This article originally appeared on VICE US.
Queers Built This is a project about queer inventiveness and DIY culture then, now, and tomorrow.
Earlier this spring, I started thinking about how to celebrate Pride safely at a distance. I wanted to figure out which rituals and traditions could best be adapted to best serve a world that is still dealing with the coronavirus pandemic—and a group of people, namely, Black LGBTQ people, that is being disproportionately hurt by it.
This year's standard Pride parade was not going to happen, and I was bummed about that. Pride parades aren’t without problems—the big ones tend to be extremely corporate and pro-cop; a far cry from their protest march roots, for starters. Still, they remain enduring symbols of Pride around the world, and they mean so much to so many queer and trans people.
It occurred to me that perhaps there was a way to capture the exuberance and color of a parade—and cut out some of the bullshit—without risking our lives. I channeled my long-dormant theater kid and got to work on a socially distant, DIY Pride parade.
To kick off this processional, VICE commissioned miniature “floats” from some of our favorite LGBTQ artists. Starting with a shoebox or other small container, each artist created and photographed a small display representing the parts of queer and trans life that are most important to them in the spirit of VICE's Pride 2020 theme, Queers Built This.
These 11 floats are only the beginning. We’d like to invite you to create your own mini Pride float this month, using whatever artistry and feeling you can muster, and whatever supplies you have on hand around the house. From there, you can simply appreciate your own work, or you can send us a photo of your creation to join in the official parade, which will happen on VICE and our social media channels at the end of June. We can't wait to see what you make.
This project was supposed to launch last Monday. On June 1; we postponed publishing in light of the Black Lives Matter protests happening around the United States and globally. It feels clear: Parades should always follow protest. While the work of fighting police brutality and an unjust justice system is nowhere near done, queer and trans Black people may want to sit with (and, if they're inclined, create) art by which to herald themselves in the thick of the coming weeks, dark as they're going to be.
Channeling grief, finding joy, and expressing ourselves in art however we can amid terrible circumstances are fairly common experiences for LGBTQ people, and especially those of us who are BIPOC. We know, so well, how to celebrate one another when things feel gruesome, and how to lift one another up in those times. Take a minute for yourself to appreciate these floats, made in your honor, and the honor of your forebears and those who will come after you.
Take a breath. Watch the parade go by.
Photo: Amir Khadar
“The float represents what I imagine ancestry lines look like for queer and trans people of color. The tragedy of colonization disjointed us from our histories, but when we look at religious texts, mythologies, artifacts, etc… it is very obvious LGBTQ individuals have always been here. This float celebrates the Queer and Trans PoC doing the work to reconnect with their historical identities and dismiss the colonial narratives that demonize us.
For me, being West-African and non-binary means embracing/embodying the ancestors who existed outside of eurocentric gender constructs, and I think that is something to be proud of.” —Amir Khadar
Photo: Glori J. Tuitt
“I created this float as a dedication to QPOC, specifically to Black trans people and the contributions of Black identities to mainstream queer culture. This float serves as a love letter to NYC Pride after dark, when the camera crews have taken a break, trash piles high in the street, and music blasts in the air. I wanted this float to highlight the parts of Pride I fell in love with, and give credence to people often ignored. When creating this float I wanted to glorify these spaces including gold trims and oversized scale shifts while maintaining the rawness and grit intrinsic to my community.” —Glori J. Tuitt
Photo: Art Twink
“Trans folks are too often told that we are unlovable, especially if we do not conform to gender roles, try to ‘look cis’ or ‘pass’, or adhere to colonial gender ideology. But the truth is we do not rely on cisgender approval. There is such love between transgender folks—romantic, platonic, familial—and our love is so creative in finding ways to thrive. remember, you can’t tell someone’s gender or sexuality by the way they look. So with that in mind, let me introduce you simply to two lovebirds, existing outside cisgender expectations.” —Art Twink
Photo: Jess Bird
