You Are Included is the theme for Twin Cities Pride 2021, and in the spirit of that we wanted to address some important topics that have come up over the last few years around who and what Pride and the Pride Festival should be. Topics such as; Should kink and kink related apparel be allowed at pride, should police be allowed at pride, should corporations be allowed at pride, and what is the purpose of a pride movement in the 21st century. These are divisive topics that often create an “us vs. them” narrative. It is easy to simply make up your mind and disregard the thoughts and feelings of other members of our community. We at Twin Cities Pride believe that such topics merit much deeper discussion than can take place in a short social media post, so we have written a much longer statement that we hope you will read and discuss with other members of our LGBTQIA+ community. Our goal is that this discussion might open our eyes to other viewpoints that are respectful of others and ultimately allow everyone to feel safe and that they are included.
“No Kink at Pride”
As you may have seen, there has recently been an uproar online around whether or not displays of Kink and other such paraphernalia are appropriate at Pride festivals and marches/parades. At Twin Cities Pride we stand with our Kink and leather community and recognize the immense role those communities have played in the Pride movement reaching the strides it has today. One of the main parts of the Pride movement is sexual acceptance and expression and our goal is for everyone to feel included in their gender, sexual identity, dress, and chosen families. Enforcing a dress code upon members of the LGBTQIA+ community was one of the major reasons the Pride movement began, as you could be arrested for “displaying homosexuality” or dressing “outside of your gender.”
That is not to say feeling uncomfortable with displays of undress or what you would consider sexual in nature is unreasonable. For example, we have spoken with members of our transgender community who feel constant sexualization or fetishization are some of the major forms of discrimination that they face. These are serious concerns that do need to be addressed in order for all members of our community to feel safe and welcome.
For those who do feel uncomfortable Twin Cities Pride provides an array of different events throughout Pride month, and year round, such as our Family Fun Day where people may feel more comfortable. Within the festival different vendor/table “types” are categorized geographically, things of a more adult nature are separate from other areas that you are welcome to visit.
We encourage you to participate in further education around these issues and have respectful conversations within the community as we do the same to understand that there are many different points of view, with both historical and contemporary struggles that the greater LGBTQIA+ community faces. Sometimes these issues feel at odds with each other, but with this in mind and by working together we can overcome them in a way that is respectful of everyone.
Further reading: https://www.them.us/story/kink-bdsm-leather-Pride
Is Pride for celebration or is Pride for protest?
There is also an ongoing debate about what the fundamental nature of Pride should be. In a similar vein to the debate around kink at Pride we are seeing a divide between those who feel Pride should be used for the sake of celebration and visibility of our community, and those who feel Pride should be a place of protest, resistance, and mourning those lost.
This is often viewed as a generational divide, but rather we see it as a shift in the eras of a now 50 year old movement. There are now millions of LGBTQIA+ people who were born after the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, after you could see queer people on TV who weren’t the butt of a joke, or even a lazy stereotype, born in an age where most corporations and governments (at least publicly) claim to stand with LGBT rights and anti-discrimination laws. Obviously, every problem isn’t solved and there is still tons of work to be done to find acceptance and equality for every member of our society, but the movement has come a very long way and it is completely understandable that some people just want a dedicated time to celebrate these achievements and feel joy in a world that is so often stifling and discriminating.
On the other hand, the struggles we have faced in the past are incredibly important to remember, and those we face today are incredibly important to continue to fight and protest. The insidious nature of discrimination is that the more freedoms and “equality” we achieve, the smaller the minority of groups become who are still being targeted, and the more hard to see the discrimination becomes, forcing us to stay even more vigilant against it.
We at Twin Cities Pride aim to keep both resistance and celebration in mind. To try and walk the delicate balance between enjoying what we have fought to achieve and continuing to fight for a better world. We acknowledge that we don’t always have the capacity to attend to everyone and will stumble on this journey, but our goal is to continue to grow, support, celebrate, mourn, and fight with our community into the future.
“No Corporations at Pride”
Another symptom of the rapid expansion of the Pride movement is that we now have parades and festivals across the globe, a full recognized month of dedication, and queer visibility has never been more prominent. Now more than ever corporations, businesses, and politicians want to “get involved” via donations, participation in booths and parade contingents, putting rainbows on their social media and clothing lines. Ultimately this is a great sign, visibility is important, funding our movement is important.
However, with this does come great responsibility to vet the corporate partners we allow to participate in our events. There is a justified suspicion that many of these organizations are simply doing “rainbow capitalism” and “pinkwashing” to get money from our community in June and then continue to harm our community and the world at large during the other 11 months of the year. This is also incredibly important when considering intersectionality – while a company may be “gay-friendly” they could also be donating to anti-trans politicians, or actively harming the environment and advancing climate change.
Currently we run all sponsors through the HRC screening and do general media checks, we also encourage all vendors and participants to make use of diversity and inclusion resources, and though our team is small, we hope to expand these processes to have a much more thorough vetting process in the future.
One thing about Twin Cities Pride that differs from most Pride festivals and organizations is that we are not only a 501c3 non-profit, but we do not receive much (if any) funding from the local or federal government nor do we charge admission to attend our larger events. As it stands Twin Cities Pride is the single largest free Pride in the United States. Corporate sponsorships and donations make up over 1/3 of the income required to run our organization year round and put on a festival and parade of this scale. Because of this, we encourage all members of our community who enjoy Pride to give if you are able. The more individual donations we receive the easier it is to provide events and resources for the community that are less reliant on corporate donations.
“No Cops at Pride”
Inclusion and acceptance of all is critically important to Twin Cities Pride. With that, we have joined the chorus of community voices to strongly call on the City of Minneapolis to suspend the current requirement for event planners and organizers to contract with off-duty Minneapolis Police Department officers for security at large events. While safety at Pride events has always been, and will continue to be, our top priority, we disagree that the MPD is the best entity to protect us. The values continually displayed by this department do not align with our own.
We have taken measures to increase our private security, community safety, and crisis response teams to reduce the number of city police officers in and around Twin Cities Pride events. We will continue to push against the inclusion of armed officers at Twin Cities Pride events out of concern and respect for the safety of our LGBT+ community, particularly transgender, Black and brown community members who have historically and continuously been targets of discrimination and violence by police officers.
– Twin Cities Pride Board of Directors