Rainbows of Resistance: LGBTQ Pride Parades Contesting Space in Post-Conflict Belfast


  • William David Drissel Iowa Central Community College




Belfast, Northern Ireland, LGBTQ Pride Parade, Public Space, Heteronormativity, Sectarianism


The article seeks to demonstrate how marchers in the annual LGBTQ Pride Parade strategically contest and reclaim heteronormative public spaces in Belfast, Northern Ireland. There is an exploration of participants adapting transnational symbolic representations and discourses to the distinct national-local cultural milieu in which they are scripted and performed. The discursive frames, symbols, and performances of Belfast Pride are compared to those of sectarian parades in the city. The subaltern spatial performances and symbolic representations of Belfast Pride are depicted as confronting a universalized set of heteronormative discourses involving sexuality and gender identity, while at the same time contesting a particularized set of dominant local-national discourses related to both ethnonational sectarianism and religious fundamentalism in Northern Ireland.

Author Biography

William David Drissel, Iowa Central Community College

David Drissel has been a professor of social sciences at Iowa Central Community College since 1995.  He has completed a master’s degree in political science from Auburn University, and is completing a doctorate degree in international development from the University of Southern Mississippi.  He is a two-time Fulbright Scholar and Oxford Roundtable alumnus who has conducted extensive research in China, Northern Ireland, Germany, and other countries.  His research interests include urban space and social movements, youth subcultures in transitional societies, and computer-mediated communication.  A frequent speaker and conference participant, he has had papers published in academic journals such as The Cambridge Review of International Affairs, Behavioral Sciences of Terrorism and Political Aggression, and the Asian Journal of Criminology. He has had several chapters published in books such as Habitus of the Hood and Network Apocalypse: Visions of the End in an Age of Internet Media.



Belfast City Council (2010): “Belfast: A Profile of the City.” http://www.belfastcity.gov.uk/factsandfigures/demographics.asp (accessed 11/29/16).

Bell, D., J. Binnie, J. Cream, & G. Valentined (1994): “All Hyped up and No Place to Go,” Gender, Place and Culture 1, 31-47. DOI: 10.1080/09663699408721199

Brucher, Katherine & Suzel Ana Reily (2013): “Introduction: The World of Brass Bands,” Suzel Ana Reily & Katherine Brucher (eds.): Brass Bands of the World: Militarism, Colonial Legacies, and Local Music Making. Aldershot: Ashgate, 1-31.

Bryan, Dominic (2004): “Parading Protestants and Consenting Catholics in Northern Ireland: Communal Conflict, Contested Public Space, and Group Rights.” Chicago Journal of International Law 5:1, 233-250.

Butler, Judith (1999): Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, New York & London: Routledge.

Cairns, David and Shaun Richards (1988): Writing Ireland: Colonialism, Nationalism, and Culture, Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press.

Conrad, Kathyrn (2006): “Queering Community: Reimagining the Public Sphere in Northern Ireland,” Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 9:4, 589-602. DOI: 10.1080/13698230600942067

Conrad, Kathyrn (2009): “The Politics of Camp: Queering Parades, Performance, and the Public in Belfast,” David Creggan (ed.), Deviant Acts: Essays on Queer Performance, Dublin: Carysfort Press.

Drissel, David (2007): “Urban Schism, Social Strains: Exploring the Collective Identities of Youth in Contemporary Belfast,” The International Journal of Diversity in Organizations, Communities, and Nations 7:4, 177-186. DOI: 10.18848/1447-9532/CGP/v07i04/39427

Drissel, David (2013): “Skateboarding Spaces of Youth in Belfast: Negotiating Boundaries, Transforming Identities,” Spaces & Flows, An International Journal of Urban and Extra Urban Studies 2:4, 115-138. DOI: 10.18848/2154-8676/CGP/v02i04/53646

Duggan, Marian (2008): “Theorizing Homophobic Violence in Northern Ireland,” Papers from the British Criminology Conference 8, 33-49.

Duggan, Marian (2010): “The Politics of Pride: Representing Relegated Sexual Identities in Northern Ireland,” Northern Ireland Legal Quarterly 61:2, 163-78.

Duggan, Marian (2016): “Heteronormativity and the Inverted Relationship Between Socio-political and Legislative Approaches to Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Hate Crime,” J. Schweppe, A. Byrne, & S. Taylor (eds.): Critical Perspectives on HateCrime: Contributions from the Island of Ireland, Palgrave.

Enguix, Begonya (2009): “Identities, Sexualities and Commemorations: Pride Parades, Public Space and Sexual Dissidence,” Anthropological Notebooks 15:2,15-33.

