As another Pride Month comes to an end, a debate on who belongs at Pride is taking place online. Pride started a little over 50 years ago as a commemoration to the Stonewall uprising in New York City, in response to the constant raids on gay bars, police brutality, and arrests. What started as a resistance and a fight for equal rights turned into a celebration of a community that was marginalized for so long. Every June, the LGBTQIA+ community and their allies gather in celebrations all around the world to further that resistance and show they should be treated as equals.
As the years go by, debates start to take place and a look into who should be allowed at Pride sparks conversation; mainly towards the Kink community. Since the first Pride Month, kink and fetish have had a place in the celebration. Pride parades are a space for liberation and acceptance; however, some do not see it that way. In the past couple of years there have been arguments that Pride is “inaccessible” to all, especially children, because of people sporting ball gags, harnesses, leather suits and so on. While not wanting your children to see other people dressed in a sexual manner is a whole other issue, there is the idea of consent that is being argued for.
Consent makes things complicated in the context of Pride. While consent should always be utilized, trying to conform members of a community to fit a certain mold goes against what the holiday is all about. Ellie Fuches believes no group should be left out of the celebration because she knows how it feels to be seen on the outside. “The asexual population has been excluded from anything and everything LGBTQIA+ only up until recently so I know how exclusionary it can feel,” says Ellie. “To anyone who wants to argue “For the children!” Or “violation of consent” I see you, and I understand. Like I said before, everyone has a place at Pride.”
Pride and Queer history tell the tales of resisting social norms and embracing sexuality, so how can we argue against it during a time when people are celebrating who they truly are? “The definition of what pride is today and what pride was is so different and I feel like we still need to be able to honor pride for what it was when it all started, not just what it has become now,” says Ashton Onions, a member of the LGBTQIA+ community. “I do believe that kink can make pride inaccessible to some,” says Ashton, “[but] by telling them they aren’t allowed to express themselves for who they are and how they want to, how does that make us any better than the police trying to silence our ancestors years ago?”
The term “respectability politics” comes into play and the question of whether or not this argument is just further marginalizing an already marginalized community. It’s asking the LGBTQIA+ community to tone down and conform to mainstream culture, which completely goes against the history behind how Pride started in the first place. “To me that’s always been a huge part of these parades, events, etc. Like you’re supposed to be unabashedly yourself at these things, it’s not the time or place for censorship”, says Melissa Gnoza, member of the LGTBQIA+ community. Politics takes the fundamentals of Pride and polices and excludes them from the event, completely changing what the community continuously has to fight for. “For most people, Pride is the ONE day that they can dress how they want, be who they want, and just be their authentic selves and asking people to stop doing that or to do it in the comfort of their own homes is really no different than those trying to silence us all together.”