Each year when Pride rolls around, we pull out our rainbow flags and take to the streets. It’s an exciting time for queer folks and their allies to come together and celebrate. But like any group, sometimes there are members who are less visible, who feel that the rainbows and glitter aren’t representative of the lives they lead.
This is the driving sentiment behind The Picnic, an organic, grassroots gathering that aims to welcome folks from all intersections of the queer experience. “We have been active in mainstream ‘queer’ movements/projects and have become concerned at their depoliticization and failure to recognize, welcome, and accept those marked by certain ethnicity, identities, experiences, and histories, in particular trans women, people of colour, and those with (dis)abilities,” the group’s mandate reads.
“The idea for the picnic started in my kitchen with a couple of friends. We were just chatting and wanted a queer event that felt very inclusive and that was organized in a really grassroots kind of way,” says Shelley Taylor, owner of Venus Envy. The goal was creating an inclusive space for those who don’t find traditional Pride events as welcoming.
“I’ve found that Pride can feel exclusive for people who do not fit into the homonormative agenda when it comes to the politics of Pride and who is represented,” says Ade Boluwatife, who sits on the Picnic’s promo and entertainment committees.
“I’ve also felt that there is a major class divide when it comes to Pride Events,” adds Talia Johnson, who does internal and communications work. “They’re geared towards people who have money and fit a middle class type existence.” Another problem, says Johnson, is that many pride events involve alcohol, which can be an issue for those recovering from substance abuse.
“Pride has become a festival, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it excludes having input from folks who see Pride as political,” says Taylor. From its inception, the Picnic’s organizers have made an effort to involve folks from the groups they’ve identified as underrepresented in the planning process. Decisions are made by consensus, and meetings are always open to participants. The goal is for everyone to have a voice.
The Picnic is on Sunday, Aug 18 at McNabb Park. It’s free to attend, and activities will include speakers and workshops, performances, and of course plenty of food to share. An ASL interpreter will accompany the talks and performances. “[Capital Pride] celebrates the gains that have been made for the overall queer community,” says Johnson. “An event such as The Picnic recognizes and focuses on what we still need to accomplish while having fun doing it.”