What is Pride About?

Near the end of June each year, parades are held in cities throughout the US and elsewhere in the world to celebrate gay pride.  These marches began as a commemoration of the Stonewall Riots on June 28, 1969, in which patrons of a gay bar in New York City rioted in response to a police raid and continued harassment.  Originally these parades were knows as “gay freedom” or “gay liberation” marches, although over the last four decades they have come to be known more general as “Gay Pride”.

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Pictures and stories in the media tend to focus on the most titillating aspects of the parade: the “Dykes on Bykes,” the naked or nearly-naked revelers, the fabulous drag queens, etc.  With a mixture of confusion and derision, many in the heterosexual community (and even a few in the gay community) don’t understand what these events are about and the displays of outrageousness provoke the common refrain that gays should just “keep it to themselves” instead of “flaunting it”.

In fact, a recent post on the front page of Xanga asked the question, “Why Gay Pride?”  Many of the responses echoed the themes of those who don’t understand what Pride is and its importance to members of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered (GLBT) community.

Let me share with you my answer to the question, “What is Pride about?”

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Growing up gay is, more than anything, about invisibility.  You don’t see anyone like you, you have nobody to confide in, and you often don’t realize that you are not alone in your attraction to members of the same sex.  This invisibility is debilitating and while there are many more examples of GLBT people in the media and in everyday life than there were a few decades ago, hundreds of thousands of young people around the world who are GLBT or questioning, continue to grow up feeling invisible.

A friend I interviewed in a university project shared this story with me: Growing up in a large immigrant family, he was convinced that his homosexual feelings were an illness, a sickness that only he had ever experienced.  He kept this secret buried deep inside and it was taking a toll on his health, his studies, and his wellbeing.  One weekend in June he took the subway into the city to do some shopping and as he emerged from underground, he found himself in the middle of a large parade.  As he stopped to watch, he had a dawning awareness that all of the people at the parade were just like him.  Suddenly he realized that he wasn’t alone, that there was a huge, colorful, and proud community of others who felt they same way he did.  Needless to say, it was a life-altering and possibly even life-saving event for him.

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Why the drag queens?  Why the blatantly sexuality?  The media loves to focus on the things that are most outrageous and that will make the best photos and headlines.  But these members of the GLBT community play an important role in Pride.  The Stonewall Inn, the gay bar whose raid led to the Stonewall Riots, was frequented primarily by the most marginalized members of the gay community: the drag queens, transvestites, transgendered people, and effeminate men. 

They were the ones who led the riots against the police, fighting back against years of abuse and oppression.  Embracing this outrageousness is a way to remember that it was the most outrageous members of the GLBT community who first stood up for all of our rights.  Plus, what’s a parade without some frivolity?

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In my mind, the most important and most prideful parts of Gay Pride events are the contingents of GLBT families, friends, and straight allies, a representation of every stripe of the larger community, fulfilling the promise in the Gay Pride symbol, which is the rainbow flag.  Is the man above a gay father?  The brother of a gay sibling?  The son of a gay parent?  The friend of a gay person?  Or just a member of the larger community who wants his daughter to appreciate the breadth of diversity in their community and to learn to respect each member of it?

We don’t know the answer to that question but the fact that there are so many possible answers tells every person who is still in the closet, who is still struggling with his or her invisibility, that he or she is not alone.  And that, for me, is what Gay Pride is really about.

 

0 thoughts on “What is Pride About?

  1. yes, i have to say that i’m one of those who don’t understand the reason for all the flaunting during the parade. don’t get me wrong, i do think the dancers are hot and such eye candies that i cant help but to enjoy but really, isn’t that what brings a negative outlook on our community? there are still lots of people out there who are not part of the community and would love nothing more but to condemn us based on what they see. shouldn’t we show the public something more appropriate for all ages? i do get what the message behind the parade is, but every single year i think the whole presentation of the parade is just getting more and more of showing off than what’s truly needs to be heard and learned by those who don’t understand us. i worry that the annual parade would only be nothing more than to show “yes we are sexual and we love it” than “we are humans who have rights and morals and principles just like you, to know what it means to love another human”.

