Queer Visibility, Queer Pride, and Queer Liberation*

June is Pride Month in the United States and many places. I recently saw a cartoon by Bless the Messy on Instagram which compared what people think Pride Month is (rainbows and parades) versus what Pride Month *actually* is (many things, including but not limited to celebration, protecting trans youth, surviving hard shit, feeling free, and being valid to stay in the closet to feel safe). It’s true that June *can* be a time filled with parades and parties. Personally, as a middle-aged, chronically ill, introverted queer person, I now know that protests and parades, whether celebrating pride or fighting for our rights, are all things I need to do very mindfully, if at all. Most of the time, my life in June is not so different than it is any other month. 

That’s not because I no longer care about queer rights or because I’m not into celebrating. I’ve just gotten to know more about what I need as an individual queer person and more about what I can contribute to the causes and conditions of our liberation. In terms of how the larger world celebrates during Pride Month, June can also bring genuine statements of solidarity and (frequently) meaningless corporate sponsorship.

In the early 00s, at a huge pride event in San Francisco, I noticed a beer advertisement featuring a gay couple for the first time. My initial reaction was – how courageous! Then I felt sort of delighted to see part of my identity reflected to me in the pages of a mainstream magazine. But not long after, because I was developing critical analysis, I recognized that becoming a target market isn’t such good news. Over the last couple of decades, such LGBTQIA+-oriented advertising has become a part of most people’s everyday visual and auditory experience despite resistant pockets where homophobia is front and center.

Having our identity as queer folks contested in politics and media so frequently can do a number on our sense of worthiness. Last June, in a Karuna Live offering, my colleague Emma Bunnell and I contemplated the need for women and queer folks to trust our worth, and our value, internally and externally. In our program, we addressed how can we value who we really are, without further oppressing others since a fair number of media in pitching toward gay communities still center predominantly cisgender and white folks?

These are some of the questions driving the upcoming podcas to be released this month: What is pride? Is it a “good” thing or a bad thing? In addition, what is an identity? Should I be proud of a queer identity? When can “too much pride” mean I oppress other queer folks who are more vulnerable than I am? Should I see identity (in a Buddhist way) as a not-solid thing? Should queer folks be more oriented toward liberation than pride? How has the idea of queer pride gotten co-opted by the media and capitalism? Can we find a liberated form of pride? And how do rights fit into all of this?

My sense of what true liberation is has also changed over the decades. In recent years, I have been practicing and studying spiritual abolitionism with Lama Rod Owens and somatic abolitionism with Resmaa Menakem, slowly finding a unified vision of liberation that is both political and spiritual. 

As Lama Rod expresses in his recent book The New Saints, queerness itself is fundamentally disruptive and liberatory. In my June podcast, I will explore how dharma weaves into pride, identity, and liberation when it comes to queerness. All folks are welcome to listen – though I will be addressing these issues through a queer lens, we have and will always continue to learn a lot from queer elders, especially queer elders of color, regardless of our identities.

Look out for the episode later this month on the Karuna Training Podcast.

*I am using the term "queer" as an umbrella term, as many folks in my generation (late GenX) prefer it to LGBTQIA+. If you prefer LGBTQIA+, please know you are a part of this discussion, too.

Article written by Miriam Hall

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