In my decades of activism I’ve watched – and resisted – as Pride parades in so many places have been gradually occupied. The military and the police with their institutional violence against queer communities. The banks and airlines deporting queer asylum seekers. The TERFS may have invaded Pride in London last summer (and erased the work of trans women that built their whole world) but that shit had already been occupied for a very long time. Overwhelmed with frustration, I wrote myself a dream…
I can’t fucking believe it.
Celeste stood at the top of the hill, the highest point in the city where she had come a thousand times as a kid to watch trains and buzzards. She sat down in the long grass in the exact point where she had lost her virginity, a lifetime ago.
She still couldn’t catch her breath. A cool breeze coming up over the hill reminded her how much she was sweating. The climb up the hill was always intense but she knew this was excitement, not exhaustion. Her focus was crystal clear, her intrusive thoughts were silent. Even the anxiety that crept into her heart late at night and refused to leave, was still.
We did this.
Below her to the west, a hundred thousand people marched under a bright evening sun. Even from the hill, she could hear the music streaming out of the floats and could just pick out the slogans from gigantic banners representing the army, multinational banks, Big Pharma, TERFs and the Police. According to the papers, the mayor and the radio, it was the biggest Pride march the city had ever seen. She sighed and turned away.
To the east, moving through deepening shadows and slipping between buildings, she could see the people that Pride was supposed to be all about. Just an hour before, they had escaped the march unnoticed, leaving the soldiers busy performing for the cameras. She couldn’t help but smile.
Three years in the making, this action would change everything for the city. The most intersectional movement to sweep this land and the most interconnected: the voices of the most oppressed, centered at every stage. ‘Every action counts. No-one left behind,’ had been whispered so often it had entered Celeste’s dreams. Three long years and she had been right in the middle of it, squeezing meetings between work shifts and lying awake until dawn, her pounding heart undecided between fear and exhilaration.
Her radio suddenly buzzed and she gasped loudly.
“All clear?” her best friend’s voice whispered through the machine. Celeste picked up her binoculars and glanced over to the west. She saw that the police were still busy, surrounded by their worshipers dressed in rainbows.
She pushed the red button and whispered: “Clear”.
The radio fell silent again. And for a moment, Celeste was pulled into her body. Her chest, exhausted, her heart, still trying to find a rhythm. She was distantly aware that the evening around her was beautiful, that the light over the hill was rich and orange. That moon she knew so well was just peeking above the trees.
Sometimes change is forever.
Her shoulders ached from trying to hold the binoculars steady. Her legs were trembling and she couldn’t make them stop. For a moment she was sure she would throw up. But it had already begun.
Reflected in her binoculars, she saw the flickering shadows from the weapons factory.
A moment later, a soft breeze brought her the slow grinding of the gates at the deportation centre.
That day, in a thousand cities, government buildings were being occupied and new schools were being founded. That day, across the globe, things were changing once more.
They have no idea, but they will.
And Pride was a riot. Again.
Otter Lieffe is a working class, femme, trans woman and the author of two trans feminist novels—’Margins and Murmurations’ and ‘Conserve and Control’. A grassroots community organiser for over two decades, Otter has worked and organised in Europe, the Middle-East and Latin America with a particular focus on the intersection of gender, queerness and environmental struggles. Since publishing her first novel in 2017, Otter has been building networks to counter the systemic oppressions faced by working-class trans women. This year she launched her new organisation, Trans Feminism International. You can check out her work here and here.