about LGBTQ communities, and is applicable to pretty much ALL Pride celebrations nationwide. Okay? Okay.)
Who pays for Pride? Not like you don’t already know from the mega floats that appear in the parade, or the banners hanging up at every bar. But really, who? Based on what I can tell, it’s almost all booze companies who foot the bill.
Page 29 of Oklahoma City’s Pride Guide lists the festival sponsors who are responsible for making Pride fiscally possible. Who are listed in the top five? Coors Light, Boulevard Brewing Company, Miller Lite, Tecate, and Bud Light.
Yup. Those are all big alcohol companies.
Interesting, especially given the fact that LGBTQ folks have higher addiction rates than the general population. And we’re not talking like, a little bit higher. The Pride Institute estimates that about 45% of our community participates in problem drinking behaviors.
45%!!?? That’s almost half!
(Fun Fact: We smoke like we drink, too.)
So, with epidemic-like numbers like those, don’t you think that we’d be trying to decrease risky behavior rather than encourage it?
I think so. And I don’t think it’s unreasonable to demand that our community’s health and well-being be taken into consideration when putting together this festival. Where are the members of the Oklahoma City Pride Board when these sponsorship decisions are being made? For an organization whose mission statement is “to provide leadership to meet the needs of the LGBT community through awareness, health, and educational services,” I think they need to really be held accountable to that. We’re not doing anyone any good if we’re only paying lip service to mission statements.
So, queers, it’s time. Let’s start pushing back. Let’s celebrate what Pride is really about: Be a movement, not a market!
Ricky would like to wish all of you a very lovely Pride month, and looks forward to dancing with you soon. Follow Ricky on Twitter: @prettyrickyroo
Thank you, Ricky for this important message. Kristen