Written by Aurora Perego
[W]e will go to the Pride march all together […]. [We want] A home for everybody, otherwise why should we have equal marriage? Documents for everybody, otherwise what is the point of civil unions? Immediate jus soli, otherwise, the fair recognition of homosexual couples’ children will only serve to trace a new discrimination line. Healthcare for everybody – secular, not binary, free, and unhampered by any permits to stay in the country. Universal basic income to have a deserving life. On the 29th of June, Milan will be proud of its coloured and queer face that builds alliances and freedom of trans-it against gender-based violence and borders.
(From the political manifesto of the 2019 Pride march organised by several organisations based in Milan) (1)
The Milan Pride Parade will be opened by a float specifically dedicated to migrants. Meanwhile, the platform Insieme Senza Muri has encouraged participants to wear a blue ribbon to show solidarity to the captain of Sea Watch 3. At this point, I would like to understand what migrants and a boat that has blatantly violated Italian laws have to do with the rights of the gay community. It makes no sense to combine the two things because they are not at all related […].
(Silvia Sardone, member of the European Parliament) (2)
In 2014, the critically acclaimed film Pride brought to the fore the story of Gay and Lesbians Support the Miners (LGSM), a local activist group from London, and of their ‘unexpected solidarity’ (Kelliher, 2015) towards British miners on strike between 1984 and 1985. During that period, the group spontaneously collected money to support the mining community of Dulais, in South Wales, through a series of initiatives, including street collections, sales, and big night events. Such ‘unexpected’ solidarity was reciprocated by Dulais miners, who attended the 1985 Pride march as the first straight people ever participating in a LGBT march that we have records of (Kelliher, 2014). After years, such solidarity has also inspired the actions of another British group, named Lesbian and Gays Support the Migrants, who currently support migrants’ struggles through both fundraising and mobilisations.
More than 30 years have passed since the occurrences described by Pride, but still nowadays both politicians and public opinion seem to consider LGBTQIA* solidarity towards other claims rather rare, unconventional, and at times even detrimental. As exemplified by the second extract reported above, since the early 2000s Western governments have increasingly framed LGBTQIA* issues as separated from the grievances of social groups marginalised along other inequality lines, one above all race and ethnicity. This process, known as homonationalism (Puar, 2007), contributes to reproducing hegemonic privilege by instrumentally deploying gay and lesbian rights to deny not only other minorities’ rights, but also their very own existence.
Unconventional or intersectional solidarity?
Despite these deliberate attempts to pit marginalised groups against each other, evidence of local coalitions between LGBTQIA* activists and other social groups is rising. Up to some years ago, scholars tended to agree that ‘difference troubles’ (Seidman, 1997) had been especially pronounced within LGBTQIA* mobilisations emerging in the Global North since the 1960s (Bernstein and Taylor 2013; Ghaziani 2008; Stein 2012). Far from forming a homogenous movement with a stable and defined identity, LGBTQIA* groups have indeed witnessed numerous conflicts, often due to the predominance of cisgender gay men and to the marginalisation of lesbians, bisexual, transgender, and non-binary individuals (Weeks, 2015). Within the LGBTQIA* community, such processes of exclusion have particularly affected intersectionally marginalised individuals, such as disabled people, migrants, ethnic minorities, and working-class individuals.
However, scholars have also emphasised that LGBTQIA* actors have distinguished themselves from other identity-based organisations due to their focus on the diversity of LGBTQIA* identities (Ward, 2008) and promotion of a ‘unity through diversity’ logic aimed at celebrating differences instead of creating monolithic identities (Armstrong, 2002). Following on these accounts, recent studies have found that LGBTQIA* activists are increasingly supporting other groups, especially migrants (Irvine et al., 2019; Luna et al., 2020; Terriquez et al., 2018). My Ph.D. research examines this emerging phenomenon by considering the digital interactions of Italian and Spanish LGBTQIA* organisations with other collective actors during the last decade. To do so, it analyses the public posts published on Facebook by LGBTQIA* civil society organisations based in Milan and Madrid between 2011 and 2020. As a visiting researcher at the University of Sheffield, I will focus on the triangulation of text and network data with the aim of examining the relation between overlapping collective action frames and digital interactions. By exploring the factors that may sustain the development of digital solidarity ties between diverse organisations, we may contribute to understanding how differently marginalised communities resist backlash and claim social change for everybody. We may also shed further light on the role played by new technologies in empowering minorities.