  2. @rudyhou – I get your point, Rudy.  When I think back to the first gay pride parade I went to in 1989 or 1990, versus the ones that are going on these days, something that I didn’t see then that I do see now is a lot more diversity, especially in terms of gay families, PFLAG, people of color, etc.  Yeah, it is overly commercial and yeah, there is a lot of sexuality going on, but in the past twenty years, there has also been a huge increase in the representation of other aspects of the community.  “Yes we are sexual” and “we are humans who have rights and morals and principles just like you” aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive.@AppsScraps – I was waiting for your comment, Brent…  =D

  3. I had the pleasure of attending Pride in NYC this year, and it was awesome to see all different people coming together to celebrate. I went with two of my straight friends, and we were all waving around flags and cheering on the fabulous drag queens. There are great participant groups in the parade, including different ethnic groups, Catholic churches, Jewish synagogues, etc. When I was younger, I thought I couldn’t be Catholic because of my sexuality. I even went so far as to assume that everyone who is Catholic is inherently anti-gay. I don’t know if I consider myself Catholic, but I go to a Catholic school, and it was awesome seeing one of my teachers (a nun) marching in the parade.I even got a sticker that says “God Made Me Queer” 🙂

  4. sigh… i too aware and understand that the two aren’t mutually exclusive. i just want the world to see a more positive interpretation of what our community is all about as a whole. let’s hope we can get our point across despite the festive parades.

  5. @rudyhou – Well, I generally agree with you and don’t see the need for quite so much bare flesh.  After all, I don’t celebrate my Irish pride at St. Patrick’s Day by running around naked.  It seems that many communities have this type of dynamic tension within them – I know that within the black community, for example, there’s a lot of angst over the image that gangsta rappers portray about the community.  Are we responsible for presenting a good PR image or for being visible, warts and all?  One thing that GLAAD, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, does is to provide some really good reasources and actively reach out to media covering pride events to talk about the full story and how to responsibly represent the whole diversity of the community, not just the tantilizing aspects of it.@truthletters – @the_peach_assailant – I’m glad you found the post informative.  Thank you for reading the post and commenting.@NightCometh – Kind of difficult to read much into that monosyllabic comment.  Care to expand?  I see from your own blog that you seem to be struggling with a lot of questions right now.@maniac_rose – And, hopefully, also help many people see other faces of the GLBT community that they might never have known existed – the firefighters, doctors, elected officials, teachers, etc.  Thanks for stopping by and commenting.@ffreshlove – You’re most welcome.@nachtegaal930 – Exactly!  As the pride events become more and more diverse and more representative of the breadth of the GLBT community, I think it becomes even easier for each of us to feel at home.  Thanks for commenting.@bejewel07 – I’m glad you liked it.

  6. well said and thank you.i went to the nyc one this year.it was the most amazing experience i’ve ever had.very liberating indeed. =]

  7. @NightCometh – That was quite rude. If you disagree with Pride parades or homosexuality, it’s one thing to maturely and politely state your opinion. It’s quite another to come onto this blog and openly express disgust and nothing more. If you didn’t agree with the post, you could have moved on and refrained from commenting, or expressed your opinion in an adult fashion.

  8. I am not gay, but one of my siblings is transgendered and seeing the horrible treatment he and his girlfriend have faced is appalling and saddening.I don’t understand how people can think those who participate in the parades are “disgusting” for “flaunting” their sexuality. Straight people flaunt their sexuality all the time. Sure, they don’t have “Straight Pride”, but it’s everywhere. It’s just not seen because it’s the “norm”. What with the blatant PDA any time I’m in a public setting, or in the movies, or in every commercial. I guess that isn’t flaunting their straight-ness, but people in Gay Pride parades are? It’s a double-standard, and I find it ridiculous.I greatly appreciated this blog. It was so powerful and you are a fantastic writer. Thank you so much for sharing.

  9. @Syphan – Thanks for the kind words.  I’m glad you found the entry worth reading and all the best to your sibling.@elusivefriends – Um, thanks…@ScarletMoth – Thanks for your comment.@Syphan – I wasn’t quite able to tell if NightCometh’s comment was rude or even if it disagreed with pride.  Monosyllabic posts gay be tough to evaluate.

  10. Sometimes I wish that I were a guy.. A gay guy. Ohh gay guys have some sweet handsome gay guys .I would love to be “stuck in the closet” with one, haha! Anyways, I love bold pride. I don’t think that it’s up to the crowd who should be gay or not. I’m never surprised in what I see bu tI find it hilarious to look over at my neighbor and see the mimed expression of shock or wonder. haha

  11. wow good post, chris. i didn’t know what gay pride was about either…. i originally hated it because it made gay people look slutty and ridiculous… but i can see a slimmer of the importance of these events.still, there’s a long way to go before it’s normal to see gay relationships in the media.

