Echoes from the future


Pride is a celebration of joy. During Pride, more than ever, everyone gets to be who they are completely unapologetically. The Pride month takes place during a time when there’s already plenty of sunlight and the nature is almost aggressively colourful, but when the night continues to grow shorter. The Pride month culminates in the Pride celebrations, arguably the most colourful and diverse event of the year: a climactic carnival that takes over not only Helsinki but countless other cities and towns around the world. There is nothing like Pride. Pride is freedom, Pride is daring, but above all Pride is taking pride in who you are. At the same time, Pride is also the embodiment of the UN’s inclusive values, and an important celebration for Finland’s UN-affiliated organisations.

Unfortunately Pride also contains the word “but”. Amidst all the joy and pride of Pride, it is sometimes hard not to think about the history of Pride and the reasons why Pride is celebrated. One of the reasons for celebrating Pride is that it is celebrated just because it is possible. It has not always been possible, and in many countries Pride cannot be celebrated without fear of persecution. Personally, however, what is most worrying in the midst of all the colourfulness is that even where the rights of minorities have so far been a subject of progress, we can no longer talk of mere progress. Many of you will have read about the legal and political situation in the (former) humanitarian superpower of the United States, where the rights of sexual and gender minorities, particularly in the southern states, are being curtailed. The 2024 US presidential election will have a huge impact on LGBTQIA+ people.

The situation is not completely stable even in our home country of Finland. A recent column about drag by Sanna Ukkola in Iltalehti on 20 April has stuck in my mind. The title of the column is tellingly: ‘Drag destroys children and serves paedophiles – shame on you adults!’. Ukkola begins her column by acting horrified about the idea of a drag artist reading fairy tales to children. Ukkola accuses drag of corrupting and sexualising children, and also quotes a US drag artist who agrees with her. 

It is quite possible that Ukkola wrote her column out of genuine concern for the welfare of children and with entirely sincere intentions. It is also possible to think that criticising drag artists could only be an isolated case, and that drag, which plays with gender and sexuality in a visible way, would be left alone in the future. 

When reading the column, a few things inevitably however came to mind: for example the fact that Drag Kids which is the focus of the column, is an American documentary, and that in the US drag is also accused in certain parts of the country of being sexually promiscuous. Drag has been turned into an original sin there, and anyone who defends are under the threat of being painted as a paedophile. American is also the drag artist quoted by Ukkola as a ‘righteous’ drag artist. The reference  is taken from TheDC Shorts YouTube channel, which was founded by Tucker Carlson, an American neo-conservative who helped radicalise Fox News. Likewise, the comments section of Ukkola’s column is like a strong echo from the echo chamber -like comment section of DC Shorts; a closer look into the Twitter debacle raised by the column is prevented by my own self-preservation instincts.

We are talking about merely one column and its accompanying aftermath. I sincerely hope that Ukkola’s personal style does not lead to an escalating, generalised criticism of the rights of minorities and their ability to express themselves. We do not want the elements of the originally American phenomenon of divisive culture war in our own country. Ukkola’s column also provoked a backlash, and many expressed concern about culture war -like elements in the rhetoric of Ukkola and of those who agree with her. It is difficult not to be concerned.

Pride month and Pride Day are a time of great joy and celebration, and there is no reason to darken that joy. But when the time after Pride month comes again, it should be kept in mind how much has been fought in the name of Pride. The rights of minorities are the rights of all, and they must continue to be fought for. We must not give up in the slightest, while differing opinions should also be respected. Somewhere, sometimes, a line has to be drawn. Thereby I wish to all:

Happy Pride, comrades.

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