by Tommi Avicolli Mecca
As an organizer of the first pride march in Philadelphia in 1972, I find it difficult to be proud of what passes for pride in the new millennium. It's not that I'm unwilling to change with the times. I just can't believe what's become of those defiant marches we used to stage on the last Sunday of June to commemorate a riot at a bar in New York's West Village. And to flaunt our sexuality in the face of an uptight heterosexist culture.
This year, San Francisco Pride is co-sponsored by AIRbnb, which is taking thousands of apartments off our rental market at a time when the city desperately needs housing, and Facebook, which won’t even allow drag queens to use their drag names on their accounts. Real estate companies and banks help to fund pride events with money they make from pushing people out of their homes via evictions and foreclosures, which maximizes their bottom lines and minimize the working-class LGBT community in our city.
While certainly everyone has a right to be in the parade, it's extremely disconcerting to see a police department that murders black and brown people marching in the parade as if it has no history of beating up queers and arresting us for sex work and sex in the parks.
Then there are the meaningless LGBT pride proclamations from City Hall that say nothing of the 40% of homeless youth who are queer or the 30% of the homeless who identify as LGBT. Not to mention the many people with AIDS evicted from their longterm homes in the Castro, an area of the city that has the second highest rate of evictions.
To add insult to injury, alcohol and other products, including cell phones and all sorts of rainbow trinkets (where's the rainbow toilet paper?), are hawked at the pride festival as if pride were nothing more than a marketplace for corporate America.
After the parade, people swarm into the Castro, a gayborhood that now claims to care about the homeless even as merchants and neighbors continue to support sit/lie and other laws that criminalize those who have no homes, and even as they call in the cops to harass the crap out of the homeless (and nudists) for hanging out in what are supposed to be public spaces.
Forget the exclusive pride party under the dome of City Hall. Forget the pride breakfast by the Alice B. Toklas Club, which only represents the interests of middle and upper class gays. Forget the self serving politicians who ride in the parade. Forget the corporations and the banks. Forget it all. Fortunately, queer pride has nothing to do with any of these things.
For me, it is seeing queers among the folks blocking the door of an apartment where the sheriff is scheduled to evict a disabled woman. It’s queers supporting the Mission moratorium on building more luxury housing in a neighborhood already devastated by evictions and gentrification, a neighborhood that has long been a refuge for Latinos, queers, artists and others.
Pride is Jazzie’s Place, a homeless LGBT shelter that opened on June 17 here in San Francisco, a shelter that is needed because in our city’s shelter system queers experience harassment and violence. Pride is Open House, an affordable housing complex for seniors that will soon be built, and Marty's Place which will provide permanently affordable housing for low-income people with AIDS.
Pride is queers in the unions, in the immigrant rights movement, and in the living wage struggle. It’s queer Black Lives Matter actions in the Castro. It’s queers fighting every day to make a better life for the poor and working-class in this country and in the LGBT community.
It’s the “housing is a human right” contingent that Pride Grand Marshal Brian Basinger is organizing in this year’s parade (for those in SF, it meets up at Steuart & Market at 9:30 on Sunday, June 28). Brian is founder and director of the AIDS Housing Alliance, a group that has housed thousands of homeless people with AIDS since its inception a little over a decade ago.
A tiny oasis in a celebration that has lost its way.