  12. @stepaside_loser – Well, considering where we were even ten years ago, there has been tremendous progress in media representation.  I’m hopeful that progress will continue to be made and that in another few decades, there will be nothing extraordinary about GLBT and their relationships at all.@z_stands_for – The looks of shock can be quite funny to watch.  If only they weren’t often caused by ignorance.  Thanks for stopping by and commenting.@Wenglish – It can be a good party, yes.  Thanks for your comment.

  13. This is a great post, Chris and to think I almost missed this!I was going to write what senlin had written, the part which talks about the need to be proud of your sexuality which is such an basic identity of yours. Then, his second part put everything in perspective.

  14. Awesome post. Very timely in fact cause today is Toronto Pride! A lot of people do ask me the same question and your post explains it so well. I wish some your post was published in some of the major newspapers to provide this insight to others!

  15. I found your blog while surfing and as a youth services librarian who tries to find books that give voice to all the different kids I serve, I know that it has become easier to find oneself between the covers of a book than it was “back in the day” but still…coming out isn’t easy. Your post is brilliant and heartfelt and important. You’ve got another fan!

  16. @Dezinerdreams –  Senlin has a way of taking words out of others’ mouths. He’s good like that. =D@brooklyn2028 –  You know, that’s not a bad idea. Maybe next year I’ll submit it as an op-ed to some papers around the country. Both countries, in fact.@csn71650 –  Oh, thank you. Especially coming from someone in your line of work, your words are especially meaningful. Thanks for commenting.

  17. I like this because it discusses what there is to be proud about, and about why it is done. I am of East Indian descent, and I truly look forward to the day where Pride Parades can occur down the streets of India/Pakistan. For now, we have to settle for ensuring people who are LGBT even have rights to work/own property there. =

  18. @christao408 – Bombay recently also had a “Lesbian and Gay Film Festival”.. However, the part from India my family comes from is far from Delhi or Bombay, and is a place where it was only recently that women could walk around without a burka and not be labeled as a hussy.Do you ever think that Pride Parades do harm to the progress that the LGBT community has made, though?

  19. @tomorrow_may_rain – Yes, India is a huge country and progress made in a few of the large cities does not translate into progress nation-wide.  Completely agree with you there.  As for your question of whether Pride Parades do harm LGBT community progress, I would answer that the parades themselves do not.  The coverage of the parades in the media often present a narrow view of the overall event and some viewers may form (or reinforce previously held) opinions that are not favorable about the LGBT community.  While I really understand where some people come from, wishing that there was less flamboyance and sexual depravity on display at the parades – and I do understand, because that was a view I’ve held at one time or another – I think LGBT people are just like any other group, with some elements that are very mainstream and others that are out on the edges.  To try and tell one section of the community that they need to be invisible or else behave in a certain acceptable way pretty much undermines the entire message of acceptance, tolerance, and pride that the parade is about.  At least, that’s my take on it.Interesting discussion.  What are your thoughts?

  20. For a long time I blamed Pride and a lot of gays for the stereotypes among the gay community. I forced myself from attending Pride years after years, and I told myself I would be disgusted and ashamed of what goes on at Pride. Up until a couple weeks ago, I went to my first Pride Festival. For awhile I forgot to be afraid, I felt relaxed and free to be who I am. I didn’t care about what other gay people wore, or how they acted. All I cared about at that moment was the smile on so many gay and lesbians faces and their free being of who they are 🙂

  21. Being able to be proud of yourself, your identity and your culture in itself is an amazing feeling and really can be a life changing experience. As a Chicana who’s grandparents are in denial of being Mexican, I had to find my own way to my culture and heritage, as you may have had to understand, accept and be okay with your orientation. What a beautiful thing!

  22. Thanks for sharing. I just try to not group the whole crowd together. Like you have your crazies in the straight crowd, you also have them in your crowd. If someone does something I find offensive to young viewing eyes, I simply try to remember to tag that as an event only for that person. I do not like how they conducted themselves, not so much the GLBT community. I have friends that are a part of that community. I may not agree with their living styles, but I also don’t agree with the way some of my straight friends live. 🙂 I still love them each the same though. They’re still people, you know? 🙂 I love people.Thanks, again, for sharing. It was nice reading the other side from the vantage point of someone who wasn’t P’d off, so-to-speak. It was refreshing. Thanks!*hugs*,~*Akarui Mitsukai*~

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