To make sense of this occurrence, some scholars have adopted the concept of intersectionality (Crenshaw, 1989) to articulate ‘intersectional solidarity’ in the following terms:
[A] radical form of feminist politics that constitutively integrates concerns for other social inequalities, interrogates its own privilege and biases […]. Since solidarity requires difference, it necessitates an ongoing commitment to engage in and address conflict, as well as creating spaces for dissent […] (Ciccia et al. 2021: 174-175)
What is so surprising, then, about the solidarity provided by LGSM and other LGBTQIA* groups to different minorities’ struggles? It is the way this ‘unconventional’ solidarity conceptualises and deals with difference. It is the fact that this solidarity urges us all to acknowledge our privileges, rethink our social positions, and deconstruct our normative understanding of ‘difference’ as a cut point between ourselves and others. It is the fact that it could help us reconceptualise difference as a potential tool to build bridges and achieve intersectional social change, a horizon imagined by and for all marginalised communities. _________________________________________________________________________________________
(1) Translation by the author. The original text is in Italian: “[A]l Pride saremo tutti insieme, in uno spezzone che vuole dare “Corpo ai diritti”.Casa per tutti, perchè sennò che ce ne facciamo dei matrimoni ugualitari? Documenti per tutti, perchè sennò a che servono i registri delle unioni civili? Ius soli immediato, perchè sennò il giusto riconoscimento dei bimbi delle coppie omosessuali servirà solo a ridefinire la zona della discriminazione. Sanità per tutti, laica, non binaria, gratuita e svincolata dal permesso di soggiorno. Reddito di esistenza, per una vita degna incondizionata. Il 29 giugno milano sarà molto orgogliosa, del suo volto meticcio e queer, che costruisce alleanze e libertà di trans-ito contro la violenza di genere, generi e confini”. Full text available at: https://www.cantiere.org/28526/pride2019-orgoglio-meticcio-e-lgbtqia/ [Last accessed 01.04.2022].
(2) Translation by the author. The original text is in Italian: “La sfilata del Milano Pride sarà aperta da un carro dedicato appositamente ai migranti, mentre la piattaforma Insieme Senza Muri ha invitato i partecipanti ad indossare un nastro azzurro per esprimere solidarietà al capitano della Sea Watch 3. A questo punto vorrei capire cosa c’entrino i migranti e una nave che ha palesemente violato le leggi italiane coi diritti della comunità gay. Non ha nessun senso mischiare le due cose perché non sono collegate in alcun modo […]”. Full article available at: https://www.ilmessaggero.it/italia/milano_gay_pride_29_giugno_2019-4588087.html [Last accessed 01.04.2022]
Armstrong, E. A. (2002). Forging Gay Identities: Organizing Sexuality in San Francisco, 1950–1994. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Bernstein, M., and Taylor, V. (2013). The Marrying Kind? Debating Same-Sex Marriage Within the Lesbian and Gay Movement. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Ciccia, R., della Porta, D., and Pavan, E. (2021). Feminist alliances: The ideas, practices and politics of intersectional solidarity. European Journal of Politics and Gender, 4(2), 175–179.
Crenshaw, K. (1989). Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics. University of Chicago Legal Forum, 1: 139–167.
Ghaziani, A. (2008). The Dividends of Dissent: How Conflict and Culture Work in Lesbian and Gay Marches on Washington. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Kelliher, D. (2015). The 1984-5 Miners’ Strike and the Spirit of Solidarity, Soundings, 60: 118-129.
Kelliher, D. (2014). Solidarity and Sexuality: Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners 1984–5, History Workshop Journal, 77(1): 240–262.
Luna, Z., Jesudason, S., and Kim, M.E. (2020). Turning towards intersectionality in social movement research. Mobilization: An International Quarterly, 25(4): 435–40
Puar, J.K. (2007). Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times. Durham and London: Duke University Press.
Seidman, S. (1997). Difference Troubles. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Stein, M. (2012). Rethinking the Gay and Lesbian Movement. New York: Routledge.
Terriquez, V., Brenes, T., and Lopez, A. (2018). Intersectionality as a multipurpose collective action frame: The case of the undocumented youth movement. Ethnicities: 1–17.Ward, E. J. (2008). Respectably queer: Diversity culture in LGBT activist organizations. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press.