This will be the first year in awhile that I didn’t get the opportunity to go to a Pride festival due to circumstances beyond my control. Every year, though, Pride celebrations seem to spark a discussion (more from within the gay community than outside of it) of whether having these celebrations is good for our image. A lot of people see the scantily clad gay men (some of which are inexplicably covered in suds), the drag queens and the explosion of flamboyance that is the result of bottling it up 11 months out of the year and they start to ask if we’re causing people to hate us, or if perhaps we’re abusing the rights less flamboyant gay people have fought hard to earn.
If we have allegedly worked hard to secure freedoms to do things like have Pride parades that are flamboyant and colorful, only to not exercise the rights because we’re afraid of hurting our image, then we don’t have that freedom to begin with. If we felt it necessary to restrain ourselves in such a way as to not actually hold the celebrations celebrating our freedoms, then that lack of celebration would be quite appropriate, in that there’s really nothing there to celebrate.
For the sake of thought here, let’s explore the possibility that having gay pride parades causees some people on the fence about gay marriage to become disgusted by what they see, and thus vote in opposition to gay marriage. Here it would seem like the Pride festival could be to blame for the lack of marriage equality, but more realistically, homophobia is a more appropriate culprit. If you wear red and a gang member decides to murder you because you wore red, a reasonable person isn’t going to blame you for your murder. People are homophobic because they’re hateful or ignorant, not because you’re being yourself.
Some don’t necessarily make the case that they’re being made to look bad by Pride festivals, but they are upset that it portrays gay people as being something they aren’t. First off, any festival celebrating a particular group of people or particular thing has no obligation to portray that group or thing in a way that 100% accurate and inclusive of every single person. The various floats of town parades don’t represent every facet of every citizen of a town, and since there are no scantily-clad men in those parades, nobody complains. And you can’t fault the Pride parades for not trying to include a diverse range of people, which brings me to my next point.
The logo, if you will, of the queer community is a rainbow. We didn’t just settle on the rainbow because we thought they look cool (they do), or because there were fierce arguments on picking a single color to represent us (I imagine there would have been), but we settled on it because of what the rainbow means, and it means what it means in such an obvious way that you can easily pick up on it (nobody ever told me, but I’m confident that I am correct in the following description of the rainbow). Having a rainbow flag represents that we are intrinsically a very diverse community, and it is this very diversity that makes us bright and beautiful, and although we are ourselves perhaps individuals (individual colors, maybe?) we are able to appreciate that others are different, because without others who are different, we won’t have a rainbow. It even segues nicely into a general life lesson to appreciate people of different cultures, religions, genders, national origins and all sorts of other categories, because sexual orientation varies in all of these groups and being queer doesn’t discriminate. If you’re complaining that the Pride parade had some shirtless men in it, it’s not because you were offended, it’s because you probaby couldn’t take your eyes off of their sexy bodies (can’t blame you there) because sexy men in gogo shorts were just one of many, many things that are part of a pride parade. Last year at the Twin Cities Pride parade I saw close to a dozen different churches asserting their welcoming of everyone, I saw dykes on bikes, the police (who are incredibly supportive of Pride), a ton of Democrats and the lone Log Cabin Republicans (who couldn’t manage to get a single elected Republican to show up, which really gives rise to the question, why aren’t you starting your own party, gay Repubs?), Socialists, anarchists, hospitals, people dancing, high school marching bands, Al Franken giving people hugs and high fives, some drag queens, the bears, the leather daddies, the twinks, the nudists, the atheists, possibly a dancing cake, the Lucky Charms guy and other General Mills cartoon characters, a giant Cub Foods shopping cart giving out these promotional merchandise things saying “have you hugged your cub today?” and all the HRC stickers you can handle. So, once again, I reiterate, if you see Pride as nothing more than a bunch of young men making fools of themselves showing off their bodies in public, it’s because they were the only ones you were staring at the whole time, NOT because there is a lack of diversity in Pride parades.
Attending the Pride festival is a sort of yearly pilgrimage I like to make, and it truly livens my spirit for the rest of the year. Seeing young people there holding hands with other young people of the same gender and seeing older people coming to show their support really gives me a warm fuzzy reminder that the world (at least in gay Minneapolis) is becoming a much better place for queer people. It may be a scene that feels too young for you and it may feel like something you might grow out of (grow out of becuase your tastes have changed since you got older, not because you came to find the parades immature or stupid) but it’s still fantastic to attend, especially if you’re newly out of the closet, because when you spend every other day of the year being the minority, having that one day where everyone around you shares your sexual orientation (or is at least a strong enough ally to come with you) is a great, liberating feeling. We get enough hate from straight people. Love yourself enough for a week each year to come out to (and enjoy) your local Pride festival!