Monday, June 3, 2013

Pride or Prejudice

As Gay Pride season arrives, we often look back at the legendary uprising at Greenwich Village's now-historic Stonewall Inn. It was there that brave men and women raised up their hands and fists and said, "No more!" People were tired of being harassed, tired of being corralled and led away in shame and dishonor, tired of being treated like second-class citizens.

When the Stonewall was raided shortly after midnight on June 28, 1969, a group of gay men, lesbians, drag queens, street youth, hustlers and more fought back against the police. They used coins, bricks, garbage, bottles and their voices to tell the "authorities" to step the fuck back.

Two years later, the first Gay Pride parades took place in Los Angeles and New York and have spread to cities large and small the world over. But after 40 years, do we still need to gather in the streets in our capitals and small towns to tell the world, "We're here. We're queer..."? Ah, you know the rest.

It's an interesting concept, the "pride parade." Whether it's to show Puerto Rican pride, Irish pride, American pride or Gay Pride, people want to gather in the streets each year to say, "Hell yeah, this is who I am and I love it!" But do annual Gay Pride parades still have the same objectives and reach the same goals today as they did 20 —or even 10—years ago? The gay community has made major strides in the last decade. We have representatives in politics, entertainment, sports, science and adademics, and we are allowed to get married or have a civil union in dozens of countries and a number of U.S. states. Yet we still have a ways to go before we truly have equality.

When you think about Pride in your town or city, what first comes to mind? Is it the riots that started our gay liberation? Is it the political factions who helped us get where we are? Perhaps it's the companies that supported our rights to work alongside straight people and get the same benefits. Or do you just think about how messed up you're going to get while watching hot, buff, gyrating go-go boys toss beads your way?

In turn, how does society look upon gay pride parades?  Many right-wing conservatives see pride parades as a shameless display of hedonism.  I've heard friends of mine who I've talke to about pride parades, who are also pro gay rights, but still see the displays of flesh and costumes as a bit too much.  So what can we do to enhance the image of gay pride parades.  We will never get everyone to support the parades, but it does often shed a bad light on the LGBT community.  I read one comment on a website that stated "They may be gay or in support of Gay [rights] but they are clearly exhibitionists! Gay parades are like Halloween parades, and some of the costumes are offensive, But if that is the message they want to send, they will never be taken seriously." Is it the message we want to send? I don't think it is, but some people will never like what we do regardless.  I will say this, the times that I have been to gay pride parades, I had a blast.  It was a lot of fun and it was a place for LGBT people to celebrate our lives and love for one another.

However you view your Pride, you can't deny we got to this place today by the support and help of a lot of people. Whether you were in the trenches fighting or benefited from those actions, each summer we come together to remember how we got here.

But why can't we do this everyday? There is plenty of dissension within our community—gay men who hate lesbians (and vice versa), homos who hate drag queens, gay people who think the trans "T" people should be removed from the LGBT, racism among gays, and more. Indeed, these kinds of feelings should make us all take pause and ask what it is we're proud of. If each of us takes a step back and thinks about it, we can remember something in each of our lives that makes us proud to be gay. But is it because of some political victory, a civil rights issue, a politician or company, or a big fat party?

Yes, there are many ways to show Gay Pride. Just make sure you do something on one of the other 364 days of the year as well.


Chris said...

This post just made me realize something about gay pride parades in my own country. I'm from Croatia, where there are public gatherings of course, but the 'pride parade' as such does not really exist among the genres of public expressions of one's identity, so those who are still on the fence when it comes to gay rights issues seem to be baffled even more by the apparent need to 'display' one's sexuality. "I don't parade that I'm Catholic, or Hungarian, or a socialist, why do 'they' need to?"

At the same time, and regarding the exhibitionism issue you mention - I feel like the gay prides are more political and closer to a public protest in Croatia and the neighboring region, with far less exhibitionism and more police in the streets, simply because there is so much to be done yet. As a heterosexual woman though, I do hope we reach a level of achieved LGBT rights soon that will allow for a celebration with buff go-go boys in the streets too ;)

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I agree with you 100% about the ridiculousness of prancing around in your underwear (always skimpy). This is NOT the image I want people to think of when they think of gay men - me specifically. What I'd like to see is boy scouts in their uniforms (some near LA were told they were not allowed to wear theirs when they march in the parade - the BSA is and always will be homophobic), men in the back of convertibles wearing suits because they are doctors and CEOs and other pillars of the community.

I went to Virginia Pride last fall because I wanted to be around other gays, and allies, and just feel like I was part of something bigger, and I did. It was great. We don't have a parade, but look where we live.

Peace <3

Coop said...

I agree with you, Joe. Gay Pride has become too sexual in a lot of ways... almost like a flesh party. I've never been to any parades and, unless things change, I have no desire to be in the crowd or to march. We don't demonstrate that we are active, integrated members of society. If straight people don't flaunt their sexuality in parades, why should we expect to get away with it?

The media, which needs sensation to survive, hangs onto all the freaky perverted stuff. And in the end it makes all of us look bad.