Happy Pride month! Although lately, the world hasn’t been too happy. It seems that a world void of violence, discrimination, intolerance and inequality is very far away, despite all the progress we’ve made thus far. And I don’t know about you, but that makes me really frustrated. It makes the fight for equal rights and peace even more centerfold.
And what better way to channel all that frustration but through a playlist? Not only is music and Pride intimately linked, both are heavily associated with protest and activism. Let’s dive into sonic artistic expression of political rage, particularly for queer folks.
The Stonewall Riots
Let’s take a quick history refresher: Pride festivals originally began as a series of spontaneous riots in New York City. A police raid of a gay establishment called the Stonewall Inn, in 1969, sparked the riots that took place over the span of a few days. It wasn’t the first protest of its kind; police raids of queer bars were routine at the time, under the guise of indecent behavior. Queer people lived underground lives, where their sexuality and unconventional gender expression was expected to conform to norms in public. Because of this, police relations with the LGBTIQ+ community were quite tumultuous. People had to look out for each other, because they could not count on state agents to protect them.
The Stonewall Riots garnered the most attention from this period of time, because of its scale and repercussions. Like many political changes, there comes a moment when an affected community decide that things must change, and for the better. The LGBTIQ+ community all echoed a need to have rights protecting their sexual orientation from violence, discrimination, and legal problems.
It’s true: although we witness and experience queerphobia now, it may be hard to imagine, in the most progressive places, a reality where queer people are illegal. The traditional norms of the binary genders led to laws that criminalized behavior that some of us may consider commonplace, like cross-dressing. In this case, nothing too extreme; pants were considering men’s attire, so women couldn’t wear them. It was considered to infringing on “masquerading laws”, suggesting that someone is fraudulently pretending to take on another identity.
The Stonewall Riots emerged during this era of societal tension. Arrests were more commonplace, in LGBTIQ+ dedicated establishments but also in streets, as well as physical/verbal violence in public spaces. Representation was scarce, and if present, demeaning. Queer actors/actresses were known to be arranged into heterosexual-seeming marriage in order to preserve their careers. Not to mention that queer was far more akin to an insult, than an empowered, reclaimed word.
So Stonewall was really important in queer history. Not only because it created what we now celebrate as Pride, but it also jump started LGBTIQ+ advocacy organizations. People mobilized the community to demand equal rights, furthering to erase the taboo around their hushed lives, and educating others into supporting the cause. It was the predecessor to demands such as legalizing same-sex marriage, and transgender demands of fair traitement.
So what is Pride?
The concept of Pride, as we currently know it, became a yearly symbol to honor Stonewall Riots’ impact on the community’s advancements and commemorate the lives that have altered due to queerphobia. The first Pride parades took place in June 1970, and have become yearly celebrations of queer culture ever since. Although in some places, Pride feels like it’s been around forever and liberation could be taken for granted, it’s really important to keep in mind the places that have still never one. Places in which Pride events is banned. Places in which demonstrated queer culture as freely as during Pride in tolerant places is illegal. Pride remains a symbol of protest, even in a curtain of glitter and fun music.
The sheer act of being physically visible in the public space as queer, when Pride celebration’s history began with police arrests on queer public demonstrations of affections, is also symbolically relevant. Pride may feel like a fun, cultural festival (and thankfully, it largely is!), but its existence is to oppose the erasure of queer identities enforced by unfair, oppressive systems. Wave rainbow flags, volunteer at a Pride event, be apart of a Pride march, help in fundraisers for activist organisations… it all matters.
Our Pride Protest Playlist
While we’ve come a long way in many countries regarding equality, time has not solely been representative of progress. 2022 has been rough. The War on Ukraine, the renewal of debate over abortion rights and bodily autonomy, police brutality, the seemingly never-ending burden of discrimination and constant limbo of rights being taken away that affect your life… it’s nothing new compared to previous years, but it is exhausting after a global pandemic.
It’s frustrating to depend on a system that doesn’t always have your back. And in some cases, that never has your back. In this spirit, we’ve come up with a queer-themed riot/protest playlist in order place our anger into cathartic means. Music is an universal art form that helps us express feelings in vivid ways, and protest songs have historically brought music and activism closely together. To be able to chant, to have words to describe complex emotions, and to have a community of others who singing with you is a huge demonstration of change.
This playlist is an all-inclusive LGBTIQ+ themed protest playlist. It’s designed to be angry. To be shouty. To be a little hurt, but not defeated. We stayed pretty universal in terms of personal music taste, mixing queercore punk with impactful singer/songwriter, as well as more synthpop energy.
That said, a special spotlight should be brought upon queercore when speaking about queer protesting. It’s an offshoot of hardcore and punk, but the queer version. It started off in 1980s, as a means to protest against the homophobic handling of the AIDS epidemic. Punk’s history of being political, and cathartic to anger when faced with injustice makes perfect sense as to why it appealed to queer people. The genre carries the same essence of lofi punk recordings, with an appreciation for strong emotions and protest themes, airing their own frustrations about social norms and discrimination. Bands to look into would be Tribe 8, Against Me!, Dog Park Dissidents, The Queers and Pansy Division; and yes they are all already in the playlist for you to sample.
Although the news isn’t all that inspiring lately, we hope this collection of songs catered to that pent-up rage some of us have been feeling will show that you’re not alone in feeling that way, and that change has to be created. Now is a great time to further get educated on social and political issues plaguing your communities and those of others’ to commit to creating the change we all deserve to benefit from.
Time to turn on your speakers and listen to the playlist!