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”.

PRIDE gay-pride-float-men 

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?”


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. Great post! Not to detract from the substance of it, but that first guy on the left is really hot ^^;;I used to think that gay pride didn’t make any sense. Being gay is not an accomplishment or even a choice, my thinking went, and so what was there to be proud of? But later I realized that it was actually about visibility and the great strides the movement has made, and of those things I am sincerely proud. 🙂

  2. Awesome post – I attended a parade a few years ago, and it was alot of fun seeing everyone – i was especially glad when they invited the LGBT community to march in the chinese new year parade this year for the first time here in nyc…i think it’s important to support and respect ALL members of our community.

  3. I don’t think that this is the most important question. (Not to rain on your parade[punintended]. I like the post.)Rather than “Why do they present shocking images” I would prefer to ask “Why are we shocked by these images?” Or rather, why is the average person shocked by such imagery? Lack of exposure, mostly, I think. Unfamiliarity – and we know how anything new or different terrifies humans. The extravaganza is just the prelude to its own transition into passe. If anything, we need more shocking imagery, in greater quantities and with greater frequency – perhaps without any explanation whatsoever. The sooner the “media” affect around homosexuality ends, the better. It’s just in the earliest stages of being normalized and forgotten, like every other non-issue societies have ever gotten worked up about.

  4. I think people are sometimes afraid of what they don’t understand. The parades gives everyone a chance to come out and meet people they might not understand.

  5. @ElliottStrange – For a long, long time, even outside the context of the gay pride movement, men outrageously dressed up as women has shocked people.  With some of their over-the-top looks, I’m not sure we collectively will ever get past the point of being shocked by such images.  =D@aPieceOfTheSky – It is neat how there is starting to be more cross-pollination in events like this, whether it be a queer contingent in the CNY parade or an Queer Asians contingent in Pride.  Reminds me a bit of an event that I pulled together back in university with friends who were the leaders of other groups in the multi-cultural center.  We held a large dance that was all about acceptance and celebration and featured members of most of the different segments of the student body.  Great fun.@foggysunnymorning – Pride parade coming soon to a rock near you?  Hmm… maybe one of these days.@Chatamanda – It occurred to me that there might be many readers who hadn’t been or might not even know about them, so I thought it was worth writing this entry.@Senlin – Nah, not a detraction at all.  I posted the picture just so a certain segment of my xanga friends would enjoy some eye candy!  LOL@Roadlesstaken – It certainly is a lot of fun, as any good party should be.@MoistLipsChappedHearts – Certainly it is a sight to see, even if only once.  Personally, I haven’t been to one in probably seven years or so, but still appreciate what they represent.@swcheng15 – @Finity – @neverlaughatlivedragons –  Glad you liked it.@CurryPuffy – Really, how could it be a gay pride event without some drama?  =D

  6. @christao408 –  For centuries people were shocked by a glimpse of a woman’s stocking. We’ve now reached the point where human cultures are not only desensitized to nudity but it has become commonplace in our advertising and entertainment. It’s more difficult to gauge overall response to cross-dressing throughout history and I don’t think it’s fair to say that all cultures or even most cultures have found it shocking. Both Greek and Norse mythology contain instances of characters going drag. It was also common practice in Elizabethan acting and no one found it shocking in the least, considering that women were not permitted/considered able to act.

  7. Cool thing at my school,though,is that whenever someone says “that’s so gay” or any other phrase using gay as a substitute for weird,or any other negative connotation,even if it’s just accidentally using it like “that’s so gay”,if a teacher hears you you get an earful.We have a club against Homophobia,too.We had a TRANSGENDER DAY!!!A cool thing that happened was,one of the manliest guys I know,is so self-confident that he participated in Transgender day,and dressed in a dress and wig,with tissue paper stuffed in the chest as boobs,which he made really big,LOL.It was hilarious.

  8. Awesome Post.Never heard the “Keep It To Themselves” attitude of some people to Gay Pride.That’s a bit nasty.Letting go of repression,even outrageously, should never be criticized.Guess I’m just too used to being around gay people,I’m Filipino,my parents had a lot of gay friends(nearly ALL Filipino gay men I have met are flamboyant and energetic).Hell,the guys in the first picture arouse a small amount of gay feelings in me,and I don’t feel all that weird.A friend of mine said once that “nobody’s really at the extreme end of the sexuality spectrum.most straight people have gay feelings,and there are gay men who have families.sexuality is much more gray than people say.”I was writing an article once,and it included stuff about gay people,and I looked up how many countries have homosexuality as illegal.I counted approximately 42.Which was depressing.AND I only counted the countries where both male AND female gayness was illegal.Some countries have only male gayness,or female gayness,as illegal.Wtf?

  9. Having never been to NYC, I’ve not seen the parade. I do love you explanation. The ability to accept the differences in others as compared to self is what we should all strive for – love your neighbor as yourself…

  10. The realization that being gay is not a disease, and that men and women are the same all over the world with the exception of their attraction to the same sex, is the epitome of being non judgemental. This is a great post Chris. Quincy is a small town, and there are no gay pride parades here, even though there is a big gay community and a huge gay bar in the city.

  11. To me the highlight of the Gay Pride march in NYC is seeing pretty much all of the different groups that make up the gay community in one place. In a more accepting environment with a large LGBT population such as NYC, we tend to gravitate towards sub-groups we belong to or are more comfortable in and it is easy to lose touch with the rest of the community and its diversity.

  12. Going to the Gay Pride parade, whether you are gay or not, gives you an amazing sense of self; belonging, acceptance and appreciation of who you are.

