The Puget Sound John Brown Gun Club (PSJBGC) wants to make the community aware that Capitol Hill Pride (CHP) has asked us to be present at their event, by offering us a table and speaking space and also asking for us to supplement their security. However, after witnessing a long string of harmful actions by their leadership, we’ve made the decision to pull our support and services.
We were once looking forward to CHP with enthusiasm. The PSJBGC has helped support Pride events in Seattle and elsewhere since our founding. We recall the transforming experience of contributing our part to the safety of Trans Pride 2019 in Capitol Hill, a day that remains a favorite to many of our members. After a long year of COVID lockdowns in 2020, we had even more excitement about being part of Seattle’s first Pride events for 2021. Many of our members have put in a lot of time, energy, and hours working with marginalized communities on self-defense as well as getting a table full of buttons, stickers, and literature together in anticipation of an official presence at 2021 CHP.
However, after reviewing the actions of the CHP organizers, we cannot standby and support the harrassment and harm they have aimed at the Take B(l)ack Pride event (TBP) for the latter’s decision to center Black trans and queer voices in ways that include TBP’s admission fee structure. We’re especially extremely concerned with the move by CHP to report Take B(l)ack Pride to the city of Seattle’s Human Right’s Commission, with claims of “reverse discrimination.” We don’t believe reverse discrimination is a real, actionable thing… in fact, that point of view makes a cameo on our website’s 404 page.
It’s worth reading Seattle HRC’s response, which perfectly lays out the flaws of CHP’s concerns. Nobody has forced CHP to take an admission to account for inequity; instead, CHP has decided to attack another separate event for their independent decision to take admissions in a way that is aware of the structural inequality that comes from celebrating Pride in our society. CHP doesn’t have to deal with that inequality in that same way, but we hope they read Seattle HRC’s response and find avenues to be mindful of the struggles our marginalized communities face every day.
During the course of the PSJBGC’s work, we sometimes find ourselves working with people and organizations who have disagreements or painful history with other activists/community members. Like the rest of the Seattle-area left, we frequently wrestle with the question of how to engage with these realities in a responsible way.
Against a backdrop of state and right wing violence against activists and marginalized people, we seek to do all we can to make protest and struggle as safe as possible. (We will always wish we could do more.) In general, when providing security at a protest or other event, we are there to support the attendees as much as or more than the organizers. Our presence at such an event is not necessarily an endorsement of every organizer, every tactic or every demand made by those who organized the event—although we support a diversity of tactics and do not peace police. We fully understand and accept that the intention to create safety does not shield us from criticism, including criticism based on who we choose to work with, but who we work with is sometimes determined by ethical and political boundaries that we will not cross.
PSJBGC recognizes that Pride is a month in rememberance of an uprising in 1969 led by Black trans women at the Stonewall Inn in New York City. While we appreciate CHP’s stance on keeping police out of Pride given that police continue to be a source of violence against the LGBTQIA2S+ community, it’s simply myopic to then in the same breath turn to the city to further oppress the communities that burden an unfair portion of that violence that continues from before Stonewall through today.
PSJBGC’s membership includes queer members, trans members, and people of color, but also white members who recognize the extra effort they must shoulder to make this world more equitable for the former. We realize that in order to work towards that goal of a safer Pride for everyone, our members individually must examine our roles in a country created through violence by racism, misogyny, colonization and more, each intersecting with our individual identities regarding sexuality and gender.
Not all, or even most, or even many of us could ever understand the lived experiences of the Black Queer community. But all of our members know that CHP’s decision to target an event built for that same community is against our values in an alarming way.
For all these reasons, the PSJBGC will not be participating as an organization in CHP 2021.