Gay Pride: Can it have a higher purpose?

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    Jul 03, 2009 4:29 PM GMT
    After reading coming across the "Gay Pride: more damage than good?" and and reading some of the responses, I think the other side of the story should be brought to the table.


    In the past, I avoided gay pride because it seemed like nothing more than an obnoxious day-light Halloween party that cut off traffic of nearly a third of Manhattan (which is incredibly debilitating) and gave more than enough ammo to the right wing haters.

    This year, I marched for my college along with Immigration EQUALITY, since I was the only one from my college that showed up. The parade was just as loud, just as naked, and just as raunchy. That's mainly because our group was in front of the Sex Workers Outreach Project - NYC, and they were a load of fun by the way.

    Despite all of that, I felt that the parade was almost like a graduation or anniversary of sorts. The parade was the beginning of the summer. It was the culmination of an entire year of service and dedication to people that are LGBT and need it. All of the things that we that we don't do, the things we don't see, the people we don't work with -- these organizations do every day. With that in mind, I could understand why people crank up the music and turn the parade into a party.

    The Gay Pride Parade is not a Civil Rights march anymore. It has evolved into an appreciation and awareness march. At each of the MC booths, the MC would read off the contributions of each organization that walked by. That didn't happen back in 1969 and it definitely didn't happen at the March to DC back in MLKs day. Lots of people don't know about any of these organizations that are out there to help them. One way to see them is at the parade. I know I never knew about a Gay Softball League until I ran into their contingent in our marching section.

    Our modern parade is nothing more than a celebration of these hundreds of organizations that volunteer themselves to help others in some way, regardless of how small. I won't deny that it also serves as an excuse to dress up, run down a street essentially naked, with nothing more than tiger ears and a furry g-string (and might I add, he was incredibly sexy). However, we can't ignore the fact that there is a reason beyond the basic and carnal.

    ** The Dyke march captures the spirit of a Civil Rights march better, but that's another story (and debate).
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    Jul 03, 2009 6:15 PM GMT
    That makes sense to me. People that are full of homophobia and negativity will not see anything good about anything gay
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    Jul 03, 2009 6:42 PM GMT
    ActiveAndFit saidThat makes sense to me. People that are full of homophobia and negativity will not see anything good about anything gay

    I agree. And I've not only been in Pride parades, I've led them. Including the first one ever done in a Midwestern town that some feared would become a scene of violent clashes with homophobes. We'd already had shots fired into our one gay club. We did OK, just some sidewalk protesters.

    I strongly support Pride parades for many of the reasons already given here. They're the ultimate out-of-the-closet statement for many of us, give hope & courage to the entire community, recognize our individual & collective achievements, and help open that closet door a little bit for many others, telling those inside "It's OK to come out now."

    No doubt these reasons are first among our enemies' real motives for wanting them limited or stopped. But they focus on the raunchy, Mardi Gras-like elements as their chief and public reason for opposing them, and we play right into their hands.

    And I really do question whether a parade float from a gay strip club, with bulging bikini bois gyrating their way down Main Street, is really what Pride is all about. What I see is a business commercially exploiting the event under the guise of gay Pride. If I wanna see bare male asses in glitter thongs (as I frequently do), I know where to go, without a risque float to remind me in broad daylight.

    One might as well have a July Fourth parade down Main Street, USA, in which the local straight strip club enters a float with female pole dancers on it. After all, they're celebrating their independence, too, right? To express themselves by provocatively dancing nearly naked in public?

    And if that kind of sex display has little to do with a community parade, then what is the relevance of nearly naked gay guys, other than they're nice to look at. So's a dick; should we pull those out, too? And I won't even go into the sexist aspects, since it's almost always about the boys, rarely the girls.

    I think we need to have the common sense to realize when a situation is being exploited, whether commercially, or because a small minority wants to be exhibitionists at the expense of gay credibility with the voting public.

    In contrast is the Minneapolis Twin Cities Pride, claimed to be the third largest in the US after SF & NYC. which I saw & participated in for several years. And of the roughly 140 separate march units, the one that always gets the most crowd applause is the PFLAG parents marching with their young children, many of the kids in strollers.

    BTW, the biggest corporate entry has been Target's, with well over a hundred of their red-shirted employees marching down Hennepin Avenue, a wonderful sight. Target also has had the largest pavilion for the Pride Fest afterwards, and they give away the best freebies. Go Target!

    The parade isn't without a few bikini bois, but that's really the exception. Instead it's community groups, church groups, police, fire & EMT units, gay bands, politicians, etc. It's that Main Street, USA parade gone glitter, for it's just as sparkly & gay fabulous as the raunchy parades that show more flesh than fashion, more sex than sense.

    That's the kind of Pride Parade I can truly be proud of, and that I'm proud to show to the rest of America. And that I think will bring us support rather than scorn, and pay dividends at the election polls, not the dance poles.

    [Reposted from a reply I made here in October, 2008]
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    Jul 03, 2009 6:43 PM GMT
    Great perspective. I've often thought about why we as a community continue to be disconnected from each other, even with all that is going on today. It is pride that will bring me to Washington,D.C. in October, but it is the denial of my civil rights that will cause me to march in October. I hope the march will indeed be a civil rights march more so than a pride march.
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    Jul 03, 2009 6:56 PM GMT
    i think people are trying to make pride an either/or, when in fact it is both:

    it serves the purpose to promote visibility (which in turn gives steam to civil rights issues), while also being a celebration that can turn risqué (and what is wrong with that?? why do you people keep making excuses/apologies for being sexual beings?).

    this is not a black or white situation. pride is still essential when tx police officers can attack innocent lgbt people in clubs and get away with it. some of these assimilationist attitudes towards pride have become too common, and it leads to complacency.

    excuse me, but when they did a raid on the gay bar in florence, sc back in 2008 i was dancing on a box in my underwear - they came in and started trying to intimidate people. so i pulled my underwear off and shook my ass at them in my thong. bring it muthafuckaz, bring it!

    when the cops showed up at the strip club in charlotte, nc all the dancers went in the back and put our cop costumes on. bring it muthafuckaz, bring it!
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    Jul 03, 2009 7:11 PM GMT
    Maybe the DC parade is tamer than other cities, but I found it more uplifting and inspiring rather than titillating.

