Hamilton pride hitting the right notes?
Happy Pride, Hamilton! You’ve probably seen colourful posters all around the city that read “We Are Here,” and this month in Hamilton, that’s truer than ever. With some 40 or so events that ran on local partnerships and a zero dollar budget, this year’s Pride itinerary was arguably the most diverse and inclusive than it’s ever been.
Events ranged from the annual Pride flag raising, a dinner for newcomers and people of colour, to a panel discussion on the (in)visibility of disability. All in all, Hamilton Pride and everyone involved, including co-chairs Poe Liberado and Paul Hawkins, local businesses, and countless volunteers, have accomplished something that is no small feat, but humbling nonetheless as it recognized and created spaces for LGBTQ+ people from all walks of life.
At their surface, many Pride festivities in North America are heavily centered on white gay men, rather than the entire LGBTQ+ acronym. Of course, it goes without saying that for gay communities to be able to exist without any repercussions is extremely important, and we have come such a long way from the Stonewall Riots that started this movement 45 years ago considering we’re able to take our pride to the streets.
The importance of all that is completely unchallenged, and I personally love Pride celebrations, but what becomes of people who exist in the sidelines of an already marginalized community? For me and many that I have spoken to, attending events at Hamilton Pride served as a reminder that people have a multitude of intersecting identities, including their race, gender, age, ability, sexuality, class, and/or religion. Not only do these multidimensional identities need to be recognized, we need to accordingly re-evaluate how our events, initiatives, and spaces are beneficial to some, but also how they are harmful and isolating to others. The festivities evoked thoughtful conversations on anything and everything, including how Pride bar-culture excludes people with alcohol addiction, how Pride marches forget people with disability, or how white-dominance creates racist environments for LGBTQ+ people of colour. This is precisely why we need to also look at the bigger picture rather than ourselves as individuals, and sometimes just listen when someone tells us that our actions are hurting them and their community. Listen to the voices of people who have been here longer than us, or face oppression of a variety that we never have. Until we recognize that, it is impossible to understand each other’s struggles, our determination and achievements, the root of so many ideas and how we can unify through them. One of the most dangerous things is to forget the people who make it possible for us to simply exist today. We need to remember the history of where our communities have come from to understand where we are now.
These are not my ideas. There are all things many before me have said and raised concerns over countless times in the past. These are things that people from marginalized communities, including my own, that aren’t recognized until they’re voiced by someone with power. Pride festivals are fantastic because after so many years of oppression, we can finally celebrate who we are. But we mustn’t forget that being able to fill the streets with rainbows and glitter does not mean that the struggles of all LGBTQ+ people are over. As a minority, Hamilton Pride was able to evoke a sense of community that is integral to being seen for your entire self, whether you are genderqueer and poor, a transwoman with autism, or Pakistani and pansexual.
The festivities this year remind us that Pride is and should be so much more than parties, rainbows, loud sound systems, and an astronomical budget. It is a way to remember where we have come from, but not forget where we still have to go.