Fraser, N. (1993): “Rethinking the Public Sphere: A Contribution to the Critique of the Actually Existing Democracy,” B. Robbins (ed.): The Phantom Public Sphere, 1-32. Minneapolis, MN & London: University of Minnesota Press.

Gotham, Kevin F. (2003): “Toward an Understanding of the Spatiality of Urban Poverty: The Urban Poor as Spatial Actors,” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 27. DOI: 10.1111/1468-2427.00478

Gray, Ann Marie, Horgan, Goretti & Amanda Leighton (2013): “Moving Towards a Sexual Orientation Strategy for Northern Ireland.” http://www.ark.ac.uk/pdfs/policybriefs/pbso.pdf (accessed 11/30/16).

Heikkila, Eric (2001): “Identity and Inequality: Race and Space in Planning,” Planning Theory and Practice 2. DOI: 10.1080/14649350120096811

Hinze, Annika Marlen (2013): Turkish Berlin: Integration Policy and Urban Space, Minneapolis & London: University of Minnesota Press. DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816678143.001.0001

Igrutinovic, Danica, Srdjan Sremac & Mariecke van den Berg (2015): “Pride Parades and/or Processions: Contested Public Space in Serbia #Belgrade Pride 2014,” Journal of Empirical Theology 28, 1-22. DOI: 10.1163/15709256-12341330

Jarman, Neil (1997): Material Conflicts: Parades and Visual Displays in Northern Ireland, Berg: Oxford.

Kitchin, Rob (2002): “Sexing the City: The Sexual Production of Non-Heterosexual Space in Belfast, Manchester and San Francisco.” City 6:2, 206-218. DOI: 10.1080/1360481022000011155

Kitchin, Rob and Karen Lysaght (2002): “Queering Belfast: Some Thoughts on the Sexing of Space.” National Institute for Regional and Spatial Analysis Working Paper Series 19:1-27.

Kitchin, Rob and Karen Lysaght (2003): “Heterosexism and the Geographies of Everyday Life in Belfast, Northern Ireland,” Environmental Planning 35, 489-510. DOI: 10.1068/a3538

Kitchin, Rob and Karen Lysaght (2004): “Sexual Citizenship in Belfast, Northern Ireland,” Gender, Place, and Culture 11:1, 83-103. DOI: 10.1080/0966369042000188567

McQuaid, Sara Dybris (2015): “Parading Memory and Re-member-ing Conflict: Collective Memory in Transition in Northern Ireland,” International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society. DOI: 10.1007/s10767-015-9210-6

Michell, Audra and Liam Kelly (2010): “Walking with de Certeau in North Belfast: Agency and Resistance in a Conflicted City,” Conflict in Cities and the Contested State. http://www.arct.cam.ac.uk/conflictincities/PDFs/Working%20paper%2017.pdf (accessed 11/30/16).

Mitchell, Claire (2008): “Religious Change and Persistence,” Colin Coulter and Michael Murray (eds): Northern Ireland After the Troubles, Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Nagle, John (2012): “’Unity in Diversity’: Non-sectarian Social Movement Challenges to the Politics of Ethnic Antagonism in Violently Divided Cities,” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 1, 78-92.

Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey (2012) http://www.ark.ac.uk/nilt/2012/ (accessed 11/30/16).

Northern Ireland Parades Commission (2013) http://www.paradescommission.org/ (accessed 11/30/16).

O’Leary, Richard (2009): “Christians and Gays in Northern Ireland: How the Ethno-religious Context has Shaped Christian Anti-gay and Pro-gay Activism,”

Stephen Hunt (ed.), Contemporary Christianity and LGBT Sexualities, Ashgate Publishing.

Rainbow Project and Aged Northern Ireland (2011) http://www.rainbow-project.org/assets/publications/making%20this%20home%20my%20home.pdf
(accessed 11/30/16).

Rossol, Nadine (2010): Performing the Nation in Interwar Germany: Sport, Spectacle, and Political Symbolism, Palgrave McMillan UK. DOI: 10.1057/9780230274778

Shirlow, Peter (2006): “Belfast: the ‘Post-Conflict City,” Space and Policy 2. DOI: 10.1080/13562570600921451

Shirlow, Peter (2008): “Belfast: a Segregated City,” Colin Coulter and Michael Murray (eds), Northern Ireland after the Troubles, Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Sontag, Susan (1999): “Notes on Camp,” Fabio Cleto (ed.), Camp: Queer Aesthetics and the Performing Subject: A Reader, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Toops, Jessica (2014): “’Living Lives of Quiet Desperation:’ Accounts of Gay Men and Lesbians During the Troubles,” Western Illinois Historical Review 6:2153-1714.

Walshe, Eibhear (1996): “Sexing the Shamrock,” Critical Survey 8:159-167.