Durham, N.C. — The struggle for LGBTQ liberation in the South has had its roots in strong resistance to the constant onslaught from reactionaries. The queer community in North Carolina has fought to return LGBTQ Pride to its roots by being outspoken and political — which is sorely needed to defend our communities.
North Carolina is among 16 states that still have anti-sodomy laws on the books, despite those laws being declared unconstitutional at the national level. In addition, North Carolina joined with several other states in passing anti-trans “bathroom bills” in 2016, a law only half-repealed in 2017, which excludes trans people from legal protection.
Any celebration of Pride in North Carolina should be a fight against these reactionary attacks and a fight for LGBTQ liberation, and not based on pinkwashing white supremacy.
That is why Workers World Party’s Durham branch organized an anti-capitalist contingent to march in the Sept. 29 Durham Pride parade — and focused its chants and placards on the fight for queer liberation.
But for a while this year, it wasn’t clear that Pride would even take place. In June, NC Pride, the organization previously in charge of Pride in Durham, announced that the event — set to happen in 3 months — was cancelled.
Quickly, the local queer community, including the LGBTQ Center of Durham, rose to the challenge of reclaiming Pride and hosted the event on Sept. 29. The former leaders in NC Pride had been mostly white cis gay men. The new leadership was centered around queer trans people of color, including the House of Coxx, a prominent Durham drag family. One grand marshall was a founder of North Carolina’s original Pride in 1981, and two were co-founders of Southerners on New Ground (SONG).
The shift in leadership at Durham’s Pride opened up opportunities to reclaim the day from corporations and white supremacy. The most notable win was a ban on uniformed police officers marching in the parade.
While this was a win, uniformed cops were still present providing “security” for the event, so it is clear that many struggles still need to be opened. Wells Fargo was still a sponsor of the event, and lots of businesses sought to capitalize and co-opt our community. Pride was still held on Duke University’s campus and marched through an area that has contributed to the gentrification of the neighboring Black community, Walltown. According to an event organizer, the event was only held there because the space was already reserved by the previous organizers and may change next year.
Durham WWP branch’s anti-capitalist contingent raised the issue of police brutality by wearing shirts saying “Queer as in fuck the police” and also raised the murder of North Carolina Central University student Deandre Ballard by a private security guard days before. NCCU is a historically Black university.
The struggle for queer liberation is necessarily a struggle against police brutality, and for the connection between Black and queer liberation, as well as with other liberation movements. Many people watching the parade cheered as WWP Durham marched by, calling for cops to be kicked out of Pride and chanting “Be loud! Don’t be silent! The first Pride was a riot!”
In addition to the strong anti-capitalist WWP presence, white liberals were also there, with many groups waving pinkwashed U.S. flags. There is still work that needs to be done to orient the community away from the dangerous rainbow capitalism and white supremacy that has taken over in other major cities across the country.
In North Carolina, Charlotte’s Pride for six years has been named the “Bank of America Pride Parade” and has been thoroughly co-opted by the same corporations that threw queer workers out of their foreclosed homes in 2008 and are engaging in the violent gentrification of oppressed communities.
The strong and militant WWP presence in the march was a hopeful reinvigoration of Durham Pride with revolutionary queerness. Next year, 2019, the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion, offers the Durham queer community another opportunity to gather together militantly against police brutality and rainbow capitalism.
Cops out of Pride! End the murders of Black and Brown trans women! Pride is a riot!
Minnie Bruce Pratt and several members of the Workers World Durham branch also contributed to this article.