“Being a queer illustrator myself, I have found great comfort in the work of artists both past and present. Keith Haring, Tove Jansson, Christian Robinson, and Lisa Congdon have helped me emotionally and inspirationally make peace with who I am as a maker. I’m Vans lesbian, so starting with the Vans shoebox, all the way to to the Marrimekko napkin fringe, everything is made from recycled stuff in my house, oh and my kids’ LEGO wheels. It’s the colorful connection of my beaming gay, rainbow loving self and the space I hope to hold for queer artists after me.” —Jess Bird
Photo: Micah Bazant
“This float is an offering of rage, joy, trash, and sparkle, inspired by my brief and life-transforming time at Standing Rock and my fury at the 1% who are ravaging the entire living world. Created in gratitude to Indigenous and Black trans folks who have taught us that we’ve always been here. And we’ve always been sacred. Who have been fighting the white supremacist, anti-trans, capitalist death machine for 500+ years. Who have taught us that liberating our genders, cultures, and imagination cannot be untied from liberating the land, the waters, and all beings. This float is trans as in clean water for Flint, Indigenous sovereignty, and a Green New Deal. Trans as in transition to a just, regenerative, and possible future.” —Micah Bazant
Photo: féi hernandez
“Queer Black, Indigenous, people of color have lead the LGBTQ movement on the streets but also in writing. This float is dedicated to queer writers of color, historical and contemporary, who are documenting our histories and aliveness. This altar-esque float is a house of a new canon of books across genres with US, multidimensional, multigenerational brilliant writers, at the forefront.” —féi hernandez
Photo: Kah Yangni
“My float is inspired by Janelle Monae's Pynk video. I've been going on long walks in Philly and listening to Janelle's music a lot during this weird time. I love her positivity and all her black femme power that's a part of her work. Also I love fluorescent pinks, and use them in everything! Neon pink is feminine, but it's also loud and wild and not lying down. And that's what being queer is like, for me.” —[Kah Yangni
Photo: Ashley Lukashevsky
“My float is inspired by one of my favorite queer books— The Faggots and Their Friends Between Revolutions, written by Larry Mitchell and beautifully illustrated by Ned Asta. I'm constantly looking back to this book to help me imagine a world outside of the white supremacist hetero/cis-normative systems that we're currently ruled by. I read and I savor these stories about these queers—the Fairies, Queens, Women with color, and how they create their own means of survival and celebration. One of my favorite parts is how the queers are so overwhelmed by love for the earth and her abundance that they lay in the watermelon patch and masturbate. What a dream!” —Ashley Lukashevsky
Photo: Crafty Lumberjacks
Our float is a big Pride celebration! We wanted to throw it back to NYC queer nightlife which lead to the birth of the Disco era! At our disco party, everyone is welcome to cut loose, boogie, celebrate and be who you are… on or off the dance floor! As one of our favorite pride anthems says, ‘We are family!’” —Dennis Setteducati & Andrew Boza (AKA Crafty Lumberjacks)
Photo: Holden Brown
“This float honors one of my personal heroes, gay poet, writer, artist, and filmmaker, Jean Cocteau—a true Renaissance Man! Seeing his film, The Blood of a Poet (1930), was a formative experience for me when I discovered it as a young teen. Combining striking surreal imagery with ingenious effects, I was shocked and inspired by the visual boldness and the sexual underpinnings of the film, given the time in which it was made (or really any time for that matter). It's widely regarded to have first defined Queer Cinema, influencing the ways in which gay artists and audiences both see themselves and work toward self-expression today. Cocteau was an outspoken voice for the queer experience in a time when there were few, developing a unique language for this experience. This float contains many of the signs and symbols of his personal mythology as well as dioramas inspired by scenes from his Orphic Trilogy.” —Holden Brown
Photo: John Gara
“When it was announced that Pride was cancelled, I was worried for the already struggling businesses and their employees who have been closed during quarantine, and that rely on the increased business Pride brings. Queer spaces like bars, cafes, restaurants and clubs have been crucial gathering places for the community. This brunch is my idealized coming together during Pride, a seat at the table for everyone to share in the meal that defies convention. We gather to be fed, be entertained, be seen, and take pride in the community we've created.” —John Gara