Pride Winston-Salem keeps growing bigger and bigger each year. What once seemed taboo, has become widely accepted in our midsized, southern town. Each autumn, more businesses, and organizations march in the Pride Winston-Salem Parade.
One newcomer to this year’s Pride Winston-Salem Parade was the Winston-Salem Socialists. The city’s local chapter of the ISO might not be very well-known to Winston’s LGBTQ Community. But they should be.
The Winston-Salem ISO earned their place in Winston’s Pride Parade when they publicly shamed Pat McCrory in the streets of D.C., during Donald Trump’s inauguration last January. They called Pat McCrory out for being an anti-gay bigot, for using HB2 to spread hatred and division in North Carolina.
Below are 4 questions that I posed to Gwenette Robertson of the Winston-Salem chapter of the ISO on the topics of Pride, LGBTQ rights, and socialism:
Often local festivals appear to be organized merely for the purpose of marketing to minority demographics. Why did your group decide to march in Pride W-S 2017?
Pride is no exception to the tendency of festivals to focus more on commercial gains than people gains. Corporate sponsorship and respectability have become hallmarks of Pride marches around the country. However, the roots of Pride are fighting roots, stemming out of events like the 1969 Stonewall Riot, in which the raid of a NY club home to many of the city’s poorest Trans, Lesbian and Gay individuals turned against the raiding NYPD and into an enraged demand for respect, dignity and equality. We can’t let the commercialization of LGBTQ rights take over our spaces.
Why should members of the LGBTQ community in Winston consider socialism?
Socialism looks at all the sources of injustice and inequality in our communities as linked, and puts people at the center of social creation. LGBTQ rights movements have tended to focus on the experiences of rich, white men, leaving others underrepresented. But LGBTQ people also experience racism and poverty along with a host of other aspects of our unjust capitalist system. Sexual oppression plays its role in upholding a status quo that benefits a minority and suffocates the majority. If we want true sexual liberation, we need a society that cannot coerce normative behavior, one that celebrates individual, cultural and sexual diversity. We need to rebel against coercion of all kinds, and create the society we can all enjoy.
It’s worth mentioning that the Democratic Party didn’t endorse same-sex marriage until just a few years ago. When Obama first took office he advocated civil unions, but gay marriage was seen as politically untenable. I take it the ISO has no qualms about advocating for the LGBTQ community or any other marginalized segment of society?
Yes, the ISO supports marriage equality while defending those who choose not to marry. We need a society that upholds the rights and dreams of all its members as long as they cause no harm to others. The Democratic Party claims to support social progress, but they are tied to the demands of their corporate donors. While individual Democrats may have backbone, the Democratic Party always ends up watering down its platform to please the big money, not the people.
There seems to be a disconnect between LGBTQ equality and economic equality. Sometimes advocates for LGBTQ rights overlook issues of poverty and systemic racism, can you describe the connection between social equality and economic justice?
We made a lot of progress regarding civil rights and sexual liberation during the 60s and 70s, but we have made almost no progress when it comes to economic justice. The poor just keep getting poorer, and the rich keep getting richer. We need to change the public discourse where poverty is concerned. Workers have a right to a living wage. In the most powerful country in the world, with one of the strongest GDPs, how can we have people living on the street in winter, children who go hungry? How do we still have blatant racism among our police force after eight years with the first Black president? Sexual liberation is tied to racism and poverty not only because not all LGBTQ people are white and rich, but also because the pressure to sexually conform is part of the broader social violence that keeps people in their place. If we want full liberation we need to work together to combat all forms of injustice and build the world we want to live in.