EVAN: Dear readers, the three of us have gathered once again to discuss what is arguably one of the most important contemporary cultural events in recent years: Pride Week.
Things are going to be very different for us given where we live [it is a huge deal here in Toronto], and I suppose I’d like to start this off by asking what our respective cities are like right now-
GORDON: Well, here in Vegas over the past weekend we had half-naked people in neon paint dancing around the streets, but that was just the Electric Daisy Carnival. Seeing as we’re looking at heat in the triple digits, I don’t imagine we’re going to be having a stellar Pride Parade, but that’s just my guess…
EVAN: But you do have an actual Pride Parade over there?
GORDON: I have no idea, I’m afraid. I’ll look it up now. [awkward pause] Okay, we do- but it’s in September.
KAT: Well, I am currently in Williams Lake and when I looked up “Williams Lake” and “Pride” together, all I was able to find was site after site discussing Williams Lake’s Pride in their upcoming Stampede. So I’m going to go ahead and say there will be pretty well no public displays here for Pride Week. There is, however, a Pride Society in Victoria so I’m expecting to see some pictures hitting my Facebook page soon of the Pride Parade there.
EVAN: With that out of the way, it only makes sense to ask, in the broadest sense possible, how we all feel about it. I’ll get to specifics in just a bit.
GORDON: Eh. I’ve never been a fan of parades to begin with, and while I’ve never been to a Pride Parade, from what I’ve seen on TV and online (which I’m guessing is filtered- but still), I think the people who say that they do more harm than good might be right…
KAT: I love any excuse for a parade, but I can’t really say either because I’ve only lived been in a city during their pride celebration once… and I was working.
EVAN: I can’t say that I’ve ever participated in the festivities in my own city, seeing as it turns downtown into a milling mass of bodies not unlike those featured in that one zombie movie I hated, but I kind of want to unpack what Gordon said about Pride Parades maybe “[doing] more harm than good.”
KAT: Yes, how so, Gordon?
GORDON: There’s an argument made by some that these parades wind up showcasing and confirming the worst stereotypes about the gay community. When you’ve got a guy dressed in black leather and chains riding a gigantic rainbow penis float… I can’t help but feel that it’s a misrepresentation of the gay community as a whole.
An extreme example, but that’s the basic logic to the argument.
EVAN: It’s only an extreme example to a point, because that sort of thing definitely does go on. So you’d say that misrepresentation is your biggest concern? That they’re maybe not making themselves out to look so great?
GORDON: Like I said, I’ve never actually been to one, so I can’t say for certain, but yeah, I think that’s a fair assessment. I mean, I get the history behind it, the idea of reclaiming something, but in this day and age, it just seems to be setting things back.
The pressure now is to solidify the gains of the LGBTQ movement by proving a degree of “normalcy”, for lack of a better term. I don’t think these do that. Nor do I think that they really celebrate the folks who made this kind of world possible.
KAT: I’m not sure I agree. I mean, you often end up with naked people who march for feminism-related issues.
That obviously excludes many of the feminists who wouldn’t themselves protest naked, but it’s still been a fairly effective way to market certain issues.
GORDON: Granted, but these are done by a slim minority, and often only in response to certain events. Feminists aren’t doing annual marches butt-naked declaring “This is what femininity is!”
At least, not to my knowledge.
EVAN: I’m having just the best time imagining what your idea of a Gay Pride anything would go, but if you could share it with all of us that’d be fantastic.
GORDON: If you’re asking me how I’d commemorate LGBQT advancements, I guess some commemorative stamps would be nice. Yours truly is not a sentimental person. I don’t celebrate much of anything when it comes to the past.
I guess it’d have to be this, in all seriousness: more inclusion of the gay movement in the history books. That’s really what I think would be the most respectful, truthful, and dignified way of doing it.
KAT: But there is a reason why Pride Parades continue to flourish. Like Evan mentioned in a previous post, it gives a group of individuals who often feel stifled in their daily lives an opportunity to celebrate with people who are living in similar situations.
Also, to hammer home my earlier point, I thought I’d mention that Victoria has a naked bike ride every year to raise awareness for bicycle road safety. Soooo… pretty sure the shock and awe factor used in parades is just an attention grabber. And I’m pretty sure most people know that’s what it is.
GORDON: Surely we should be more concerned about people having to be stifled in their day to day lives than giving one day out of the year for them to come out.
That was poor phrasing on my part.
EVAN: Speaking of the post I wrote way back when, what I was discussing at the time was whether or not we’ll need such events as Pride Week in the far, far future. Surely homosexuality will have finally achieved normalcy?
Though a counterpoint I came up with was Toronto’s annual Caribana, which celebrates Caribbean people and culture and is just as gaudy, casting aside potentially negative connotations, as Pride. I daresay it’s “normal” to be from that part of the world, yet the festivities continue.
GORDON: I don’t think gay people are naturally gaudy.
