06 July 2020

Pride Is Still a Riot

These are without a doubt the most extraordinary circumstances for Pride since parades spread across the globe in the 1970s. For a community that built its political platform through a struggle on the streets and that claimed the streets as a space for celebration, their emptiness forces us into a moment of introspection and reflection.

Community has a special meaning for queer people. Since not all families (friends/colleagues/employers/governments) support our identities, reaching out for an inclusive group “out there” is essential in the process of (re-)claiming identity and existence in the public space.

Having this taken away, as we are locked inside our homes, many of us have realised the importance of surrounding ourselves with queer people and allies alike. The distance from our chosen families forces us to pause and reflect on the persistence and renewal of discrimination, even in times where LGBTIQ+ politics and culture appear to be thriving – at least in the institutional discourses in many countries and international organisations in some parts of the world.

Can we declare discrimination over when we have a queer student initiative offering the LGBTIQ+ community a visible representation and safe space within a prestigious educational institution in Geneva? How can we understand this recognition in light of the global rise of protests pioneered by the Black Lives Matter movement?

We must not forget that Pride marches began one year after the Stonewall riot in 1969 (28 June 1969, queer clients at the Stonewall Inn bar flooded the streets of New York, rioting against the police raid that intended to close one of the few places that allowed openly queer people). By remembering this event, we shed a light on the importance of political activism for the present recognition of basic rights for LGBTIQ+ people. And the engagement of early activists – mostly black and transgender – should inspire queer activists and allies all around the globe.

The celebratory spirit of pride should not be an excuse not to protest, or not to demand equality of rights and opportunities against the persisting, overarching sexist and patriarchal structure, which is far from coming undone. Rather, this spirit should motivate us to persist in the political battle for social justice in all its dimensions.

In Switzerland, 2020 might become one key moment for the advancement of "lgb" rights in light of the victory of the plebiscite for the criminalisation of homophobia and the vote on same-sex marriage. While this should certainly be celebrated, the exclusion of the transgender and non-binary community as beneficiaries of those policies, and their long time coming, should also make us reflect on the bigger picture.

Subsequently, the rise of openly anti-queer (as well as sexist, racist, anti-Semitic, and islamophobic) political forces throughout the world – including in Europe and North America, where many wrongly thought this to be inconceivable – has not been met with the appropriate institutional resistance.

This is a month of pride for the queer community: pride in our identities and in the progressive achievements borne of the struggles those before us endured. But it remains a month in representation of a fight because our community is still under attack.

Mainstreaming our pride cannot hide complacency with homophobia and cisheteronormativity. We must not oversimplify the historical fight of LGBTIQ+ activists for our rights and recognition in light of recent progress.

The fight for LGBTIQ+ rights is ongoing and requires persistent and conscious action.

What is your role?

This article was written by Matheus Ferreira Gois Fontes (first-year master student in International Law) and Massimiliano Masini (first-year master student in Development Studies), both members of the Queer International Student Assembly (QISA) at the Graduate Institute. 

The Queer International Student Assembly (QISA) is a student initiative aimed at creating a safe space for LGBTIQA+ students and allies at the Graduate Institute, while also promoting much needed visibility for our community. QISA’s aim is to create a system of support to uplift and help students who are acclimating to life in Geneva, and aid them on their search for a career in the international realm. Ultimately, QISA’s goal is to create a community where everyone at the Institute, regardless of identity, feels comfortable, accepted and heard.

For more information follow QISA’s Facebook and Instagram pages, or sign up for their newsletter by writing to to stay informed on their events and activities!