Intern Spotlight: A Pride Month Interview with Paul and Dharsan

Meet Paul, our new Operations Intern, and Dharsan, our Asia and Pacific Islands Intern! In honor of Pride Month and the start of summer, we wanted to introduce a few of our new interns and learn more about them by getting their takes on Pride, identity, international LGBTIQ human rights, celebrating diversity, and the best queer jams.

What does Pride mean to you?

Paul: So for me, Pride is all about drawing from the negative experiences that so many of us grew up with and drawing power from those and from how far we have come as individuals, in terms of self acceptance and self love. … Although I would consider myself as more of an introvert, I think it’s very powerful to see so many people coming together and having moments of collective effervescence and being themselves in various stages of dress and undress. ...It is also an important reminder of how far we’ve come and how much further we have to go in transcending the very corporate and capitalist endeavor that Pride has become.

Dharsan: Yeah, I guess my opinion of Pride sort of differs in that I think it’s primarily about visibility. I think it makes queerness into this sort of liminal space that people can enter during these events, and questions of who can and cannot enter become very politicized and privileged. For the majority of my life, Pride has made me feel excluded and othered, while for others it is empowering. I just wish that the social situation that it is – the visible, corporate, party thing that it is – were something else. I wish it was like every Friday in elementary school, or every Sunday at church, or something other than a parade on a Sunday in New York City.

Paul: I’ve been trying to wrap my head around the concept of queer shame and I’m wondering if the potency of Pride has been so diluted by the corporate aspect of it, such that queerness loses its meaning in the context of these events. But I guess that’s why it’s important to have many Pride events, rather than a single authoritative one.

What are you excited to do in New York this Pride Month? Are there particular Pride-related events you’ll be attending this month that feel especially meaningful or important in celebrating your identity?

Paul: Marching with OutRight!

Darshan: I haven’t really found any large community that helps me commemorate Pride. But I do know that Alok Vaid-Menon is performing this month and I was so moved by their performance when they came to my school, so that’s definitely something I want to go to.

Paul: Honestly I’m just excited to be there for the main Pride event because it’s something I’ve always read about from a distance, and despite problematic aspects of it, it’s definitely come to shape many Pride movements around the world, and I think with the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots coming up it’s interesting to see how the March has evolved. It’s something I’ve never been in so I’m excited to just be here.

Which international issues affecting the global LGBTIQ community will be particularly on your mind in the midst of these domestic pockets of support for the queer community?

Darshan: This is kind of domestic/international, but definitely the issue of queer refugees. I’ve been thinking about the trans Honduran refugee who recently died in detention because she didn’t receive medical care and she was HIV positive and ended up being sexually abused by people in the detention center. … I think for refugees coming to the US, there’s this conflated belief that rights ascribed to rich, cis, white men who are queer are handed out to all other queers as well, when in reality that’s really not the case. … So I’ve just been thinking about transnational solidarity and what that would look like.

Paul: Being from Southeast Asia I think a lot about events in that area. I’ve been thinking about the police raids that have been happening in Indonesia, where they’ve been doing entrapment operations at spas or saunas and dozens of men have been arrested and caned. But I’m also thinking about recent gains for queer people in Southeast Asia and progress in the Philippines and Thailand and even Singapore, even though it’s still illegal to have gay sex in Singapore. The LGBT movement there is exciting to observe, with the 10th anniversary of the Pink Dot movement coming up. ...This year the Pink Dot theme was “We Are Ready,” so I’m excited to see what comes from there.

What do you think people can do this Pride Month to raise awareness about important issues that impact the global LGBTIQ community?

Paul: Before raising awareness, I think the most important part is to gain awareness ourselves and to go out and look for information. Queer liberation often becomes very US-centric and it’s valid to look inward and look locally before you look outward... but it’s important to read international news sources and dedicated LGBT websites that provide information about what’s going on all over the world. I don’t think people necessarily read those sources actively.

Darshan: I agree that people should just be reading more. Read things by femmes – black femmes, queer femmes – around the world. I think an extension of that is also to criticize the media you consume; especially the queer media. … In terms of education and the media inundation we’re all part of, I think we should seek to understand new perspectives on a daily basis.

Thinking more locally, what are small ways in which people can make Pride celebrations more inclusive and diverse, as they go about their normal festivities?

Paul: Jumping off of what Dharsan just said, I think being critical of LGBTIQ websites is important, and being aware of potentially harmful portrayals of minority populations within the queer community itself. ...Like when a lot of sites were calling for a boycott of Bermuda after they repealed same-sex marriage, which is clearly such a dangerous idea. I’m proud that Jessica (Stern) spoke out against the boycott movement.

Darshan: I’m thinking about the local aspect of the question, and I think increasing financial access is one of the biggest things. When I hear about Pride events requiring a cover charge or a ticket – even if the ticket is free but you have to get on your smartphone or use a QR code to get it or be on a Facebook event or something – I’m just like, no we don’t need that. It’s so heinous what happened with the ticketing at LA Pride. I guess Pride events, whether they be for community building, resource sharing, socializing, sex, or whatever people are interested in – I think financial access needs to be there. Especially if organizations purport that these are spaces where people can be, feel, think, trust, believe in different things and themselves.

Lastly, do you have a favorite Pride song or queer anthem?

Darshan: I really like “Rub” by Peaches. Do either of you know Peaches? “Rub” is like this weird electronic, intense song. It’s hyper-sexual but also very timid. I really like it and I love Peaches and everybody should listen to them.

Paul: I don’t know what counts as a queer anthem… I think I would say Mariah Carey’s “Hero,” because it has helped me get through so many situations with my queerness. There’s also the fun thing you can do, like, “And then a queero comes along... And a queero lies in you.”