EVAN: I don’t think Caribbean people are.
KAT: I don’t think all Catholics are either, but have you seen the Easter parade in Spain?
GORDON: My issue isn’t so much with the celebration of the past. I think we should salute anyone- black, gay, women, whatever, who’ve helped make the world a more free, more just, more equal place. I just don’t think a parade that would seem to (once again) endorse and showcase these stereotypes is doing that. Let’s ask some gay folks- are you proud of pride parades?
EVAN: Are you reaching out to our ostensibly large LGBT readership?
GORDON: Yes. Both of them.
EVAN: Andrew Wheeler over at Comics Alliance has been doing a series drawing parallels between gay people and mutants [in the best way possible], and what really struck me in his most recent installment was that members of the LGBT community technically don’t have a culture to speak of.
At the very least, Pride Week and all it entails helps to add to what is very sorely needed for many who feel out of place and alone.
KAT: Exactly. It might not be the perfect representation for every LGBT individual, but at least it provides a community and sense of shared history.
GORDON: Should an orientation have a culture, though? Just because a dude is inclined to bang other dudes shouldn’t mean he’s gotta subscribe to a certain set of values or beliefs along with that. And again, I question how strutting down main street in tight pink underwear is a celebration of community and shared history.
EVAN: I think it’s more because being part of said orientation has resulted in so much alienation, abuse, etc. It’s the feeling of being unnatural and misunderstood that warrants the creation of some sort of community.
KAT: And really, just what harm do you perceive it to be causing? Making the Westboro Baptist Church picket more often perhaps?
GORDON: As far as harm goes, I’d say this is feeding into the image of homosexuals as aberrant, rather than people just like everyone else. The old idea that “gay men want to make everyone else gay.” Stuff like that.
EVAN: To be entirely fair to what Gordon is saying, the gay friend I spoke to about this admitted that a lot of the BDSM stuff, among other things, probably wasn’t the most . . . family friendly, and as a result wasn’t something he felt entirely comfortable about. If Pride Week is supposed to be representative of a group of people, as he’s saying, then having it be “not for kids” does seem to send the wrong message.
GORDON: I’d challenge anyone to just Google some images of a Gay Pride Parade and ask themselves “is this representative of my values, beliefs, actions, or goals?”
KAT: The thing is, it’s a parade that is celebrating sexuality, so I’m not sure how to make that sort of thing kid friendly.
EVAN: Huh. Valid point.
KAT: I think the whole reason the movement has centred around “Pride” as their logo and slogan is because sexuality has for so long been an issue of shame. Pride parades don’t just celebrate the gay community, but also sexual freedom. And that is bound to come across as… well, sexual.
GORDON: If that’s the case, I guess I don’t see any reason for me to care. I mean, it’s like the broccoli festival- it’s great if you like broccoli,
but I don’t and wouldn’t feel compelled to support it or rage against it.
KAT: And in answer to your challenge this photo on the right is one I would endorse as representative of my beliefs.
But I guess it’s kind of cheating considering the context.
EVAN: To respond to Gordon I would say that it’s important to care about if only because humans, as opposed to vegetables, have rights. I should also say that we’ve just about run out of time.
For my personal closing remarks I do want to say that things have come a long way for the LGBT community, though they still have far to go. While many consider Pride Week to be a celebration of all of that, and many do, I think Gordon’s suggestion of commemorating it in more sombre ways is a good one as well.
GORDON: I, inversely, would argue that I’m more inclined to oppose Pride Parades as they stand currently- and that’s if they’re supposed to be celebrating achievements of the community. If it’s just a celebration of a sexuality, I wouldn’t say there’s any need for me to support that than for the gay community to support my horror movie marathons.
KAT: Haha. Fair enough. Maybe we should turn to the people who may know more about it than us.
We could love to hear from you, if you have ever attended a Pride Parade, what did you think? If you self identify as LGBT, did it make you feel empowered?
EVAN: We continue to be grateful to all of you for reading what we have to say. Like Kat said, any and all feedback is great, even if you just want to tune in and call our words “Assimilationist bullsh-t” just like some dude on reddit did.
It may not be appreciated as much, though.
Summed up tongue-in-cheek by The Onion: http://www.theonion.com/articles/gaypride-parade-sets-mainstream-acceptance-of-gays,351/
I don’t think the comparison to feminist marches is apt. Gay pride parades are celebrations, not protests. Feminist marches use nudity to make a point because they are protesting something. Gay pride parades are celebrations. The problem is, when they get gaudy and NSFW, they are no longer celebrating homosexuality, they’re celebrating reckless sexual promiscuity – an association that they should be retreating from, not celebrating.
For the sake of continuing to play devil’s advocate, could some Pride Week enthusiasts instead be likened to nudists instead of protesters? In general I think saying they’re “celebrating reckless sexual promiscuity” is a little too much, but let’s just leave it at the question I’ve posed-
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