Articles // No Pride Without Dignity

No Pride Without Dignity

This is the text version of an online resource published by alQaws during pride month in June 2021, following international discussion around queer liberation and Palestine.

Gay Pride started as a riot led by queer and trans Black, Indigenous and People of Color activists in what is now known as the United States in the1960s. These activists rose up against decades of police brutality and persecution and claimed the streets as a site of liberation in the form of protest. The first ‘Pride’ was a riot and it was also an expression of community care and support that queer and trans activists had created as a result of their exclusion from society.

Today, Pride has been depoliticized and its roots in the work of queer and trans activists have been erased. Instead, ‘Pride’ politics are dominated by white, cis, male and bourgeois voices. This erasure is a form of violence against the legacy of those who took to the streets demanding dignity and self-determination. ‘Pride’ was never about corporations sponsoring our marches, or celebrating gay and trans inclusion in the military. It’s origin is in resisting state oppression, and opposing racial, sexual, and gender violence. 

‘Pride’ and the related terms of ‘coming out’ and ‘queer visibility’ emerged within the specific political and cultural context of North America and Europe. Today, they are used as imperialist savior tools to measure so-called levels of LGBTQ emancipation around the globe. Although such terms have become dominant ways to describe queer and trans experiences, activists in the Global South have shown that such terms are not universally meaningful or relevant to describe our experiences. It is problematic to impose notions of pride, coming out and visibility as primary yardsticks or political aspirations for LGBTQ communities around the globe.

During the recent outburst of Palestinian liberation struggles against Israeli settler colonial violence, Zionists flooded our social media networks with statements such as “try to organize a pride parade in Gaza.” Such statements are characteristic of pinkwashing, and they are used to delegitimize Palestinian anti-colonial uprising. These statements fit within a larger context of structural racism in which Israel is portrayed as enlightened, and a proponent of gay rights, while Palestinians, especially those in Gaza, are uniformly described as anti-gay and therefore deserving of murder and expulsion from our land. 

Comments like these are not borne out of a genuine concern for queer and trans lives and the violence we face. Irrespective of the internal dynamics of Palestinian society, the biggest impediment to any parade in Palestine is Israeli colonialism and the barbaric blockade that has ghettoized and fragmented Gaza from the rest of Palestine. Whenever Palestinians collectively speak up for our rights, we are bombed by Israel’s colonial army and silenced by mainstream media. The queer Palestinian experience teaches us how “Pride” without total liberation is a hollow, meaningless and a deceptive idea.

Zionists highlight the fact that the Pride parade in Tel Aviv serves as proof of Israel’s commitment to queer liberation. However, Pride in Israel is a state-sponsored propaganda strategy designed to pinkwash Israel’s colonial crimes against Palestinians, queers and non-queers alike. Pinkwashing is a form of colonial violence that attempts to convince the world that Palestinian queers have no future in our homeland or among our families, and that our colonizer is now our “saviour.”

Dependent on ongoing colonial violence against Palestinians, Tel Aviv Pride is no marker of progress or queer liberation. It takes place in the ethnically cleansed Palestinian city of Yaffa and its surrounding villages, and its success depends on the erasure of Palestinian lands, lives and voices. 

Whenever Palestinians display any sense of pride in our identity or a sense of Indigenous belonging, we are brutally repressed by the Israeli state. In this context, Palestinian queers do not have the privilege to separate our sexualities from the colonial violence that determines our daily lives. 

During Pride Month, we insist on building spaces that are committed to abolishing all forms of oppression. Within those spaces we will forge strong bonds of solidarity and work towards living with dignity and freedom. 

Abolish Settler States, Liberate Indigenous Lands, Take Back Pride