The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writer.
Tucson’s Pride month just came to a close, but not everyone in the LGBTQ community was able to celebrate.
Pride, from its painful beginning, has always been about inclusivity. Marsha P. Johnson – a black trans activist who is said to have “thrown the first brick” at the historic Stonewall riots in 1969 – didn’t throw that brick because she someday wanted queer people to pay $20 to be seen or heard at their community’s Pride celebration. She was angry and fed up with not being heard or seen, period.
And so, a year after Stonewall, LGBTQ people and allies gathered in Chicago and New York to protest against the treatment of LGBTQ communities and the antiquated laws that oppressed us, which turned into modern day Pride celebrations all over the United States.
Over the years, as legal protections have evolved and different access has been granted to LGBTQ-identified people, Pride has evolved, too. Pride celebrations have become less of an underground, radical grassroots effort and more of a commercialized profitable venture, also referred to as rainbow capitalism.
Over the last several years, Tucsonans have had to pay upward of $20 to get into their own Pride Festival ($15 if you buy an early-bird ticket). If you’re ages 13 – 18, it costs $5, and kids under 12 are free. If you’re a nonprofit vendor, you’re looking at $275, just to have a table to share much-needed resources with the community. As a queer stepmom of two children under 12 (so early-bird tickets are out), it would be a lofty $80 for all of their adults to have the ability to celebrate their blended family makeup.
And listen, I get it. I’ve run events for the majority of my career in nonprofit management. It takes money — often, a lot of money — to put on an event at the scale of a Pride in the Desert. There are permits and cleanup and rentals and special duty law enforcement and first responders. And is $20 really all that much for an adult to get into a full day of drinking, entertainment and solidarity with our LGBTQ communities?
Yes. And here’s why: money is inherently exclusive.
While rainbow capitalism has allowed for more normalcy and visibility in the LGBTQ populations — that normalcy and visibility is only afforded to some people in the LGB communities — namely white and cis folks.
The T, Q and sometimes the L are often left out, because of the systematic oppressions experienced by queer and gender nonconforming people of color, due to their limited access to a fair wage, full employment, or even a job at all.
I’m not completely unrealistic: I know that a Pride Celebration doesn’t come from thin air. So let’s take a lesson from other Pride Festivals, including our neighbors in Bisbee: charge us for food, for merch, for drinks. Charge us for specific events, like the Royal Pride show, where the King and Queen of Pride are crowned. Charge us for fundraising events during the year. Let’s ask our corporate sponsors and vendors to put their rainbow money where their mouth is.
But thinking ahead to next year, let’s figure out how to hold an inclusive festival: no more charging an entry fee to what should be our Pride Celebration for our whole community. There’s still a lot to fight for, and a lot to fight against, and we need everyone at the table.
Lauryn Bianco is the director of development at Emerge! Center Against Domestic Abuse and a Public Voices Fellow with The OpEd Project. She holds an MBA from Eller College of Management and an MA in gender and women’s studies from the University of Arizona.