17 December 2017


The pinkwashing of Melbourne ‘Pride’

By: Bobuck Sayed

Feb 5, 2016
The protest at this year’s annual ‘Pride’ march in Melbourne, and the violent reaction it subsequently received, draws critical attention to the ethical compromises the queer community has made to gain the power, funding and visibility we now have.
A group of queer and transgender activists disrupted the march in front of the NAB faction with a peaceful sit-in to demonstrate that ‘Pride’ is not simply a celebration, a statement from the group outlines, but a protest fighting for liberation for everyone harmed by heteronormativity, cisnormativity, misogyny, ableism, racism and other forms of oppression.
Video footage shows people from the crowd verbally vilifying the protestors for disrupting the parade and then assaulting them with fists, shoves and discoloured water from hoses and buckets. Each succeeding attack on the masked protestors, who were both able-bodied and disabled, is followed by roaring affirmation from the mob. It is horrifying to watch members of the march aggressively confront the protestors, attempt to steal their flags, litter them with insults, and then have the audacity to demand them to “show your fucking face, you cowards!”
Our queer forbearers fought for our freedom to be out and proud. But what is the Pride movement costing us if the voices and actions of those demonstrating among us are violently silenced and policed?
The protestors’ concerns were with Midsumma Festival’s continued affiliation with ethically compromised corporations who co-opt LGBT causes to valorise their own public image. This phenomenon is called pinkwashing, and there is growing backlash around the world against organisations and governments who intentionally associate themselves with queerness as a marketing campaign, without rectifying the damage they cause to other marginalised communities.
NAB is a major partner of Midsumma Festival, and AGL is a gold-supporting partner, whatever that means. These companies are notorious for investing in fossil fuels and, as such, the socio-environmental devastation that climate change is responsible for. Furthermore, NAB invests in Transfield, which manages the ‘security services’ at offshore refugee processing centres in Nauru and PNG. As the statement from the protesters describes, some of those processed offshore by Transfield are queer and gender diverse. Another sponsor of the festival, Jetstar, is similarly complicit in the forceful deportation of asylum seekers.
The value of a protest against the contentious affiliations of Midsumma, one of the largest queer festivals in Australia, and its ties to fossil fuels and offshore detention centres cannot be ignored. Especially because many of the participants at ‘Pride’ had little knowledge of these affiliations before the protest.
The fact that this political gesture had to be staged in the middle of the march, and received such ardent antagonism from onlookers, testifies to how few opportunities there are for criticism of the queer community to be voiced from within the queer community. Ignoring these examples of our diversity renders us vulnerable to the same dogmatic homogeneity that has historically erased our own histories and visibility.
Many of the onlookers allegedly interpreted the peaceful sit-in as a homophobic gesture, despite the protestors holding a trans flag and proclaiming a banner that read: “Queers Revolt!” If these markers of queerness, alongside the protestors’ chants of ‘no pride in pinkwashing’ and ‘no pride in deportation’, fell on deaf ears, then we need to seriously consider why. The violence they endured must only have exacerbated the existing alienation many trans and queer people feel from a gay culture that has effectively been commodified and deradicalised. There is no humour in police having to defend queer protesters from the trigger happy, violently defensive onlookers at a ‘Pride’ march.

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90 years old, political gay activist, hosting two web sites, one personal: http://www.red-jos.net one shared with my partner, 94-year-old Ken Lovett: http://www.josken.net and also this blog. The blog now has an alphabetical index: http://www.red-jos.net/alpha3.htm