It started as a riot. On June 28, 1969, a police raid on Stonewall Inn catalyzed six straight days of revolution. Activists like Marsha P. Johnson, Stormé DeLarverie and Sylvia Rivera built a gay rights movement out of bricks hurled at the world.
In 1969, outward displays of homosexuality often led to arrest, and bars like the one on Christopher Street were the only relatively safe spaces for LGBT+ individuals. The Annual Pride Parade is the current extension of that solidarity and safety. It is an essential institution for a community still discriminated against by a primarily straight population in modern day.
When the English city of Manchester invited Ariana Grande to headline their 2019 event, the organizers opened the doors to capitalist straight people who lack respect for queer history. Although Pride is open to everyone, it is primarily for an LGBTQ+ audience rather than straight music enthusiasts.
Grande does have a painful past in regards to the 2017 Manchester bombing that took place at her concert. However, her exploitation of the LGBT+ community negates any claim she has on Manchester’s pride celebration.
She has come under fire for using LGBT+ individuals as marketing multiple times. In the music video for Break Up With Your Girlfriend, I’m Bored, Grande filmed herself and a doppelganger nearly kissing in a so called plot twist.
Queer people are not plot devices, they are not Grande’s backup dancers, and they are not here for straight entertainment. Until Grande’s artistry can reflect that, her presence at Pride dilutes the overall power of the community.
Activists like Johnson, DeLarverie and Rivera were the chosen shields of a community disenfranchised by the world. They didn’t have time to dance to 1969 chart toppers. The Stonewall Riots were not a music festival, but a direct response to bigotry and hatred.
Straight, white, and cis-gendered Grande stands with each thigh high boot on the shoulders of black drag queens. Her headlining position is a disservice to the queer activists and artists that have spent 50 years curating a safe space.
Apologies to Johnson, deLarverie and Rivera- straight pop superstars will take the revolution from here. Thanks for the leg up.
Organizers have excessively promoted Grande’s appearance and raised ticket prices to Pride by 40 euros, almost double the original cost. This feels like a way to garner capital rather than a celebration of queer existence. Manchester prides itself on the thriving Gay Village operating out of Canal Street, however, they cannot cater to their queer demographic. Organizations must support queer artists at the forefront of queer events in the future, or the point of Pride drowns under a wave of cash chasing entrepreneurs.
The community may not have a ‘queer Beyoncé’, as gay pop star Troye Sivan said in a Billboard interview, but promoting artists like him is a start. Artists like trans woman Kim Petras, lesbian icon Hayley Kiyoko, the nonbinary artist Sam Smith. Only then can venues truly cater to the hopes and dreams of a media starved queer audience, rather than focusing on a monetary aspect.
That representation tells the people waving rainbow flags in the crowd that their stories are worth a listen. It acknowledges the powerful queer community who make Pride possible.
So to Ariana Grande, the answer is this: thank you, next. Time for a rainbow spotlight on Manchester’s stage.