Postmodernism in Pride Parades: How the concept of “Intersectionality” has stunted the effectiveness of LGBTQ activism

The first gay pride parades were protests against widespread mistreatment of LGBTQ people in Western society. Back in the 1960’s and 1970’s, laws against homosexuality gave police and government authorities the ability to harass, detain, and even assault people on the basis of their sexuality.

In the majority of cases, gay/lesbian/bisexual/queer people in the West have won more-or-less equal treatment under the law. Although work still remains to be done with regards to societal acceptance of the full range of human sexual preference, the major battles have been fought and won.

The annual Pride Parades that take place in cities throughout the West are major cultural events that attract hundreds of thousands of dollars in corporate funding, and tens of thousands of attendees. The overall mood of such festivities – and they are festivities – is one of celebration.

For many people, Pride festivities have become a symbol of Western acceptance, a celebration of life, a demonstration of the human capacity for love, and a potent reminder that not everyone in the world is free to follow their heart.

Despite this considerable progress, controversy has erupted between LGBTQ activists following a series of protests, provocations, and perplexing situations at Pride festivities in 2016 and 2017:

In order to figure out what the hell is going on within the LGBTQ communities in North America, we must understand the effect that postmodernism has had within social justice circles.

What is “Intersectionality”?

In a nutshell, the concept of intersectionality states that every aspect of someone’s identity contributes to their experience of societal oppression – this includes sex, gender, race, sexual preference, age, socioeconomic status, physical ability, mental ability, and so on.

What this means is that some people can be more oppressed than others, and that in the interests of equity and justice, the more oppressed people in any given situation should have their feelings and concerns addressed.

Generally speaking, this concept isn’t unreasonable – it is well within reason to suggest that a black lesbian might face different (and more difficult) challenges in life than a gay white man. In all honesty, we could all probably be more mindful of the difficulties that other people may have faced in their lives.

In practice, however, intersectionality is not used as a tool to understand the rich tapestry of human experience. Instead, it has become a yardstick that measures whose demands should be prioritized. It has also become an ideological weapon to exclude and silence “privileged” people with whom “oppressed” people disagree.

The decision of 2017 Chicago Dyke March organizers to eject Jewish lesbians is a perfect example of “intersectionality” in action, as was the BLM-driven effort to ban uniformed police from Toronto’s Pride Parade.

“Yesterday during the rally we saw three individuals carrying Israeli flags super imposed on rainbow flags. Some folks say they are Jewish Pride flags. But as a Collective we are very much pro-Palestine, and when we see these flags we know a lot of folks who are under attack by Israel see the visuals of the flag as a threat, so we don’t want anything in the [Dyke March] space that can inadvertently or advertently express Zionism,” she said. “So we asked the folks to please leave. We told them people in the space were feeling threatened.”

“The queer civil war happening now is about Black, Indigenous, trans people and sex workers insisting that what we bring to queer communities is valuable, necessary and worth protecting. That some “mainstream” white queers and others want to insist that police marching in uniforms represents a progressive change is a repudiation of our very lives. Police marching in Pride parades represents — both symbolically and otherwise — the ongoing colonial project of violently interdicting into the lives of Black and Indigenous peoples by making us less than human.”

Anti-Semitism has no place in civilized society

Conflating the carrying of a Jewish symbol with some kind of direct involvement in a 2000-year-old conflict happening half a world away is mind-bogglingly ridiculous. One may as well smear anyone wearing a crucifix necklace as a Crusader, or any visible Muslim as a jihadist.

What about police in Pride?

With regards to banning police from Pride Parades, two questions must be asked. First, do BLM activists have a legitimate claim to oppression? Second, will banning police from Pride have a positive or negative effect on race issues?

The first question – whether or not police are actively oppressing black people – is a difficult one to answer, and varies between countries and cities. I don’t think there’s any denying that black people have an exceptionally difficult time in America on a number of fronts, especially their experiences with police. But does the same hold true in Canada, for example?

Your answer to the first question will also depend your views on the complex relationship between low-income neighbourhoods, the racial composition of those neighbourhoods, and the crime rate in those areas. It also depends on what role you think police should play when it comes to combatting crime in those neighbourhoods.

(As an aside, it’s worth noting that the credibility of Black Lives Matter Toronto is extremely questionable. One of their founders is being sued for embezzling $250,000 from a public organization, another one of their leaders is infamous for calling white people “genetic defects”, and the police-related shootings of black men that BLMTO have protested have generally been of armed men who were either threatening police, their neighbours, threatening both police and their neighbours, and/or wanted for manslaughter/double homicide.)

The second question – whether or not banning police from Pride will actually help combat racism – is also difficult. The overall sentiment is that this is a bad idea, however it seems like we will have to wait and see.

What does the future of LGBTQ activism look like?

In recent years, social media platforms have facilitated a veritable explosion of conversation (read: infighting) between social justice activists on just about every issue imaginable.

The overall effect has been that lines have continued to blur between feminist activism, LGBTQ activism, anti-racist activism, and “anti-fascist” movements.

Whether social justice activists realize it or not, the teachings of postmodernism serve as the ideological foundation for virtually all of these debates, and the concepts of oppression and intersectionality are the central pillars that underpin every conversation.

Postmodernism is, first and foremost, a branch of philosophy. So, it’s no surprise that most activist dialogue is highly theoretical and primarily focused on articulating problems rather than workable solutions.

To borrow a term from the PoMo playbook, this tendency for navel-gazing is “problematic”. When activists aren’t frantically arguing about who has more privilege, they are violently protesting minor issues, making incomprehensible statements, and delivering confusing demands to a bewildered general audience. None of these things actually serve to materially improve the lives of oppressed people –

For example, look at the “T” in LGBTQ. Transgendered people face many real and tangible issues. Their estimated rate of attempted suicide is upwards of 40%, their existence unrecognized (legally and socially) in most places, and our scientific understanding of the causes and effects of gender dysphoria is woefully inadequate.

Within their framework of intersectionality, postmodernist trans activists have managed to fire one of the world’s most prominent researchers of gender dysphoria, normalize hormonal treatments of children despite the questionable value of such treatments, and helped enact controversial legislation that forces people to accept a “spectrum” of gender identities with no scientific or anthropological basis to support the existence of most of those identities.

I will leave it to the reader to determine how much of a positive impact any of these initiatives have had on the quality of life of trans people.

Looking at the approaches used by postmodernist social justice activists more broadly, their endgame seems to be to stifle opposing viewpoints through a combination of intimidation, false claims of moral superiority, and endless debate. Public appetite for this style of activism is rapidly dwindling, as evidenced by the right-wing counterculture that is quickly growing in the West. This could arguably have a profoundly negative effect for LGBTQ people, especially transgendered people who still struggle for broader acceptance and understanding.

What can be done?

I’m continually shocked at how little the general public knows about the LGBTQ “community”, especially the protests that have happened at Pride events throughout the West. For the moment, it seems as though these issues have to be addressed within LGBTQ groups.

As of yet, there don’t seem to be any best practices for dealing with the unique brand of activism used by postmodernism-influenced “social justice warriors”.

For many people in the LGBTQ community, especially those who have experienced genuine discrimination, the personal has always been political. As a result, it has been easy for postmodernist activists to get away with taking the concept of “identity” to its logical extreme: the so-called “Oppression Olympics” of intersectionality.

In order to bring some sanity back to LGBTQ causes, stakeholders will have to be more willing to strike a balance between accepting people’s identity and setting reasonable limits on accommodation and inclusion.

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