By Meg Fair
Pittsburgh Current Contributing Writer
Celebrating Pride in 2019 is a radical act of celebration, self-preservation and joy. It’s all those things in the face of ever-uncertain times for the community. If you live under the LGBTQIA umbrella, right now merely existing is resisting.
We’re living under a presidential administration hellbent on attacking the rights of trans people—Betsy DeVos rolling back protections for trans teens trying to use the bathroom in school—all while the president sports Pride T-shirts, as if that’s not some cruel, twisted joke.
Large corporations make Pride-themed ads, floats and merchandise solely for feel-good optics while giving little to no money to causes that actually support and benefit the LGBTQIA community. Some of those same corporations with temporary rainbow logos spend the entirety of the year exploiting their workers or destroying the environment through investment in pipelines or fracking.
Violence against queer folks, especially trans people of color, is a real threat and concern. Just this year there have been five reported murders of trans women of color, and those are just the ones that have actually been made public. Dana Martin. Ashanti Carmon. Claire Legato. Muhlaysia Booker. Michelle “Tamika” Washington.
But pop culture is full of the work and influence of LGBTQIA folks, especially queer people of color. “RuPaul’s Drag Race” is a hit with straight, cisgendered fans, nearly all popular slang like “tea” and “shade” and “yasss” have been pulled straight from African American Vernacular English and most of that language has been pulled from trans women of color. But there isn’t too much celebration in pop culture of trans women of color.
On the mainstream surface, it may seem to straight, cis folks like we’re making lots of progress because of legalized same-sex marriage, but there is little representation or advocacy for those who aren’t white, middle to upper class and cisgendered. Working class queers care far more about making a living wage than getting married, for example. “But a gay man is running for president!,” some may say. Sure, Pete Buttigieg is a gay man. But is he queer as in fuck you?
There would be no LGBTQIA liberation without the “queer as in fuck you” community. The radical community living their truth in a society that doesn’t want them or care to understand them has been at the root of LGBTQIA liberation all along. People of color, trans folks, drag queens, dykes, poor queers—those were the people at the Compton Cafeteria riots and Stonewall. In order to truly celebrate those early acts of resistance, the celebrations we throw must honor the community with an intersectional and thoughtful lens.
That’s why People’s Pride in Pittsburgh is so very important. In its third year, the celebration centers around the most vulnerable in the community through a vivacious and joyous parade, parties and activities that bring comfort and care to attendees.
SisTers PGH and True T PGH are collaborating to create a weekend full of music, food, dancing and community. SisTers PGH is a shelter-transitioning program that centers around transgender and nonbinary people. The goal is to establish low-income housing for people coming out of emergency shelters, and it’s an important job. According to the Williams Institute, a public policy research institute based at UCLA that’s focused on sexual orientation and gender identity issues, 43 percent of clients served by drop-in centers identified as LGBTQIA.
True T PGH is a platform for queer arts, activism and entertainment that emphasizes sharing resources and making safe spaces. Each year True T hosts its Galaxy Ball, a fundraiser that gives back to the ballroom community in Pittsburgh. Ball culture began in the ‘60s as underground drag competitions that featured black and gay men, and it has since then remained a strong place of community and excitement.
This year’s People’s Pride will kick off its festivities on Penn Avenue for First Friday with a dance party and art exhibit that centers around the very folks that Pride was created to honor. It is a space that is self-described as “pro-black, pro-trans and intergenerational.” The exhibit is designed to celebrate liberation and joy and realistic representation of the LGBTQIA community.
On Saturday at True T Studios, there will be a day of self-care with massages from the LGBTQIA-friendly Body Euphoria Massage Therapy staff. Being tender and taking care of one’s self is so important to survival in marginalized communities. It is also a great way to ease the tension to prepare for Sunday’s festivities.
On Sunday, the People’s Pride celebration will take to the streets in its annual parade full of colorful characters and chants for liberation, dancing and celebration. It is a time to be visible, to be heard, to have fun and to take up space without apology.
The grand finale is a free concert in the Allegheny Commons Park West with a performance from the New Orleans Queen of Bounce, Big Freedia. Her high-energy bounce music makes for a spirited party that centers around queerness and blackness in a powerful way. There is truly no better way to celebrate Pride than by joyously getting down with your community of queerdos, freaks, friends and LGBT family.
Celebrations and gatherings like People’s Pride are essential to the LGBTQIA community in Pittsburgh. It’s empowering to gather in celebration, in mourning, in activism, in hopeful conversations, to dance together and be absolutely carefree. It provides a place to build coalitions, but most importantly it provides a place to just be yourself, be loved and raise hell.
Meg Fair is a genderqueer journalist living in Pittsburgh. They love professional wrestling, labor activism and punk rock.