AUSTIN (KXAN) — LGBTQ+ Pride Month arose out of the 1969 Stonewall Uprising and the struggle for gay and transgender rights in the U.S., but acceptance also led to commercialization. Now, major corporations change to rainbow logos for a month while also supporting anti-gay and anti-transgender politicians during the rest of the year.

This is why Queerbomb exists. The radical alternative Pride event returns Saturday at the Native Hostel (807 E 4th St.) for its 12th non-consecutive year. It went virtual in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it did not happen in 2021, due to previously involved leaders either moving away or burning out.

A Community’s Labor of Love

Terri Gobble (they/she) is one of the volunteer organizers of Queerbomb. They got involved with Queerbomb in 2020 after attending in 2018.

“We’re all community volunteers. We all have the same title,” Gobble said. “It’s come and go, just folks as they’re available.”

She says that some volunteers have put in dozens of hours each week, all entirely unpaid, in order to make sure Queerbomb can happen in 2022.

“We’ve got a ton of new people who are really excited to connect again, and who are very talented and skilled, but have never run this process before,” Gobble said.

This band of volunteers coordinates their efforts via Slack and weekly Zoom calls. Someone booked the venue; others confirmed the speakers. Another volunteer worked to get wheelchair ramps, someone else found ASL interpreters. From lights and sound technicians to march permits to fundraising, every step of Queerbomb was taken by volunteer members of Austin’s queer community, each driven to give back to their community.

“Queerbomb is an act of love for the community, by the community. Folks who volunteer really give so much of themselves in order to make it happen,” Gobble said. “It is truly an act of love and I appreciate them so much.”

Guided by Manifesto

Their meeting on Wednesday, like all of their other events, started with a reading of the group’s manifesto.

“The idea for the manifesto, the land acknowledgement and for the values, is that they’re meant to ensure that we stay connected to the roots of Queerbomb,” Gobble said. “It ensures that radical voices are heard and celebrated, and that everyone who belongs to Austin’s queer community has a place to call home during Pride month.”

The group’s manifesto is just two paragraphs and four points. It is a call to purpose and gives the event a focus that allows the volunteers to make decisions.

The Queerbomb Manifesto is reproduced here:

Queerbomb is a family of LGBTQIA+ individuals gathering to support our unique and collective pride. Our purpose is to provide a space to celebrate each and every member of our community and encourage all to embrace the manifold ways we contribute to building a beautiful and diverse society. We look to the traditions of our queer radical past, embodied in the struggles of our ongoing fight for equal justice and the right to express ourselves in whatever way we see fit.

Each June, the month of Stonewall, we stand forth to embrace our sexuality, bodies, personalities, art, music, literature and politics, while recapturing Pride from corporate sponsorship. We are reclaiming the radical, carnal, and transgressive lineage of our ever-changing community to capture a meaning of pride that refuses to put rules on what you can and can’t be proud of.

Queerbomb does not apologize.

Queerbomb does not make excuses.

Queerbomb is free for all.

Queerbomb stands proud, and so should you.

– The Queerbomb Manifesto

What happens at Queerbomb

Queerbomb starts at 6 p.m. with a tabling event and moves into a rally at 7 p.m..

Gin Nguyen Pham, a community engagement specialist with the Transgender Education Network of Texas (TENT), is one of the speakers at Queerbomb.

“We’re talking about recapturing the idea of Pride. We’re talking about understanding that our arts, our bodies, the visceral nature of how we celebrate Pride is inherently political,” Pham said. “A huge part of Queerbomb is reframing the idea that trans identity or gender expansive identity is tragic, right? Being trans is not tragic. Being trans is beautiful, being trans is powerful.”

They also spoke at a rally on Transgender Day of Visibility, and advocates for transgender people in Texas.

“The visibility, the comfort, as well as the celebration of our identities, is honestly all we ask for. It’s not too big of an ask, I think,” Pham said. “I think a huge part of it is that intersectionality and positionality aren’t optional. They never have been when we’re talking about a state that is considered the bloodiest for trans people in the country.”

Pham articulates that events like Queerbomb are steps in the right direction, but that a “greater shift in norms” is needed around the treatment of transgender people in Texas and the U.S.

“Come to Queerbomb, I would love it to see you all. I think that’s a huge part of it,” Pham said. “I think it’s going to be an amazing time, as well as just being able to see one another.”

Check out the lineup of rally speakers:

The march, which is Gobble’s favorite part, starts after the rally at approximately 8:30 p.m. The group will have volunteers called “Marshas” — named after transgender activist Marsha P. Johnson, who was involved with the Stonewall Uprising — directing the march.

After the march, attendees 18 years of age or older can attend a celebration that goes late into the night.

“Queerbomb is what I had always wanted Pride to look like. It is friendly and warm and familial in ways that I really strongly associate with queer community,” Gobble said. “I hope that Queerbomb 2022 provides folks with a chance to connect with newfound family members that they haven’t met yet.”