Lesbian exclusion from Pride

I was excited to see an article on Feminist Current called On actual exclusivity at Pride because we need to talk about how lesbians have been effectively banned from Pride festivals everywhere. However, this article missed the main reason lesbians are banned from Pride and instead appeared to blame female transitioners for making other women feel unwelcome.

The main reason that lesbians are excluded from Pride is that Pride festivals have been taken over by queer theory and Dyke Marches now cater specifically to queer theorists rather than to lesbians. Dyke Marches everywhere explicitly state they are for “queer women,” not lesbians, and the designation “queer women” can include people of either sex and of any sexual orientation, as long as they feel they identify as “queer women.” According to queer theory, the most oppressed “lesbians” are men who identify as lesbians.

In reality, men who identify as “lesbians” are homophobic heterosexual men with no respect for women’s boundaries. Not only should they not be centered in Dyke Marches, they should be actively excluded and condemned for lesbophobia. Now that Dyke Marches primarily exist to validate the bullshit identities of homophobic men, it would be difficult for any lesbian to feel comfortable marching in one. Signs held up by marchers saying things like “No TERFs” and “We love dick” reinforce the message that this is not a place for lesbians.

The article on Feminist Current linked above didn’t talk about this; instead the author talked about feeling that lesbians are unwelcome at Pride simply by seeing a trans man dancing:

“The misogyny of trans politics is not new to me, but I had a moment of sickening clarity at Pride last year. After a long day and night of festivities, my partner and I were leaning on a table in a bar. There was a young lad dancing alone; when I looked closer I could see the tightly bound chest and the beginnings of a beard. This was a kid of about 18, who had been told that altering her body in this extreme way would somehow resolve the discomfort and self-hatred she experienced under patriarchy. This image was a visceral reminder that lesbians, as they are — as women with diverse female bodies, who love other women with diverse female bodies — were no longer welcome at Pride.”

I’m surprised that this was the example she chose to use as proof that lesbians have become unwelcome. It sounds as though she thinks that either the presence of female transitioners creates a hostile environment for women or that women are transitioning due to feeling unwelcome coming to Pride as lesbians. I’m guessing her intention was that the existence of lesbians who transition is a sign that lesbians don’t feel comfortable being lesbians, but this isn’t what I think comes across in what she wrote.

If I were to choose an image as a visceral reminder that lesbians are not welcome at Pride, I’d choose an image of a fully-intact male holding a sign saying “some dykes have dicks” or a man wearing a T-shirt that says “I punch TERFs.” I definitely wouldn’t choose an image of a female transitioner for this. I do not think that the presence of female transitioners at Pride is making lesbians unwelcome.

There are a couple of words in this article that indicate a feeling of scorn toward female transitioners. One of those words is “sickening” in the above paragraph. The other is her phrase “the mutilated and bound bodies of women.” I don’t think this is an appropriate way to talk about women who are suffering from a real condition (dysphoria) and who are attempting to deal with that in a way that makes sense to them. Although I don’t believe that body modification is an effective strategy to achieve good mental health, I also don’t agree with being scornful toward those who do. We need to be very clear as feminists that we are against systems of oppression but not the individuals who are caught in those systems.

I’d like to talk about the changes I would make to Pride festivals in order to make them more inclusive to lesbians. The primary change I would make if I were in charge is that I’d move away from the promotion of queer theory and capitalist advertising and toward a return to Pride marches as commemorations of the Stonewall riots. Pride marches these days are at least 50% advertising. All sorts of companies want to put their float in the parade, complete with corporate logos, mass-produced branded giveaway items, and hired models to dance for them. Many liberal institutions, such as political parties and unions, create professionally-printed signs with slogans bearing the latest politically-correct “queer” slogans, which sometimes don’t reflect what lesbians would actually want to say.

My ideal Pride parade would not allow corporate logos at all, and would discourage the throwing around of promotional products and other garbage, and the hiring of models to dance on floats. I think a pride parade should consist of a group of gays and lesbians who wish to commemorate the Stonewall Riots with homemade signs that represent their gratitude for those who fought for our rights. There should always be signs with the names of gays and lesbians who fought back against gay oppression and who died of homophobic violence. There should also be grassroots organizations for gays, lesbians and bisexuals in the parade to advertise their community services. Bisexuals who wish to march in pride parades should do so for the purpose of supporting same-sex attraction rather than emphasizing their opposite-sex relationships. I don’t think that bisexuals should be categorically excluded, but I think when they emphasize their opposite-sex relationships in Pride parades, they are being obnoxious and ignoring the purpose of the parade. I don’t think that the trans community as a distinct group belongs in Pride parades, because being trans is not a sexual orientation. There will naturally be butch women, effeminate men, and cross-dressing at a Pride march because that is the nature of some gays and lesbians. This is totally okay and welcome. Gays and lesbians who make body modifications but still identify as their birth sex and have a homosexual orientation should be welcome too, since they are gays and lesbians. However, inviting the trans community as a whole means inviting heterosexuals who identify into “queerness” by being “kinky” in bed or having green hair, and heterosexual men who disrespect lesbians by appropriating our name for themselves, and I don’t think such people belong in a Pride parade.

