Numberless Relations: Pride and the Environment
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon from Pexels
CW: This article uses the word queer. Queer has been a slur against LGBTQ2S+ people and has not been reclaimed amongst the entire community. The author themself identifies as queer and has thus decided to use it in this article.
As June comes around and corporations begin to attempt to hide their homo/transphobia with rainbow stickers and atrocious T-shirts, we see just how much Pride has assimilated into a capitalistic event. One which allows police to be present at its events, and one that centers on white queer people, all while creating discourse on if kink should be at Pride.
Capitalism has no place in Pride. Cops have no place at Pride. And it’s important to understand how this assimilation is not for our (queer peoples) liberation, it’s for our erasure.
It’s also important to celebrate the foundations of what the Queer Liberation movement has been for many, and how it intersects with Climate justice.
What Was Pride?
As many know at this point, Pride began as a riot at the Stonewall Inn in 1969 and was an action led by Black trans women, and other queer people. These riots marked the beginning of queer liberation and came after decades of injustices committed against queer folks by police working to uphold our current oppressive systems.
Author Toni Morrison comments on Stonewall, saying
“What struck me most about those who rioted was how long they waited. The restraint they showed. Not the spontaneity, the restraint. They waited and waited for justice and it didn’t come. No one talks about that.”
Stonewall was in many ways a long time coming, an explosion of the feelings that years of injustices against people’s lives bring. Stonewall happened because when systems create laws to erase or commit violence against you and your community restraint can not be an option. And now, while these anti-LGBTQ2S+ laws are not as prevalent in Canada and the United States, they continue to live on in our systems. Homo/transphobia lives on in capitalism, patriarchy, white supremacy, and colonization.
And what Stonewall sparked showed that— it showed people of different marginalized groups coming together understanding that the same systems which create and maintain homo/transphobia, do the same with racism, sexism, classism, and ableism. The Gay Liberation Front (which began after Stonewall, and ran the first Pride March the following year) captures this understanding at that time. They publicized in their newspaper, The Rat, saying
“We are a revolutionary homosexual group of men and women formed with the realization that complete sexual liberation for all people cannot come about unless existing social institutions are abolished.”
They continue on to say “We identify ourselves with all the oppressed… all those oppressed by this rotten, dirty, vile, fucked up capitalist conspiracy.”
The Gay Liberation Front (GLF) was radical and fought for the liberation of all people, understanding that the liberation of those most oppressed, meant the liberation of everyone.
Peter Tatchell recalls the GLF’s visions in an article published in The Guardian, saying “Our vision involved creating a new sexual democracy, without homophobia, misogyny, racism or class privilege. Erotic shame and repression would be banished, together with the privileging of monogamy, the traditional family and rigid male and female gender roles. There would be sexual freedom and human rights for everyone – lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. And for straight, non-binary and cis gender people, too.”
Tatchell continues discussing some of the GLF’s reimagining for society
“[That] included living communally and cooperatively, gender-subversive radical drag and non-possessive multi-partner open relationships.”
The first Pride events were radical fights against the oppression of many people. They were political and anti-capitalistic with the understanding of how capitalism and its tools continue to erase queer people. So how is it now that police are at Pride? How is it now that corporations make a profit for what is supposed to be radical action?
Well, eventually corporations realized that they could make a profit off of queer people and their allies. With the decriminalization of LGBTQ2S+ peoples came many more job options—and more work meant more money for queer folk. The term pink money comes from this and describes the buying power of the LGBTQ2S+ community. And rainbow capitalism works so well because ultimately we want to support businesses who say they want to support us.
The rising issue of Rainbow Capitalism is the same that’s been seen time and time again. We’ve discussed it in many previous blogs including ones on greenwashing and capitalism— capitalism, and other systems that oppress cannot be the source of any kind of real liberation. And at the end of the day (or the end of June), these businesses and their marketing, are not for queer people, they’re for profit.
The assimilation of Pride to a consumerist event has lost all real fights for queer liberation and instead seeks to assimilate folks. Queerness and the mainstreaming of queer desire create a threat for the patriarchal, capitalist nuclear family. Gender roles and hetero familial relationships represent a way in which production can continue. It creates a way in which women can supply unpaid labour in the home, while men sell their labour.
