Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Ever-Growing Distance in Queer Communities

There’s uproar in my local queer community.

I’m sure that’s pretty normal wherever you go — at least within North America and parts of the world where it is relatively safe to be an LGBT2SQ+ person.

Pride starts at the end of this month and stretches into early June. And people are livid. Why? Honestly, I feel like I don’t get it. The parade route is different than last year.

Last year was a major anniversary for the local pride parade, so city administration allowed the parade to go down the busiest street in the city and offered a greatly reduced price for doing so. Now that it’s not a major anniversary year, the pride committee would have to pay full price for accessing that street, which is beyond the budget of the committee.

So… just do the route of the year before… right? Can’t do that either. For the few years before last year’s anniversary route, the parade went in a circuit through downtown, ending where it started. But with the parade being so long, the front of the parade circled through the whole route before the end of it left the starting point, causing a logjam. With the parade growing every year, this is no longer a feasible route.

The pride committee worked with the city to come up with a new route. It goes through the middle of downtown while largely avoiding the busy streets that would be too expensive to block off. It’s not the greatest route, but it was the compromise that the pride committee and city administration came to.

Of course, so many people hate it for so many different reasons. The disability community is up in arms because the route isn’t the best for accessibility. (I find that strange, as one of the comments in particular is that the tall buildings do something to sound quality, making it hard for hard of hearing folks to hear. I’m half deaf and I do fine.) The younger folks feel this isn’t visible enough and are apparently planning an “alternative pride parade” that will walk down the super-busy-and-far-too-expensive downtown street of last year’s route. How they’ll do that without being arrested, I don’t know.

All I know is that almost everyone is screaming at almost everyone else.

The only people who aren’t completely and totally enraged are either those who have served on the pride committee at some point or those who have been a part of the local pride parade since year one. Those on the committee know how hard it is to plan this parade and they know that this new route is the best that all parties could agree to. Those who remember or were part of the first parade are just happy that they can still march without “anonymity masks” (paper bags to be worn over a marcher’s head, which were handed out for free at the first parade).

There’s a chasm between all of these groups. They’re so far apart from each other that they can’t even contemplate the others’ points of view. No one seems to want to listen to anyone else — they just want to scream, protest, and hurl swears on Facebook.

But what I find particularly interesting is that this is a very privileged point of view and those who are doing all the screaming don’t seem to understand that simply being able to have a parade without a worry of violence is a feat in itself. You don’t even have to go to one of those dangerous countries to find a place where simply having a parade is an incredible thing in itself.

In the last three years, small communities and rural areas throughout my province have had their inaugural pride parades. One of our most homophobic small towns, one that’s made the national news a few times for that very fact, had their first pride two years ago.

I doubt they were fighting over the route. And if their route changes this year, I doubt anyone from that community will raise their voices over it. In that town, the simple act of marching and being proud of who you are is groundbreaking.

And in these small communities or other parts of the world where being LGBT2SQ+ is dangerous and even something that brings a risk of death, there is less public uproar among their local queer communities.

In that small town, if the parade route would change this year, there may be a few people who are upset about it — but will they stage large public protests and scream about it on Facebook and hurl swears at parade organizers? Probably not. For in that town, homophobic residents are looking for anything and everything to throw right back at the community they hate — and the community knows this.

I’m somewhat involved in my local queer community and I hear now and then from homophobic folks that love to point out how we as a queer community can’t get along. They love to point out our flaws. They love to point out our disharmony. We’re in a privileged city and we’re a privileged community — and I don’t think a lot of these screaming angry mob folks fully realize it — and they certainly don’t realize how fragile and tenuous that privilege is.

In that small town, only an hour’s distance from here, that same public discord among their queer community could mean the death of their pride celebration. And that could then in turn make that community very unwelcoming and very unsafe for queer folks, particularly for young queer kids.

In homophobic countries, places where it’s a crime to be gay, any public discord like this would be used as a weapon against the community. This type of public discord could lead to the deaths of LGBTQ+ folks.

Am I pleading for people to just be happy and get along?

No.

For the new route for the parade in my city, there may, in fact, be accessibility issues. There may, in fact, be a better route that the committee and the city could have agreed to. There may, in fact, have been a way to fundraise to allow the parade to go down that main thoroughfare for that very high cost.

But this public protesting, groups screaming at other groups, swears being hurled at pride committee volunteers on Facebook, accusation after accusation — these chasms between the groups in our collective community — they do nothing but harm us as a community. And when you harm us as a community, it becomes less safe to self-identify as LGBT2SQ+.

It’s still not safe — even in this major city in Canada — to be fully out as LGBT2SQ+. I choose who I want to be out to and where I want to be out — I don’t live my whole life as out and gay. I don’t mean do I decide to deck myself out in rainbows and act campy wherever I go. I mean choosing when I go out with my husband to interact with him like he’s my husband or like he’s just my friend. I mean when I go to a restaurant with my husband, do I hold his hand or not? I mean when he picks me up and I jump in his car, do I give him a quick kiss like a heterosexual couple would or do I just say “hey”?

I’m comfortable in my sexuality and I’m not ashamed of it — and still I have to make these choices. What about someone who isn’t comfortable or isn’t safe or free to even contemplate these choices? What good does such public and anger-filled discourse do?

Instead fo building bridges within our community and between our groups, we’re only widening the chasms. The distance between us grows with every passing year. And it only hurts us in the end.




Cameron D. James is a writer of gay erotica and M/M erotic romance; his latest release is Autumn Fire. He is publisher at and co-founder of Deep Desires Press, member of the Indie Erotica Collective, and hosts two podcasts, Deep Desires Podcast and Sex For Money. He lives in Canada, is always crushing on Starbucks baristas, and has two rescue cats. To learn more about Cameron, visit http://www.camerondjames.com.

4 comments:

  1. The shame of it is that, when the oppressor's foot is removed, people always go back to fighting each other, as they did before the foot was there. So when LBGTQ folks had to stay hidden or die, they didn't fight each other much, because they were all afraid of being noticed. But now that they're allowed to be in the open, they can get to fighting over differences that used to not matter.

    Just like when the British made to leave Ireland, when the British left India, when the USSR left Bosnia, etc. Why we, as human beings, can't respect each other and our differences, is beyond me. Without an oppressor standing on your neck, you should be free to become more loving, more fully who you are. Instead, we often turn on those who are similar to us, but still different, and we fight. Sometimes I wonder if we will ever escape from the primordial ooze we crawled out of...or if our flaws doom us all.

    And as you point out, with the internet giving a soapbox to everyone's psyche, the trolls who dislike any certain group of people, will gleefully point to the mote in the other guy's eye, but ignore the log in their own. (Obscure Biblical reference.)

    Yet there are so many good people. Heavy sigh...

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  2. I wish the various groups in your city could read this post, Cameron. There's so much wisdom here.

    One problem with social media is that it makes it SO easy to complain. Indeed, it encourages people to do so. Drama generates traffic, and the more traffic, the more the advertisers make. Sigh.

    Peace isn't nearly as exciting or as lucrative.

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  3. This is a sad and well-written post, Cameron. I think of groups like this as families, with all the good and bad that comes with that. I hope things get a bit better somehow.

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  4. You have my sympathy, Cameron. Similar things happen here on the prairies, where the queer community used to seem so loving and co-operative in the early 1980s. Times have changed.

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