Anthony Oliveira is a pop culture critic and teaches at the University of Toronto.
Welcome to LGBTQ Wrath Month.
Perhaps you are confused. “#LoveIsLove!” you tweeted. “Love wins!” you said.
And you meant well. You always mean well — the beer brands that used to mock us, the banks that denied us loans. The bachelorette parties that use us as props, the straight boys who assure us they are “cool with it” but do not get why we have to be so “in your face.”
So quick to fly our flag, and even quicker to take it down.
But now that June’s Pride Month is over and we’ve entered the muggy July heat, we are ready for a different celebration. By now you will have seen the observance of Wrath Month forming online. Now we find ourselves wondering: What is it that your love has cost you? And what makes you believe you have any right to hold it equal to ours?
We do not know what “love is love” means when you say it, because unlike yours, ours is a love that has cost us everything. It has, in living memory, sent us into exterminations, into exorcisms, into daily indignities and compromises. We cannot hold jobs with certainty nor hands without fear; we cannot be sure when next the ax will fall with the stroke of a pen.
You have co-opted our pride, but you cannot have our rage.
It is difficult, as with any meme that reaches critical mass, to tell how this month of wrath began, but it originated online almost certainly as a joke: What comes after Pride? Wrath.
It hinges on an old dig, one straight people have been making as long as we’ve been willing to stand up “with pride” — that pride is among the worst of the seven deadly sins and that we have adopted it proudly, an ineluctable sign of our spiritual damage.
Theologically speaking, pride turns itself inward; it beholds the self and deems it sufficient. But what happens when we turn that gaze outward?
As the Overton window lurches to the right, it is again de rigueur to debase queer celebrations of self-worth. Annual heterosexual outcries of “Where’s our parade?” are plentiful and meant to insult the queer community they parody. This year, the vice mayor of Dixon, Calif., proclaimed July “Straight Pride American Month,” toasting “healthy . . . keep our kinky stuff to ourselves, Americans.”
Two years ago, 49 people were killed as they dared to share a space as a queer community; one year later, a meme sprang up to declare the anniversary “Heterosexual Pride Day,” straight people posting photographs of themselves kissing to celebrate the murders and their own “Pride.”
The Pulse nightclub massacre was followed not by an outpouring of change, of protections, of gun control, but the election of Donald Trump — and the transgender military ban, anti-LGBTQ momentum on the Supreme Court and a vice president so opposed to policies benefiting queer people that the president has joked he wants “to hang them all.”
The banks, the bachelorettes, the beers who beautify themselves with our feathers fall curiously silent on these points. A hashtag — #LoveIsLove — certainly will not be what stops the onslaught.
In place of passive arcs of history bending to justice and calls for civility (lest the jackboot on our neck be scuffed), I might offer Shakespeare’s 116th sonnet:
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
You have probably heard it at a straight couple’s wedding. But Shakespeare’s sonnet is about a man, loving another man, imagining the impossibility of marriage with him, and sensing the whole engine of the world turned against them. “When is love not love?” it wonders, across an enjambed line. It is a trick Shakespeare uses again in “King Lear,” when the king of France dares to love someone who will cost him everything he has worked to gain:
. . . Love’s not love
When it is mingled with regards that stand
Aloof from th’ entire point.
Love is not love when you do not have to fight for it.
Civility be damned, then, along with everything else about us. Let justice be done, though the heavens themselves may fall. To our people: Let nothing stand which offends your dignity. To our allies: Help us, really help us, or get out of the way. To our enemies: This army of lovers will stamp out your bigotry.
And to all: I wish you a furious Wrath Month.