Five years ago, the creative queer community in Austin got tired of their Pride parade being a sanitized showcase of corporate ads. Their city’s parade was covered in logos and promotional tchotchkes and (according to some locals) the pride organization behind it started telling drag queens to show more decorum during the parade and people in fetish-wear to cover more skin.
It was an impotent parade, bereft of any political might or purpose — just a marketing showcase really.
This is what has become of many Prides around the U.S., the event that originally served to commemorate the rebellions at Stonewall — where drag queens, transgender people of color, homeless queer youth, prostitutes, and stone butch dykes finally took a stand against police harassment. The queers in the Stonewall Inn were the lowest of the low. Being seen with them could get you fired. They were sort of people Jesus would have hung out with.
The modern “gay rights” movement wants nothing to do with these people because they make bad optics and ruin the messaging that “We’re normal, just like you.” As we’ve won more rights, our media and political aims have become more conservative and homogenic. They regularly exclude bisexuals, trans folks, people of color, and anyone who can’t afford to buy vodka or tip a bartender. Our leaders don’t advocate for comprehensive sex education, legalized prostitution, or helping care for older, poorer, sick queers because those people don’t buy shit. In truth, the parade (and our media) largely avoid protest or celebrating our authentically whole and sexual selves, instead demonstrating the commercially viability of the pink dollar, courting corporate favor and attracting “gay rights” voters through The Three M’s: military, matrimony, and money.
In the U.S., these three M’s are the avenues to securing healthcare. Apparently, we have to join the army, get married, or have a job in order to be considered worthy of keeping alive.
But while all of us need healthcare, not all of us want The Three M’s, because we don’t just want gay rights — we demand queer liberation.
Allow me to explain. Queers are not the same as “gay people.” Queers are different because we’re not just defined by a fixed sexual orientation or gender. We’re defined by gender-expression (the way we dress, groom and carry ourselves). We’re defined by the types of people we fuck and fall in love and the things we do in bed. Also “queer” not only means being different, eccentric or outside of the norm, but living outside the protection of the norm. In addition to having fluid gender and sexual identities, queers are poor, they’re drug users, they’ve been rejected by their families, fired from their jobs, excommunicated from their churches, beaten by strangers and yet subsist in flaming exuberance, living in loud, colorful ways that push communities and culture forward.
They can also throw one hell of a party.
In short, QueerBomb is about getting our marginalized neighbors together and challenging the social inequalities that have persisted for generations. No matter your political affiliation or sexual proclivities, we can all agree that socio-economic inequality is unjust and unfair, and that any system that perpetuates these inequalities is corrupt. The poor go to jail in droves and get raped, the police arrest you for being homeless or hungry and the old and sick go back into the closet to die amongst strangers. If this is the best we can offer queers in our communities, we have failed.
Our current Pride parades, media and “gay rights movement” are not interested in putting these people and problems front and center because they all makes for depressing advertising. But these are our neighbors, our brothers and sisters, and if we do not care for them — if we hate them, ignore them or merely tolerate them — they die and we all lose out.
So rather than march in parades which now champion consumerism over community, we’ve said “Enough!” and created our own celebration. Each year around the anniversary of Stonewall, QueerBomb holds an annual rally (with performance and political bite), a political march through the non-gay parts of our cities, and a celebration with local queer DJs and performers. All of these events are free, open to all ages, and entirely community-funded because it’s important to show what we can do without corporate sponsorship or the three Ms.
QueerBomb Dallas (an offshoot of the Austin group that I helped found) has committed itself to creating queer cultural events throughout the year so we can bring people together to discuss the local policies that perpetuate queer inequality. We’ve committed ourselves to including the deaf, blind and wheelchair-bound; non-English speakers; poor, old and mentally ill queers who aren’t welcome in gay bars to let them know that they are welcome and that their struggles are our struggles. And lastly, we’re committed to creating ways to make Dallas a world-class city for queer art and politics, even if it means we must take mobilized, direct political actions against our local Pride event, corporate businesses, hate-mongering churches, or city hall.
QueerBomb Dallas thinks gender roles are antiquated bullshit, young people deserve comprehensive sex education, prostitution and drugs should be legal, healthcare should be universal, everyone should have easy access to HIV medications, and that society should help care for its weakest most marginalized citizens. But in order to change these things, we need queer people to get out of the bars and onto the streets.
Sure, we embody the sometimes filthy or non-“family friendly” parts of our life experiences. But we queers are here to challenge our communities, even the LGBT community, and to talk about all the things we’re not supposed to talk about — misogyny, racism, classism, ageism, ableism, slut shaming. Facing up to these uncomfortable and even embarrassing realities actually create gateways to understanding the harder more personal issues that could actually heal our communities and the world at large.