On Thursday, I was discussing the banning of QuAIA from Toronto Pride with a good friend, who is much more of a political moderate that I am. He was arguing that it doesn’t really make sense to inject arbitrary political causes into Pride, because Pride is about one particular issue, i.e., LGBT empowerment and rights. My reply was that he and I, not being members of the queer community could not dictate to actual queer people what they should or they shouldn’t be saying and doing. Well, that argument is in fact lame, as it essentially avoids the question altogether. Sorry dude.
I’d been to QuAIA’s event during Apartheid Week and I’d heard the various talks by the people there (here are the highlights of that event), but apparently what they said didn’t really register with me, otherwise my defense of them wouldn’t be as lame as it was. Then I read the statement in support of QuAIA put out be the people who organized the very first Toronto Pride in 1981. And then what the QuAIA people had been talking about all along, actually dawned on me.
Apart from everything else, things that have to do with free political expression, with building alliances to “raise all boats” and so on, there is an issue that is directly about Queer Empowerment itself here. It’s the issue of Queers affirming themselves as real people, as people who are not determined exclusively by their sexual and gender identities, as people who are not cartoons.
The line of thought that political causes do not belong in the main Queer event of the year essentially points to an understanding of Queer identity as something that defines all aspects of the personality of queerfolk. QuAIA’s very existence is a simple, powerful statement: “we are Queer people who care about things that do not only have to do with our identity as LGBTs”. They’re saying “we are not cartoons”, “we are not monothematic”, “we are not single-issue citizens”. And that is really all about Queer Empowerment.
(The recent statement put out by Athens Pride regarding a Trade Union rally that was -stupidly enough- scheduled at the same time and place as the Pride, echoes exactly the same “we are not cartoons” position. “We are laborers, unemployed, students, working people, pensioners, we have the same worries and fears as all Greeks”. This is another way to put this year’s Athens Pride main slogan: “We are everywhere”. Kudos Athens Pride.)