Why cops should stay far away from Pride | Pittsburgh City Paper

Opinion: I hate policing Pride, but it's sure as hell not for cops

I was planning on quietly letting Pride pass this year, just as I have every year, without weighing in on the annually recycled debate about who and what it’s for.

First, I have a near knee-jerk reaction to gatekeeping and a disdain for in-group politics (who am I to say who does, and does not, belong?). Relatedly, I have a fairly relaxed attitude toward identity (if you say you’re queer or an ally, I’m inclined to believe you). And lastly, I don’t consider myself to occupy a position that makes my thoughts on the matter very pressing. Though I’m an active sex worker — and hence, subject to state-sanctioned violence and the policing of sexuality — I’m also a middle-aged, white, cisgender woman living in the suburbs (hardly the most marginalized).

And yet, there are times when it becomes important to take a stand. For me, that breaking point was this weekend as I watched many of Pittsburgh’s queer artists and vendors displaced to make way for a motor brigade carrying First Lady Jill Biden, who made an appearance on the Pride stage at Allegheny Commons Park West while, across town at the Cathedral of Learning, militarized police assaulted protestors who were gathered against the ongoing violence in Palestine.

While it’s natural for traditions — along with culture — to morph over time, the way many folks celebrated the First Lady’s presence demonstrates a marked shift from its
origins as the commemoration of a series of riots against the targeted police harassment of gay bars in New York City. As an important reminder, Pride did not begin as a parade, but as a protest against institutionalized discrimination, as a backlash against the systemic oppression faced by the sexual outlaws of the time: gay and trans folks, many of whom were also sex workers of color.
While it is pleasant to imagine Pride as a utopian love-fest (indeed, Jill Biden tapped into this by expressing on stage, “I hope you know that I love you and your president loves you”), I would caution against it. The inclusion of political figures and the presence of law enforcement and security details intended to protect our politicians symbolize a departure from the movement’s foundational principles. The presidential brigade, complete with the First Lady, underscores Pride’s incorporation into the mainstream, a radical dissent from what it was meant to embody. The core mission of Pride, as a movement that champions the sexually marginalized and resists the status quo, is threatened the moment that police displace queer folks to make way for those in positions of power.

Earlier this week, I saw a meme circulating my socials. It featured a picture of an elderly gay couple with a headline above them that read, “Does kink belong at Pride? We asked LGBT elders and they asked if we were cops.” The couple’s question seems to cut to the heart of my concern. Pride is a celebration, but it is the celebration of marginalized sexual identities, practices, and lifestyles. It’s a celebration of all these things over and against state interference. Our elders fought to keep the state out of our bedrooms, our bars, and our brothels. Inviting them back in does not honor that legacy.

click to enlarge Opinion: I hate policing Pride, but it's sure as hell not for cops
Mars Johnson
Block Party participants clash with anti-LGBTQ protesters.

Importantly, we should also ask ourselves what we are being distracted from in this performative celebration of our assimilation. Jill Biden stood on stage and professed her love for the queer community while, at the same time, police were beating students and other demonstrators for pushing back against the violence in Gaza, violence that is made possible through state-sanctioned policies and support. We have not come as far as we think we have.

The very essence of Pride is being compromised when the focus shifts from honoring the radical spirit of resistance to accommodating political figures and law enforcement. This not only dilutes the message of Pride, but also alienates those for whom the movement was originally intended. I am reminded of the oft-cited slogan within queer spaces: “Not gay as in happy, but queer as in fuck you.”
click to enlarge Opinion: I hate policing Pride, but it's sure as hell not for cops
CP Photo: Mars Johnson
Pride Block Party in Bloomfield on June 2, 2024.
Pride is a queer celebration of sexual outlaws. Gay folks, trans folks, queer folks, kinksters, fat folks, disabled folks, outcasts, sex workers. Pride is not for presidential brigades. It is not for the First Lady of the United States. And most certainly, Pride is not for fucking cops. “Queer as in fuck you” is the kumbaya we should be singing in unison at Pride.

Jessie Sage (she/her) is a Pittsburgh-based sex worker and writer. Her freelance writing has appeared in a variety of publications including The Washington Post, Men’s Health, VICE, The Daily Beast, BuzzFeed, Hustler Magazine, and more. At the beginning of 2024 she launched a new podcast: When We’re Not Hustling: Sex Workers Talking About Everything But.

You can find Jessie on Twitter @sapiotextual & Instagram @curvaceous_sage. You can follow her new podcast on Twitter & Instagram @NotHustlingPod. You can also visit her website jessiesage.com.

The 2024 Pittsburgh Dyke March
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The 2024 Pittsburgh Dyke March

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