I Don’t Have Pride, I Took It.
By Danny Palmer
This piece is a part of the Harry Potter Alliance’s series for Pride 2017, exploring issues and perspectives from the LGBTQ+ community related to Pride. To find out more about the Harry Potter Alliance and how to get involved, visit thehpalliance.org.
This pride season, I’ve spent a lot of time contemplating how we measure what we’ve done and who we are among so many mixed victories.
You can get married in all 50 states to a same sex partner, but only 18 states have laws preventing firing someone because they’re trans. In 2015, 30% of respondents to the National Transgender Survey reported experiencing workplace harassment, demotions, firings, or other negative consequences at work due to their gender. 46% of those surveyed said that they’d experienced verbal harassment in the past year that was related to their gender, and 47% reported that they were survivors of sexual assault. Trans women of color face even higher risks. For all the progress we’ve made on some fronts, others have remained largely unaddressed.
So where does that leave me as a Queer trans man in all of this? Many days, I’m not too sure. It can be confusing to navigate a space that, for all it’s progress on same sex unions and protection against discrimination on the basis of sexuality, has largely failed to address healthcare needs and other rights that particularly affect the most vulnerable in the community. Trans folks and people of color in the queer community often find themselves struggling in a place that feels as if it’s not meant to include them.
Even Pride festivals in and of themselves can have their own identity crises. I attended the Unity March in DC, and I found myself with a disquieting sense of wrongness as I walked through tents giving out info and freebies. There were plenty of handouts, free condoms, health screenings, safer sex tips, community services and crisis line info, the usual, I’m all for it. But when all of that is going on and you suddenly happen into a row of police officers and federal agencies, an information booth for a census that has chosen to no longer acknowledge the existence of queer folks, the patina of rainbow wears thin pretty fast. If anyone can paint themselves in rainbow colors and claim space here, who is looking after those who most need to see themselves in those spaces? How do we keep them from getting lost among all the noise?
The atmosphere of the march was strange at times. One moment we were singing along to Whitney Houston’s Dance With Somebody, the next there was a sobering silence as we came upon the White House and saw two sharpshooters standing in plain view on the roof, watching and sighting scopes in clear agitation. No matter how peaceful we are, dancing, singing, just existing, there are still those who see our existence as a threat. Violence is an everyday background hum for so many of us still. The signs spanned a variety of approaches, from babadook memes to political commentary. I carried my reasons for being there. A large piece of foamcore sprayed with the words “Protect Trans Kids.”
I did see those who are just starting to carve a place to stand here. Young people, trans flags, asexual pride flags. One young person started a chant abruptly among the sea of smiling and laughing “Not gay as in “happy,” Queer as in “f**k you.” We’re here, we’re Queer, we’re fabulous don’t f**k with us.” It was encouraging, among the riot of rainbow, to see those who shared my experiences more closely too. The participation in that chant was notably lukewarm, missing the plethora of voices who had moments before chanted out “Lock him up.” and “Hey Hey Ho Ho Donald Trump has got to go.” The implication was clear that even at what was explicitly a protest march, many in the crowd had no time for anger, or to listen.
Moving in the sea of people was unexpectedly emotional at times too, like when a woman walked up to me and asked to take a photo of me with my sign. She explained to me that her son was trans, and he’d told her when he was 10. She was trying to do the best she could by him, and she was thankful for people like me. I told her I was 28 and I still hadn’t told my family — that she was doing good by her son. She walked with me and talked for a while, left me with wishes that my own family would be supportive as well. I could hear in her voice that she knew the reality for so many of us isn’t so forgiving. I moved 400 miles and 5 states so I could access necessary healthcare. I don’t have much hope for most of my family. I built what I needed here, because I knew I couldn’t survive there.
There’s a tendency to view this month as a celebration. And it is. But for so many of us, it’s a victory march at the end of a long war. For so many of us it’s a battle won and a war still to fight. Even hundreds of miles away, it’s sometimes hard to shake the ghost of the kid who got a “Queer and Proud” tank secondhand from a friend and hid it in the bottom of bags for years, too scared to wear it out in the open. It’s hard to explain to friends here why it feels like a little victory every time I walk outside in something with a pro-gay slogan or design. Because here I belong, but for 24 years of my life, I had no idea anyone like me existed. I didn’t have pride in who I was. I had shame, guilt, confusion, a whole mess of other things in the in between. But no one gave me pride. No one gave me permission. That I took for myself.
Danny Palmer (he/him/his) has been doing this for 6 years now. What exactly “this” is may be somewhat ambiguous, but involves having been a Slytherin since the age of 9 and being a part of the Leaky/Geeky community in any and every way possible. As a disability and LGBTQIA+ advocate and photographer by trade, Danny spends most of his time using fandom circles and stories to engage in bettering the world and discussing themes in fiction and how they translate to real life. Danny also believes in always being yourself, as strange and wonderful as that may be, except when you can be Captain America. Then be Captain America.