OPINION: The glare of Pride can alienate those facing ongoing violence and oppression

by Nadia Rahman | Amnesty International
Thursday, 30 June 2022 13:52 GMT

Members of the transgender community hold signs against the anti-begging law for the transgender community, during a protest demanding jobs in Karachi, Pakistan April 10, 2019. Picture taken 10, 2019. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro

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* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Pride isn’t a celebration for everyone. For those living alongside the threat of violence, attending an event can be an act of extraordinary bravery

Nadia Rahman is a policy advisory and researcher in Amnesty International’s Gender, Sexuality and Identity team

Pride started as a protest movement – and it remains one today. It is an acknowledgement and a rejection of the inequalities that continue to be imposed on people with diverse sexualities and genders worldwide.

Same-sex conduct remains criminalised in more than 68 countries and LGBTQ+ people still face multiple barriers which prevent them from accessing employment, healthcare, education and housing. 

The past year has marked the highest number of recorded trans killings. According to the Trans Murder Monitoring Project, 375 trans and gender diverse people were killed globally between 1 October 2020 and 30 September 2021 – although many more cases go unreported.

For some people, Pride can be a joyful celebration that honours their hard-won claims to space and visibility and is an opportunity to come together as a community.

But for those within the LGBTQ+ community who face intersecting forms of marginalisation, the events can also be a harsh reminder of the erasure of their struggles against other systemic inequities and injustices.

For some, public acknowledgement of Pride is simply not possible or desirable at all. In many places around the world, attending a Pride event is an act of extraordinary bravery – it means risking abuse and even prosecution.

We must recognise that for many there is a quiet revolution in just living to see another day in the face of harsh criminalisation, discrimination, and the ever-present threat of violence.

Mehlab Jameel, an LGBTQ+ researcher and activist from Pakistan, said she wanted to march “without a shield”.

“No weapons. No arms. Just me. And my joie de vivre. Simply stepping into my freedom. Under the open sky. To be trans and alive, to be woman and free, to be queer and brave.” Jameel said.

Her words are a rallying cry against tokenism and easy binaries, and a reminder that many people feel erased or alienated by the “glare of Pride”.

She explained how the celebrations in Pakistan after the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act of 2018 was passed “were oddly reminiscent of Pride marches elsewhere and were easily weaved into a narrative of liberation”.

But there was a long and difficult struggle that led to that point.

The passage of the Act was the culmination of a drawn-out advocacy process involving protests, multi-sectoral dialogues between different stakeholders, and legal interventions.

Jameel asked why these acts of resistance against ongoing oppression were not considered demonstrations of Pride?

She described feeling exhausted by the “demand of visibility levied on trans and queer bodies at Pride marches”.

“I find that in such hierarchal spaces, trans and queer bodies at multiple intersections of marginality are only given a voice as props to perform inclusivity and respectability,” Jameel said. “These real humans then only exist for consumption as a spectacle, a debate, a question.”

There is a lesson in these words for all of us. True solidarity means looking beneath the surface. It means putting LGBTQ+ people, especially those facing intersecting forms of marginalisation, at the centre of any decisions that affect them.

It means looking at LGBTQ+ issues through an antiracist and decolonising lens and recognising and addressing the reality that the global LGBTQ+ community are facing many diverse struggles.

It requires that we listen and learn from grassroots LGBTQ+ groups and movements and honour and respect their priorities for themselves.

As we celebrate Pride season, we – LGBTQ+ people and allies - stand in solidarity with these different struggles.

We carry the memories of all those who we have lost, and honour those who are living by recognising that there is more than one way to claim ‘Pride’ as LGBTQ+ people. 

Mehlab Jameel’s poem The Invisible Ones can be read here.

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