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‘The First Pride was a Riot’ - The Transgressive Nature of Queerness

Written by Tiago Correia
Translated by Mariana Carvalho and Sara Fernandes

Today, Pride is known as a movement linked to the month of June. It is the same month as the struggle for the LGBTQ+ emancipation, in which the very notable and international Pride Parade takes place. Over the month, in an attempt to appeal to the LGBTQ+ community and to those who sympathise with it, rainbow-coloured products can be seen everywhere. The lack of conviction associated with this type of actions on the part of large corporations is tangible when we notice the promptness of removing these products in case of not being lucrative or causing controversy. The so-called rainbow washing. At the end of the month, the rainbows are once again ripped out, and the cases of internal abuse to their queer employees disclosed, until June of the following year.

This scenario vastly illustrates the character of the current Pride: constrained, capitalised, and institutionalised. Existence is permitted provided that they serve capital and do not question the discriminatory system. But, in reality, the communities that Pride represents are held marginalised, in conflict with one another and with the other hegemonic social groups that accuse them of “moral degradation”, having nothing more than the annual paraphernalia of Pride as a (effectively insufficient) solution for their subjugation. The lack of intersectionality between the identities and minorities impacted by reactionarism, the structural prejudice, and the restraint by the commercialization of Pride generated a breeding ground for the development of reactionarism without much opposition. The divisive struggles among the different social, racial, sexual and gender identities compromised their common aim regarding the struggle against reactionarism: total liberation.

In reality, the nature of Pride and queerness is transgressive. The first Pride was, in fact, a riot. The Stonewall Rebellion, a set of riots that began on the 28 of June 1969 in Stonewall Inn, New York, originated Pride as we know it today. As many times before, the police forces took advantage of dress code laws imposed by specific states as a pretext to attack businesses with transgender and gender nonconforming customers. However, this time was different: they had a response. What followed were five days of protests that solidified the LGBTQ+ fight against the chauvinist suppression and elevated the events that took place at Stonewall to an almost mythical level. Various contradictions amongst reports of the night of the uprising make the construction of a narrative true to the reality of the day in question difficult, but its legacy lives on (1). On the first anniversary of Stonewall, there was the first Pride march of Stonewall Inn, from Greenwich Village to Central Park. Fifty years later, Pride Month has become an annual and global celebration of the LGBTQ+ culture, full of parties, cultural events, clubs and organizations and rainbow washing or capitalism (2).

The queer existence is historically oppressed and outlawed. Any action that questioned the heteronormative and white hegemony was always something of revolutionary nature. Being queer is something transgressive within itself. Nonetheless, we see an evolution of Pride that denies it of any radicalization. It was institutionalised as a festive period, capitalised in the form of products and allusive experiences – the queer pride, once revolutionary, was expropriated of its transgression and transformation and it was substituted for a rainbow flag. Instead of existing outside of the system and bursting it, Pride was corrupted into taking a reformist and commercialised place within the system. Eventually, the same reformism that facilitated the social advances made by Pride ran out and we saw the reactionary revival. Every day, measures are approved that actively pursue the LGBTQ+ community. Despite the substantial advances in terms of homosexual rights, most of the trans and gender non-conforming community is not represented and is still daily bureaucratically attacked. Laws that make the gender transition harder, the denial of healthcare to trans people (although it is medically proven that it significantly lowers the mortality and suicide rate of trans people), restrictive divisions in bathrooms and others are issues seen regularly. Trans existence is constantly questioned by reactionism.

Should Pride go back to radicalism and reject the rainbow? Has it exhausted its transformation within the possible reformism? Should Pride go back to being a threat, again?

(1) Housman |, Patty. 2022. “The First Pride Was a Riot: The Origins of Pride Month.” American University. June 10, 2022.; Johnson, George M. 2023. “Pride Month Started as a Riot – and We Can’t Afford to Stop Fighting Now.” Andscape. June 13, 2023.

(2) Ibid.

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