All that being said, I have no interest in either performing “genital checks” on anyone or demanding anyone “prove” their sexual orientation before marching. I just think it should be understood that a Pride parade is for gays and lesbians to commemorate the Stonewall riots and not an opportunity for everyone under the sun to celebrate whatever they think is cool about themselves.

Finally, in addition to banning corporate logos I would also ban the use of the word “TERF.” This word should be considered lesbophobic hate speech and therefore not welcome at a march that purports to include lesbians.

What Pride parades have turned into is a giant corporate-sponsored party celebrating watered-down liberal politics that is open to anyone except lesbians. As a Marxist-leaning lesbian, Pride is not for me at all. What Pride has turned into is a disgrace and an insult to lesbians.

I normally agree with everything posted on Feminist Current, but unfortunately this article fell short.

9 thoughts on “Lesbian exclusion from Pride

  1. “We need to be very clear as feminists that we are against systems of oppression but not the individuals who are caught in those systems.”

    I agree, but I also understand that sometimes, it is hard to not get angry at women who willingly promote these systems. It is probably, to some extent, internalized misogyny that makes women angrier at other women than at men, but I have to admit that I feel like crying when I see a woman who converted to extremist Islam to tell all other women they should cover their sinful faces, too. You somehow expect a woman to understand, to know better.

    And I think with female transitioners, there’s an element of “that could be me” that makes this more painful than the insult-yelling men. Seeing a woman who damages her own health has something visceral; triggers an empathic reaction you can’t stop. It is like asking men to watch other men being kicked in the testicles, many men cannot stand it.

    From a rational point of view, I agree with you, it is the males who are the problem there, but “why I don’t feel welcome” is an emotional question, and emotional reactions are going to differ, depending on experiences. (If you have met a number of unpleasant female transitioners who look down on “ciswomen”, you’re probably going to feel more affected by the mere sight of a dancing transman than if you haven’t.)

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I like your ideas. I don’t think that lesbians will be able to change the corporate-circus vibe of Pride marches, and I don’t necessarily believe that we should even try. I agree that we have to completely recalibrate our (forced) relationship with the LGBTQ+ alphabet soup movement, and find a different way, on our own terms. Personally, I have enjoyed dropping out of pride for the past couple of years to barbecue with friends/family instead…on the general theory that community is built through genuine social interactions, not necessarily through annual displays of superficial solidarity. There have to be better ways of promoting lesbian community and visibility other than hitching ourselves to rainbow floats sponsored by vodka companies.

    Liked by 7 people

  3. As far as the “corporate circus” of Pride in recent years, I have to say it’s not just Pride. Every St. Patty’s Day parade, Mardi Gras Parade, Cinco de Mayo, you name it, is ruined by the corporate presence. Maybe it’s my age, but I stopped going to these things a long time ago & focus on women’s spirituality.

    Liked by 3 people

    • You are so right. Every “pride” type of parade, whether it be LBGT or Irish, Italian, etc. is “sponsored” by some big liquor company. Selling our souls to the corporate devils of the world. they’ll promote anything to make a fast buck! ~MB

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Ugh, I just read they’re planning a Dyke*March close to where I live. (The * means it is all about identification)

    I am het, but now wonder whether I can go there. I mean, I am attracted to people whose overall physique suggests that they have a penis. Since nowadays, some lesbians apparently have penises, doesn’t that make me a lesbian* ?

    Alternatively, I could also ask if, as they accept males who are attracted to females as lesbian, they also accept females who are attracted to males. I mean, that’s one out of two right in both cases, right?

    (Joke aside, I won’t poke into that particular wasp’s nest, but I do wonder what the reaction would be if I turned up there with a sign stating my love for female penis. I suppose they’d be much less tolerant of het women invading their lesbian spaces than of men … but then, perhaps they’d applaud my inclusiveness.)

    Liked by 1 person

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