Dublin Pride 2016 Reflections - Queer liberation, not rainbow capitalism


I had mixed feelings attending Pride, but mostly felt bewildered and pissed off. I was looking forward to this year's Pride for quite some time. It was my second ever Pride, and I came to march with the Radical Left Bloc, one of two radical blocs attending, which was organised by others. Like last year, I was shocked – somehow again – by the level of corporate infestation and toothlessness.

Here is an important question for everyone: what's the point of Pride?  From being there, I know clearly that people's answers to this question vary hugely.

For me Pride is about a few things. We are celebrating and remembering the Stonewall riots of 1969 in New York, where queer people – notably trans women of colour - decided enough was bloody enough and fought back against police repression. But we aren't celebrating in the sense of 'happy birthday to you', or remembering as in 'do you remember when Cowen turned up drunk on the radio?' - we're celebrating and remembering as in we're keeping the torch lit, as in those were great deeds, let's push onwards. Like celebrating and remembering the 1916 rising which has been similarly de-fanged.

For me, Pride is a protest. Part of that protest is definitely asserting yourself as a queer person, not letting society pretend that you don't exist, acting and looking and sounding as you feel, feeling good in your own skin as you should do. So I love to see people happy, dressed to the nines, colourful, cheering, whistling, dancing, and so on. I love to see people openly flouting imprisoning gender norms. It's great, as people who are generally seen as deviants and freaks, to occupy the streets in such a massive way, and feel 'normal' and assured with each other.

But, unfortunately, I think Pride is mostly a load of bollox. And that's because while I know many think the same way I do, other people see Pride in a totally different way.

Our bloc was positioned almost at the very back. On the walk over I just became more and more engraged, as I bristled past the ranks of chirping corporate cheerleaders, squeezing through thick layers of cringy bandwagon-hopping commercial bullshit.

What has any of this got to do with anything? Really, where do I begin?

Ah great a battalion of Amazon workers wearing Amazon t-shirts with a rainbow splash where it says Amazon. For sure if you're one of Amazon's warehouse workers they don't care if you're queer, as long as you will let them drive you into the ground for a pittance.
Oh fantastic, PayPal are here. Ah I do believe that's the same PayPal which froze Wikileaks' account after Chelsea Manning – the heroic whistleblowing trans woman – leaked damning US military information.

Phew Ernst & Young are here. They audited – or rather didn't audit – Anglo Irish Bank. And Bank of Ireland are on our side too! Paying billions in private bank debt and years of austerity has done wonders for LGBT+ services – I'm sure the people who have killed themselves since would be delighted.

I saw a Smirnoff banner with people piling behind it, and felt like grabbing it and breaking it over my knee. I thought 'what are they doing here?' Not to mention the total irrelevance of them, what about Ireland's crippling drinking problem? What about alcohol increasing the incidence of sexual assault?

What other comrades did we have? Facebook, Google, and Microsoft – the trifecta of surveillance. 'They know if you are sleeping, or if you're gay or straight'.

And we had Salesforce, Citibank, Ulster Bank, LinkedIn, Eir, Deloitte, Accenture, eBay, Yahoo, Vodafone, Dropbox, MasterCard,, Twitter, fucking Nandos, and god knows who else.

Pride is a marketing opportunity par excellence. They come to profit off our suffering. They come to profit off our hopes for freedom and for dignity. 'We are the hip, cool, capitalists. Fawn upon us as we advertise ourselves at your rally. Behold our inflatable logos, colourful t-shirts and standard issue branded ice pops.' I felt used, usurped, patronised, and pissed off in the extreme. On top of everything else, they've stolen our day.

Here's my essential message: if you're not at Pride to advance the liberation of queer people, fuck off. If you think de gays are fine but it's OK to oppress and exploit other people, if you're there to make money or votes, feel free to parade into the sea or a motorway.

Here's my plea to queer people who turn up to represent these corporations and parties. Do you really, deep down, believe that they give a shit about your life? Do you honestly believe Facebook or Fianna Fáil, or whoever, is there for the sake of your liberty, rather than cynically using you for their profit? I don't know how anyone could buy that.

Among highlighting sex workers' rights, the housing crisis, and Travellers' rights (who happily ended up right behind us), our bloc was showing solidarity with the Palestinian people. We were handing out leaflets calling out pinkwashing by the Israeli state. Pinkwashing is using supposed concern for LGBT+ people to cover up other harm. A great example of this is the attendance of AirBnB who profit from land stolen by Israeli settlers in Palestine. Or how Israel puts itself forward as a Middle Eastern LGBT+ haven, as it murders and starves Palestinians, and, ironically, forces queer Palestinians to become informants for their occupying army by threatening to out them in their community.