Left Voice author and editor Tatiana Cozzarelli describes this, saying “The home remains a unit of reproduction of the working class: of making sure workers are fed and clothed and children are raised to join the working class.” So when queer people were no longer seen as criminal and the familial unit did not implode, there was a slight normalization for acceptable queer people. Which usually included those who are white, cis, and who fit in the most with capitalistic society.
Cozzarelli continues discussing how “Normalization also came in tandem with the demolition of non-commodified spaces for queer socializing: places for mostly queer people of color to socialize, flirt, and fuck, such as The Piers in New York City.”
Normalization is in no way liberation. The liberation of queer folk would mean a complete societal change. One in which queer sexuality, gender, desire and love in all forms are a part of and upheld in society.
The vision of true queer liberation is one that liberates all people not just those who have been deemed the right to be "normalized". And as capitalism seeks to exploit and assimilate the LGBTQ2S+ community during this month, it continues to exploit the environment.
Queer and Environment— The Importance of Intersectionality
As climate justice and queer liberation share roots in oppressive systems, their liberation is also tied together. The system that seeks to erase queer and trans identities is the same one that destroys the world’s biodiversity. The systems that erased diverse gender knowledge are the same ones that create exploitative farming practices against people, planet, and animals. Capitalism and colonialism seek to erase queerness, diversity and exploit the world we live in.
And when you begin to understand how queer and trans youth disproportionately make up the populations of people experiencing homelessness, you see how they are among the first affected by the climate crises. When you see how trans and queer people, especially Black trans women may be denied aids because of their identities, you see how truly connected all issues are.
Learnings from the queer liberation movement also prove to be vital in the fight for climate justice. The actions of Stonewall and those that developed from them come from a love of community, a way of living in interconnectedness with one another and a fight for survival. These are learnings and experiences that queer people carry with them that create innovative and holistic actions. Climate justice and the organization of actions around it can benefit in so many ways from the innovative actions of queer folk, especially BIPOC.
Queer and Environment—Queer Ecology
As capitalistic ideals of the heterosexual familial relationship were forced on many socially, scientifically the white cis-hetero patriarchy view was forced on the world around us. For a long time the gaze of mostly white straight and cis people (particularly men), has been that which nature has been seen through. That created a view in which there was one natural way of looking at things, through the binary of male and female, and the roles which both of those carry. We were told through this view that in nature the female of a species is to be fertilized and the male to fertilize, and all else was unnatural.
Orion author, Alex Johnson discusses this saying, “Nature is at our disposal, not only for our physical consumption, but also for our social construction.” Certain perspectives of nature have been used as a way to other marginalized groups for decades. Think of the oppression that disabled people face, poor people, women, BIPOC, trans, and queer folk. The way many are told they are unnatural or that it’s “survival of the fittest”. Oppressive systems have used the world around us as a way of justifying their actions.
Johnson directly goes against this in explaining how to view the environment queerly. Saying “Instead of using the more-than-human world as justification for or against certain behavior and characteristics, let’s use the more-than-human world as a humbling indication of the capacity and diversity of all life on Earth.”
When the world around us is simply viewed as a tool, as something to exploit, and something used to justify our action, it is just that—something. For as long as nature is a tool, we cannot view it queerly and in all its beauty. And for as long as we cannot view nature queerly then it will continue to be exploited physically and socially.
So then what is queer ecology? Johnson describes it, saying “ A queer ecology is a liberatory ecology. It is the acknowledgment of the numberless relations between all things alive, once alive, and alive once again. No man can categorize those relations without lying.” And socially within our own societies, that’s what queer liberation’s social shift can be. A world with no binary, no straight or queer, man or women, just numberless relations.
About the Author
T Schwab (they/them) is currently majoring in Psychology and Environmental Studies. They currently live on the unceded Coast Salish territories of the Lkwungen and W̱SÁNEĆ peoples. Their passions lie in holistic care and sustainability.