    The marchers that got the biggest crowd response were not necessarily the half-naked ones. The PFLAG group and another group of gay parents and their children got a very loud welcome from the crowd. Any group carrying marriage equality signs got a loud response. The dancers and drag queens just added some over-the-top fun to the parade.

    I was surprised by the number of straight families with kids that were watching the parade. The kids loved getting all the beads that were being handed out. Overall, I think the parade projected a very positive image of the DC LGBT community.
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    Jul 03, 2009 7:42 PM GMT
    You know even if a gay person someone saw something really obscene (and no I am not talking about the guys in speedos with squirt guns) there is no reason they could not address organizers about it, but instead they want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, complain about it and run back into the closet.

    I have seen straight PFLAG parent and families in the parades, Men and Women in Uniform (retired military .. law enforcement), Businesses, sports teams, bands/chorus groups, etc in parades .. but there are queers here that would lump them all in with a few guys in speedos or something -- So what you end up with are gay people acting like their straight detractors and persecutors.
  • kinetic

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    Jul 03, 2009 7:52 PM GMT
    I think that there is an element of commercialization that maybe doesn't do gay pride a whole lot of good.
    I think pride is important but I also can see why some people wouldn't take it seriously with so much concentration on sex and brands that often comes with these parades and festivals.
    Not that I don't like sex or some of the sponsors, just that I think commercializing anything takes away part of its soul.. Although it is a double edge sword because I know that without some of these sponsors, let's just say Bud Light for example, a lot of these events wouldn't be as large or have as much funding.
    At the same time, I find myself questioning some of the motives of many of these major companies that sponsor pride events. Do they really give a shit about gay people? Mostly it seems to me that they just see $ signs.
    I'd be lying if I said that didn't bother me a bit...
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    Jul 04, 2009 6:02 PM GMT
    I completely agree with you Red_Vespa... well said.
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    Jul 04, 2009 6:35 PM GMT
    Yes it does have a higher purpose. Your comments are RIGHT ON.

    This year for the first time, I marched, rather than standing on the sidelines or not attending at all. It was one of the most thrilling experiences of my life.

    If you can accept and move beyond the flamboyance......the carnal emphasis and the general "silliness" of some, the higher purpose becomes clearer.

    To no longer be embarrassed to be seen among people you would normally not be with, because it doesn't matter anymore. (Remember, it was the "queens" who threw the first punch at Stonewall).

    To see the faces of so many different people from many walks of life. Each one of them with different lives but united under the same cause. And the parents, grandparents, religious groups and friends of gay people who are fed up with fear, ignorance and discrimination.

    Congratulations for being part of history man.
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    Jul 12, 2009 4:59 PM GMT
    dancerjack saidi think people are trying to make pride an either/or, when in fact it is both:

    it serves the purpose to promote visibility (which in turn gives steam to civil rights issues), while also being a celebration that can turn risqué (and what is wrong with that?? why do you people keep making excuses/apologies for being sexual beings?).

    this is not a black or white situation. pride is still essential when tx police officers can attack innocent lgbt people in clubs and get away with it. some of these assimilationist attitudes towards pride have become too common, and it leads to complacency.

    excuse me, but when they did a raid on the gay bar in florence, sc back in 2008 i was dancing on a box in my underwear - they came in and started trying to intimidate people. so i pulled my underwear off and shook my ass at them in my thong. bring it muthafuckaz, bring it!

    when the cops showed up at the strip club in charlotte, nc all the dancers went in the back and put our cop costumes on. bring it muthafuckaz, bring it!


    I believe it's both too, but celebration takes more precedence over sparking civil rights.

    And, you're quite a bold one - inciting a kinky scene with a police officer lol
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    Jul 12, 2009 5:18 PM GMT
    My view of pride has evolved over time. Starting when I was 18, and living in Northern CA, I went to SF pride every year. The first several years were overwhelming and SF's pride was (is?) so over the top that I found it overwhelming. There are still things that strike me as funny when you get THAT many gay men together in one place - a sea of flip flops and hair product and spraytanning and posing. I digress.

    As I've gotten older, I think I have a more balanced view of it. I -do- feel proud when I see PFLAG and those types of groups. It's hard not to feel something - pride or otherwise - when you see them marching down the street to huge cheers and mad love from the crowd. Hell, now that we have a real governor in IL, HE was in our parade, and I remember just 18 years ago that it was tough to get anyone of note from a political perspective to support pride. That that has changed and evolved shows our progress.

    At the same time, I think it's a bittersweet experience. Why can't we cheer each other on all year? I see the support that we collectively show each other that one weekend a year, and then it's back to the same ol' once the parade is over. I think if anything is to be gained from Pride, I would hope that it's a reminder that we ARE a diverse lot and that we should eat our own dog food, so to speak, and treat each other the way we're imploring the rest of the world to treat us - with respect, dignity and appreciation for all that makes us different and unique, both as individuals and as a community.