In front of us were Fianna Fáil, wearing vomit-worthy t-shirts saying 'supporting equality' in big letters. Jim O'Callaghan TD himself was walking with them. That's Jim O'Callaghan the pro-water charges solicitor, brother of Miriam O'Callaghan. Luckily, also present were Labour, the Green Party, the Social Democrats, Sinn Féin, and Fine Gael. You get the picture. All hunting for votes, none of which should be there because they all stand fundamentally for the same system which makes most of our lives – not just queer people, by the way – miserable.
You see, the struggle for queer liberation is just one struggle of many for freedom. There are so many hard battles to be fought, but if we help each other we are stronger. Single-issue politics is a lie which will get us nowhere but on stupid parades that challenge nothing.

The main banner of the other radical bloc summed up these sentiments well: 'queer liberation, not rainbow capitalism'. In the face of an Ireland that thinks it's off the hook for voting Yes to marriage equality they tried to push further by challenging the drive for assimilation into straight cis society. A despicable irony was that after 2 queer anarchist activists dropped a banner reading 'homophobia kills' off a building (it might have been the Iona Institute), they were arrested and the cops beat them up. It speaks for itself really. And yet I saw various people having the chats with cops as if they aren't our enemies.

The words I immediately associate with Dublin Pride are 'upbeat', 'corporations', 'tame', 'irrelevant', 'annoying', 'herded', and 'colours'. I didn't come to Pride to be annoyed. I didn't come to give out. But here we are. This all being said, I will attend Pride every year because I won't let the opportunists and the assimilationists own it outight. Pride should be a place to for queer people to let loose and show our hunger for change, our anger at injustice, especially raising the profile of those most sidelined by the LGBT community like trans, non-binary, and genderqueer people, bisexual and pansexual people, asexual people, intersex people, migrants, and sex workers. Maybe we need to start again and create a new event.

Lastly, I want to give a special shout out to the Sex Workers Alliance of Ireland who I was very proud to march with, who are fighting for the decriminalisation of sex work, and who were banned from attending Pride by the organisers as late as 2010.

A few weeks ago during Dublin's Pride festival, a "Homophobia Kills" banner was proudly dropped from the buildings overlooking Merion Square (where the Iona Institute's headquarters are). The action led to the violent arrest, and subsequent holding for 6 hours, of the people who dropped the banner. What follows is a statement from Xavier – one of the Dublin Pride banner droppers

"Hey fellow queer rebels and allies,
Myself and my fellow banner dropper are in the CCJ tomorrow morning at 10:30am for our first mention date following the events of Dublin Pride, when we were violently arrested and queer bashed after dropping our banner saying Homophobia Kills during the march.
Between us we face 13 charges, some of them serious, all of them bullshit.
It’s difficult to write this, because its still difficult and painful to think about what happened. But I’m writing it to call on everyone who gives a shit to get down to the court and show your support tomorrow.
We were beaten for rejecting the presence of the police marching with Pride, which we regard as an utter betrayal of the spirit of the Stonewall Riots, which Pride was created to commemorate. We were beaten for rebelling against the soulless corporate carnival Pride has become, against the hijacking of this memorial of our revolutionary history which is now used against us as a meaningless capitalist advertising opportunity. We were beaten for telling the truth, that Pride has become a mockery of itself, of all past queer revolutionaries, and of us. We were beaten for insisting on our right to our history, for remembering those whose memories have been sold, and for declaring that the cops are and always will be the enemy to queer liberation, not our allies and friends. And on a most basic level, we were beaten by 7 cops in a carpark, hidden from the view of the main parade, for being proudly queer.
If this disgusts you, turn up at court tomorrow. Come as your outrageously gorgeously queer selves. If queer bashing by police is ever going to stop we need your anger and your solidarity. Homophobia kills us, and the cops kill us, beat us and take our families, friends and freedom.
For the queer people of colour who the police murder with impunity, for the kids who kill themselves because of homophobic bullying, for the trans people shamed rejected and reviled by our shitty society because they dare to be who they are, for all queer folks everywhere – no fucking compromise – let’s shame the bastards – See you there."

For anyone who doesn't know the location of the Criminal Courts of Justice, it's the round, glass adorned building on Parkgate St, near the entrance to the Phoenix Park. Come show your support and solidarity.