Queer Liberation is Class Struggle

On June 8th, the LGBTQI Working Group of the Albuquerque Democratic Socialists of America will march in the Albuquerque Pride Parade. We do so because we are fierce advocates of both the liberation of queer people and the liberation of the working class. The working class, as so often, is ejected from the message when the language of queer liberation is co-opted by the demands of capital.

Pride festivals commemorate and memorialize the events of the Stonewall uprising fifty years ago.

In 1969, queer people rose up against their pervasive and violent oppression by the state. The rigid enforcement of gender and sexual roles was then intricately connected to capitalism. The damaging hierarchy of classes imposed by capitalism serves the same purposes as the hierarchy of gender identities and sexual orientations. These forms of oppression are each mutually reinforcing, and each powerful forces in dividing the working class and blocking their path to justice. Capitalists did not share the interests of queer people; they wanted to exploit them.

In the years since Stonewall, the corporate outlook on queer people has slowly shifted. In 1992, Philip Morris specifically targeted queer people through advertising in a gay magazine, viewing the endangered minority as yet another opportunity to expand their profit by endangering our health. When they faced criticism of their apparent acceptance of queer people, they folded, responding “we have no plans to advertise… in any other supposedly homosexual publications.” Is this queer liberation?

Fifty years later, the relationship of capital to queer people continues to be one of exploitation. 2019’s Albuquerque Pride is presented by a slate of capitalist interests. Bud Light, a platinum sponsor, has developed an aggressive campaign surrounding this year’s pride month, including rainbow-colored beer bottles. Yet, LGBTQI individuals are significantly more likely to suffer from addiction to substances including alcohol, with binge drinking and problematic alcohol abuse among gay men is about two times more common than among straight men. Anheuser-Busch, then, is solidifying their position of benefiting from the challenges queer people face.

Clear Channel, a gold-level sponsor, is a part of national media giant iHeartMedia, which has faced repeated controversy over its profiting from offensive anti-gay rhetoric spread by its radio talent. Fellow gold-level sponsor HP holds significant contracts with the Egyptian government, which continues to prosecute men accused of homosexual activity. Gap, a brass sponsor, outsources their manufacturing labor overseas and has been credibly accused of employing children and others in sweatshop conditions.

This is not queer liberation. It is rainbow-colored capitalism.

Join the Albuquerque DSA in calling for justice and equality for both queer people and the working class as a whole.

Read DSA’s national statement on LGBTQI rights