SATANISM & SAN FRANCISCO PRIDE: THE SIN OF COMPROMISE
Should cops be at San Francisco Pride? Should corporate sponsors? Should I?
These are sensitive questions. And the answer to all of the above is…I don’t know. Yep, taking a real brave stand on this one. Next week: Which is spicier, milk or an Otter Pop? I can’t decide!
Frankly, I’m not sure organizers of San Francisco Pride really want my perspective. In fact I’d guess my opinions are right up there with tan M&Ms and any future Robert Zemeckis movies in the extreme “take it or leave it” category.
I’m more interested in just the question itself. Because as Satanists we too must at some point decide how closely we want to be associated with the mainstream of American society–and all of the poisons that come with it.
The modern Pride movement began in 1969, either with the Stonewall Riots or the first ever Pride parade in Philadelphia shortly thereafter, depending on who you ask.
In both cases, police violence against queer people was a major stake in the movement, and sadly it remains so. In 2005, Amnesty International reported that although “significant progress has been made by the LGBT movement in the U.S. in confronting human rights abuses perpetrated by law enforcement” since Stonewall, at the same time “serious patterns of police misconduct and brutality aimed at LGBT people, including abuses that amount to torture” persisted.
Nor had the problem disappeared a decade later when a Williams Institute analysis found “discrimination and harassment by law enforcement officers based on sexual orientation and gender identity continues to be pervasive” in 2015.
An additional note pointed out that “discrimination is greatest for LGBT people of color, transgender persons and youth.” That would have been an easy bet to win, except that everyone by definition loses. In 2017, Harvard found that one in six LGBT people and one in three LGBT people of color avoid calling the police for fear of harassment.
At the same time, local police departments now routinely take part in Pride parades and festivals, including San Francisco Pride. “Having cops at Pride ignores a long history of violence,” Kitty Stryker wrote in Bitch in 2018, complaining that “painting cop cars with rainbows once a year is not enough.”
And that’s the nice version of the argument. People like the ones who created the giant pink banner for 2017’s New York Pride put it more pointedly: “There Are No Queer Friendly Cops.”
Pride is also a yearly fete for capitalism. As always, this year’s San Francisco Pride included floats by the likes of Salesforce, Netflix, Genentech, and Amazon. Even Reddit, a site so thoroughly embalmed with Internet toxicity that it actually hosts a forum called r/Homophobes, got in on it.
Protesters held up the San Francisco Pride Parade route this morning, complaining about the presence of international anti-gay media hub Google and other capitalist enterprises. Note that this year’s theme was “Generations Of Resistance,” so hey, leave the door open, folks will come on in.
Mashable’s Katie Dupere called corporate Pride “a sham” and says “LGBTQ people slide off the corporate radar” after the parade ends–“until next year, when profit-hungry big businesses can prey on Pride again.”
Even just too many non-queer people can create tension. “In many large cities, Pride marches have become the new St Patrick’s Day, only with rainbow tutus instead of shamrocks,” USA Today alleges. Although USA Today of all fucking places taking up the cause is arguably more of the same.
“While we love the support of allies, we do not want to fight for space at the march which we created for our own Dyke community,” the organizers of the San Francisco Dyke March cautioned on Facebook,
When I said earlier that I don’t know the answers to these questions, what I really meant was that I’m not sure my answers are what people need.
Sure, I’d much rather live in the days of 2019 when cops want to march in San Francisco Pride than in generations past when they wanted to turn a hose onto it. This can only be a net improvement in my eyes.
At the same time, I’m not queer and I don’t march in that parade. So I don’t have to deal with the ramifications of feeling unsafe around those cops. When the sin hits the fan, what does it matter what I might want?
As a Satanist, though, I do spend a lot of time thinking about the ramifications of buying into American institutions.
We want groups like people of color, sex workers, LGBTQ folks, and religious minorities (Satanists included) to have the protection and visibility that American institutions provide to in-groups. Or at least, we do if we want to follow the most practical and reliable path to safety and enfranchisement.
Problem is, American institutions are fucking terrible. And then once you’re part of them you’re also fucking terrible. It’s not even your fault, it’s just you can’t jump in the ocean and not get a little salty (also much like logging into Reddit).
For example, the Satanic Temple makes ample use of the courts and civil litigation. Which makes sense, as courts are an effective tool for instituting sweeping reform, often capping years or decades of social agitation.
Of course, courts are also an effective way to completely fuck over the most vulnerable. It’s not a great system. And when you willingly participate in it, you can’t help but perpetuate it–the roses and the turds alike.
At some point though, everyone runs out of ways to avoid this conundrum. Sooner or later everyone has to reckon with the implications of either buying in or walking out–and the fact that our decisions cannot help but pose new dangers for others.