  13. This is an excellent post explaining Pride. When I was younger I always attended the Pride Celebration in San Francisco. It isn’t as easy for me these days for physical reasons, but I have every intention of going next year!

  14. I’ve become rather jaded towards this event. It has lost a lot of the appeal for me that it once had. Not because of the DQs and Leathermen, et al, but because it has become commercialized beyond recognition.It’s no longer about recognizing the achievements of our community, past and present. Instead, it is a reason to indulge our hedonism and spend a few bucks.Recently for example, I found out that Clear Channel, notorious for it’s right-wing and conservative support has been allowed to become a sponsor of the San Francisco Pride festivities. But what message does it send to include them in the mix? In my not-so-humble opinion it makes us look like we adore our own victimization. It makes us look like we will do anything for a buck and it makes me anything but prideful about being a member of the LGBTQ community. To me this says that we have lost focus or never really had it to begin with.I like a celebration as much as the next guy but what are we really celebrating these days?

  15. Hmmm, nice post. I have spent the past four years working in San Fran’s Castro District (gay ‘hood in a pretty gay city) and during Pride weekend I am always disappointed with what happens. It seems like a lot of (non-gay, underage) people use Pride as an excuse to come to SF, wear tiny (or no) clothes, be drunk/drugged out in public, and disrespect the neighborhood that’s hosting them. This was my view from working at a restaurant in the Castro. This year I had a chance to actually go to the parade and rally part of Pride, and I saw more nuanced sides of it (I realized a lot of people come from out of town to celebrate the freedom of expression that SF offers). I guess sometimes it’s hard as someone living in the “Gay Capital” of the US, to remember that in middle america homosexuality is not as visible and celebrated. I tend to get all annoyed like, “um, every day in San Francisco is pretty much Pride.” So this post is a nice reminder for me.

  16. @marc11864 – I have to agree with this. There are a lot of issues I take with SF Pride. I live in the Tenderloin, and the streets blocked off in my ‘hood made me…vaguely uncomfortable. I can’t quite put my finger on why. It felt like for every person truly celebrating Pride there were ten people just looking for an excuse to be drunk and naked in public (teenage girls wearing nothing but bikini bottoms and pasties celebrates homosexuality how?) And for every non-profit or advocacy tent handing out flyers and info there were 5 tents promoting tequila and vodka. It all felt a little contrived?

  17. Love this. For GLBT people to be more and more accepted they need to take action. They need to push push push their true selves out to the world, and the world will have no choice but to accept it. It is a beautiful thing!

  18. @Promethea – Without a push, without a few shouts, the world at large will rarely grant under-recognized groups any notice, let alone rights.  Thanks for your comment.@ETCACTOR – I hope you can make it next year, too.  Thanks for your comment.@Shades_of_Athena – I grew up in the Bay Area so SF Pride was my first and primary experience with Gay Pride.  Am glad you enjoyed this year’s events.  Thanks for your comment.@ffreshlove – That really is true, isn’t it?  It is one of the most inclusive events out there, precisely because issues of sexual orientation cut across every other segment of the larger society.  Thanks for your comment.@PervyPenguin – You’ve got my agreement there!  =D@marc11864 – @vlinder_farfalla – Your words ring very true.  As a native of the Bay Area and a resident of the Castro for many years, I can see how the parade and surrounding events have become commercialized and how, especially IMHO with Halloween, it becomes an excuse for pretty much anyone to come in and do anything, an invitation to people outside the community to cause trouble and behave rudely.  Outside of that, though, I find the larger picture of Gay Pride still a very positive one and was responding mostly to those folks who are outside the GLBT community who have never been to Pride and don’t “get it”.  Thanks for your coments.@TheLatinObserver – How are you Rob?  Haven’t read anything from you in a long while.  Hope you and JA are well.  Your comment is so true – we do end up in our own little sub-ghettoes when we live in a big community like NYC, LA, SF, etc.  Pride is a great reminder that there is a lot more to our community than our own little segment of it.@randaness – @anvilsandedelweiss – @stebow – @Sand_notes – @stevew918 – Thank you for reading and commenting on the post and, of course, for your supportive words.@SassWithClass – I have yet to visit NYC Pride although my friends there say it is a lot of fun.  One of these days I’ll make it!  Thanks for your comment and support.

  19. @ZSA_MD – Is there a gay bar in Quincy?  That’s on my list for the next visit, then!  Ha ha!  Thanks for your comments, Zakiah.@choyshinglin – HKG is such a “live and let live – just let me make money” sort of place that there is a lot of relative freedom for GLBT people.  Singapore, Japan, and Taiwan are starting to become a lot more like that, too.  Thanks for reposting your entry, too!@yang1815 – @SoapAndShampoo – Thank you.

  20. It just occurred to me that “straight” in reference to heterosexual people implies that something is “bent” in GLBT people…. It’s time to change this terminology, I think.

  21. @Mallinz – Thanks for your comments.  It is really interesting how the culture you are from can help shape your attitudes towards GLBT people.  Making a broad generalization, most Filipino friends I have are very positive towards GLBT folks and the GLBT ones enjoy quite a bit of support from their families.  As for the laws, isn’t it amazing that in some countries, female homosexuality isn’t even mentioned because it is as if it couldn’t possibly exist?  It brings misogyny to a whole new level…@Mallinz – Your school sounds really awesome.  I wish I had been at a school (and going to school in a time) where there was so much support.@Jessa1155 – Glad you enjoyed it.  Thank you for your comment.

  22. Nicely written Chris. Never been to one but the California AIDS ride I did a few years back was like a seven day long Gay pride parade. It was awesome to experience the sense of unity during that week, the idea that we are all in this together. I will bring E to one of these when he is able to travel on my shoulders.

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