Localizing Pride

(Getty Images, Brazil)

I used to love Pride Month. Before the corporations and police colonized it as part of their Current Year virtue signaling it really was something that represented subcultural divergence and a celebration of survival in struggle. Particularly after the mass die offs of the AIDS era and the Reagan Administration’s hostility to addressing the problem. Nowadays, Pride seems more like a celebration of Mayo Pete being the worst Transportation Secretary in the history of the country and the fact that corporate HR makes their employees wear rainbow lanyards and state their pronouns on emails. In other words, it is no longer a celebration of divergence but one of not only assimilation, but adoption of the WASP monoculture where everyone, not just a specific community, must declare their goodness and rightness with some kind of Obamaesque statement about the moral arc of the universe bending towards justice. A new moral majority for that mid-wit managerial class person who voted for Hope and Change® in 2008 but never realized they got neither of those things. As it is, I already wrote about the decline of the gay rights movement from what it once was to what it became in the late 2010s here.

I had my break with Pride in 2018. The DC pride parade started right outside of my apartment in the West End/Dupont Circle area and I got to see all the costumers getting ready. I understood this was DC so it was going to be extra douchey, but I had attended the 2016 and 2017 parades and they were OK (if with expectations regionally adjusted.) But that year, coming hard on the heels of the first traumatic Trumpian year for the City of Hillary, really caused the establishment to close ranks with anyone it thought would be in the anti-Republican camp. And so the 2018 Pride Parade was filled with police, defense contractors, and the like.

I left early.

Unfortunately, (and more on this from me later) this process of assimilation into the Late Imperial Phase is not just a DC thing but rather, increasingly an American thing. As the world moves away from American Unipolarity, the United States leans on its declining soft power to compensate for its even more rapidly declining ability to deploy hard power whenever and wherever it wants. The problem is everyone knows this since (and this one thing, at least, is not a criticism) the American propensity for having messy public fights about everything is on full display.

The problem is that the Americanization of Pride means it is (often rightly) seen as foreign intervention and sympathies when exported to other countries. No longer a symbol of international solidarity for the gays, it comes across as a symbol of international solidarity of the gay community with the cultural and political influence of the United States. Considering recent (and sometimes less recent) history, it is understandable that this rankles government authorities in other countries. The U.S. loves to use marginalized groups abroad to undermine foreign states, after all. By adopting Pride, the Americans have undermined it save as a tool for their own NGOs.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. While within North America full Langley-Buttigiegification is in effect, embattled gay rights movements in other countries can opt out of this Devil’s Bargain and take a path more fitting with the deglobalization trends of the times. In many countries, anti-gay laws come from European (usually British) colonial era precedent and thus are themselves a foreign imposition. And any country not riddled with Abrahamic religion as state policy can basically turn alternatives to heterosexuality into a recapturing of its lost subcultural traditions. The gay rights movement in India has been particularly apt at this, correctly pointing out that the various laws and norms they struggle against are largely Victorian in nature and not based in pre-colonial culture.

More importantly, whether a country has a more or less hostile past to the concept is not as relevant as its future. And a future were activists fight for a distinct locally adapted version of their rights is a far more likely one to meet some success than one where they adopt the iconography, slogans, and strategies of a declining world power with a known record of universalizing its own domestic pathologies. I don’t pretend to know how each and every country or culture will do this, but I can guarantee it would be a better path forward than looking like outsiders following what appears to many as a strange foreign fad.

There should be many Prides, rooted not in a global neoliberal monoculture but rather localized, indigenized, and divergent from the U.S. attempt to become the Pope of the Gays. Since there are gay people everywhere, no matter what local reactionary elements might claim, there is always a history, a culture, and a localized tradition to draw from.