Pride month is a complicated time for queer and trans people around the nation. While it is empowering to honor our elders and feel more public acceptance, it is hard not to see the cracks in most of America’s June pride celebrations. To preface, I am a white, genderqueer, queer person who only recently moved to Idaho. My feelings and stories are in no way indicative of the entire community honored during pride, nor do they include the struggles of Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and other POC. They continue to fight to have their dignity and lives honored.
I come from a much larger city, where pride is an event. There are parades, pop-up shops, and discounts all over town. But even there, it is clear to see how much of this is a facade: the persistence of rainbow capitalism remains at the forefront of “mainstream” pride. The same shops that discriminate against LGBTQ+ workers and patrons put on a facade of care and support.
Queer and trans people are only wanted under capitalism when their money is taken and labor exploited. The same institutions that prohibit trans people from receiving necessary medical care, documentation, and basic dignity will fly flags and hang posters proclaiming they are a “safe” place. How many places can be truly safe for someone whose very existence is debated, ignored, or otherwise under constant attack?
Last year was my first in Idaho. With COVID, there was not much in terms of celebration. Because of this, I was eager to see what would happen this year. It has been a time of change and joy. I have been blessed to meet so many beautiful souls and to share in my joy with them.
At the same time, I feel haunted. Only blocks away, we can see the legislative building where our protections, our healthcare, and our humanity are slowly stripped down to a partisan debate. Where our voices, experiences, and existence simply does not matter. It does not matter what our political beliefs are. It does not matter that we are also constituents. It does not matter that we are people. We become the enemy or mentally ill fools who need to be saved from ourselves.
Beyond the government, I feel both hate and love from my neighbors. The flags destroyed and stolen from the North End only days ago demonstrate that this state is not “too great for hate.” At the same time, grassroots fundraising, activism, and supportive messages show me that there is love in this city. Some people use pride month as an opportunity to learn, to support queer and trans-owned businesses and fundraising, and to campaign for human rights issues. If there is one way to make this state more open, it will start with these people.
People and institutions need to extend their education, economic support, and love to our community after June 30th. Even within our community, we must reckon with gatekeeping, misogyny, and racism. Pride is an opportunity to honor our community’s entirety and foster actual safe places for the new generations to be wholly themselves.