Re: pride festival and pride in general.
Personal Feelings of A. Sumka
TLDR: Rant about the inability of folks to see the pov of other folks, and a lot of feels about the recent upheavals.
As a very complex thoughts and feelings about the going ons in my Edmonton lgbtqia 2 + community. before I dive in about where I’m sitting emotionally, and mentally, please note that I’m a cisgender, white, heterosexual appearing female (due to my long-term ongoing relationship with a masculine presenting partner.) Whatever minor understanding I have of the experiences of queer persons of color, and Indigenous queer folk, is not in any way going to be complete nor comprehensive view from that side of this issue. I’m just another queer person struggling to understand how my career communities divided itself, how folks can be so intolerant of anything that does not directly represent their own point of view.
So many feelings.
I’m heartbroken. it was devastating to see the notification that pride festival was being canceled. I know how much this festival means too many folks in the queer community, to their allies, the folks advocating for gsa’s, the queer youth who haven’t come out and need that representation. It was devastating to discover that institutionalized racism still impacts communities like ours, where we’ve already fought so many times, for so many kinds of rights. I really thought we were going to fight for this to, together
I feel nostalgic. When I first moved here. I attended my very first Pride Festival. I signed up as a volunteer so my point of view is from behind the scenes. I met some incredible folks, among them a handful of individuals who were involved with the very first Pride march here in Edmonton. I heard firsthand their experience, their perspective how far our society has come, how hard they fought, the losses they experienced.
I also got to see the behind-the-scenes celebration by all those organizations, clubs and businesses that waited with their floats for the parade to begin . For hours people were celebrating. And while I understand that for many of us, its painful to watch the corporations taking up so much space, I did get to see how their employees were authentic in their Joy as they waved their flags knowing that their organization was willing to invest into a celebration to show support lgbtqia2S rights. I was surprised to see the church’s politicians and teachers also participating in the in the parade and festivities. I had just moved here from a community so conserve that it makes Edmonton look beyond liberal by comparison. I miss that feeling, of belonging, of being awed by the support.
I’m exhausted. I remember the hours and hours went into making Pride Festival happen. because the next year I served on the board and saw first hand how each board member belongs to two or more committees, which means investing their own personal time and energy into several meetings every month trying to get things sorted for the big week. I was absolutely appalled by the amount of work that goes into planning. Our monthly meeting often ran over 3 hours long. It should have been a labor of love but burnout rates are really high likely due to an unreasonable amount of work that is done, unpaid and often by folks who’ve never done the work before.
I’m irritated both with myself and with the communities involved. With myself, because I can’t just be fully “Down with the Board!!” or in support of the boards involved. Everyone has said and done things that are just… not…. Right. I want a clear polarized view of this situation so I can just pick a side to picket for or against or something.
I’m irritated with folks that disregard, in their hurt and passion for their advocacy, the incredible amount of donated labour that these boards put into creating what spaces they do create. Yes they have said and done things in ways that are hard to support at times (sigh). And yes, many of their choices do align with the oppressive systems they have been raised in, that they live in. Yes the situation is beyond shitty. But they are VOLUNTEERS who are being asked to navigate something that PAID professionals are struggling with. Something that the president of the USA, with all his resources, can’t figure out. And worse, they are volunteers who, no matter what the collective decision is, will face an enormous amount of backlash from the very community they are trying to serve- just because they are involved as a volunteer. Volunteers who are trying to navigate a RIDICULOUSLY expensive party, and then held in contempt for allowing corporate sponsors. Just the parade itself is incredibly costly, due to permits and city regulated services that must be paid for. And with F-all for training they have to do it all-from the money to the pr. Disagree with the outcome, but please have compassion for the folks involved-they are volunteers.
I’ve watched so many members of that board break down in tears, after investing incredible amount of time and energy and sometimes even their own funds to make things work only to be faced with an angry hostile Community-no way they’re going to please everybody. I’m irritated that so many people forget that these are just volunteers. people who’ve taken on the task of doing the labor of making this Festival happen. Unlike larger-scale non-profits, pride festival is not organized by folks who have a lifetime of experience addressing social change, keeping their policies up-to-date with those changes, on how to mediate. They’re not public relations experts. they’re not human rights experts. They’re mostly queer folks who believe that this festival means something to the queer community and they were willing to donate their time.
I’m irritated and angry about the institutionalized racism in our pride organizations. I am angry that people who have faced oppression as queer folk themselves don’t seem to give a s*** that some of their people are still facing oppression. That some of our queer youth are afraid for their lives, that some folks in our community still have a survival rating of 32 to 34 years of age, that some folks don’t feel safe at the celebration that claims to be for them. Not just for them but inclusively for them.
I’m angry that people whom I know worked hard( as they like to continuously tell us) to clear the way for us to have the rights we do have, are dismissive of the violence, poverty, extreme circumstances across all social systems there’s some folks in our community are still experiencing on a day-to-day basis. I am annoyed that they expect accolades before being willing to hear the concerns of Indigenous and POC from our queer community. I am a ball of hurt and anger for all the times I have heard a white gay person tell me that they refuse to listen to the younger folk because they (the youth) refuse to acknowledge the pain and suffering the older generations experienced. WTF. When you were fighting for your right to live, fighting against the AIDS crisis, fighting against homophobia, did you first top and thank those that came before you? Did you, in your pain and suffering find that politely saying, “I appreciate that you fought for our right to basic health care, thank you so much for all your efforts, Sir. I am so grateful and in awe of the work you did. Excuse me, can we talk about how all my friends are dying and now one will help? “ Why do you expect the younger generations to do that??
I’m angry that persons in charge organizations meant to support queer Folk, for using the system of racial oppression while addressing that racial oppression. From the way board memberships are structured to the expectations of both unpaid and paid board positions, from the use of policing to using BS ideas like reverse racism to resist compassion for those who are suffering.. So angry…..
I’m hopeful. I can hope that the end of the Edmonton pride festival board will create room for folks to regroup Maybe we can consider what pride festival meant means us, what it’s intended to mean. I’m hopeful if any organizations forms to fill this gap that they will have the funding and the means necessary to ensure that they do have paid consultants that specialize in diversity and inclusivity. Folks from the very communities they’re struggling to serve. I hope that whatever organizations arise out of this mess are able to include queer people of color and queer indigenous Folk on their boards, with an awareness of how racial oppression can impact people’s ability to provide that service. I’m hopeful that the resistant part of our LGBT community will be able to step past their outrage that people who don’t look like them who have different experiences from them just want to feel safe where they celebrate their queerness. They just want what you had.
Mostly though, I’m exhausted. because I realize that my exhaustion is coming from a place of white and cis privilege. My heart goes out QITPOC folks that have been fighting for change.