To Pride or not to Pride?
It’s one of those little sick jokes of history that the Pulse massacre happened in the midst of Pride month. Henceforth forever when the LGB/T community puts on their happiest faces about the progress in our culture, there will also be a solemn element to the thoughts and conversations. Still, the juxtaposition of the two forms the basis of what I would like to discuss in this post.
I have a trans friend who reluctantly commented last week that she did not actually have a lot of enthusiasm for attending Pride events, and in truth that’s a more common sentiment than many realize. Many such celebrations have, of course, gotten massive (and obviously there comes a point where cis-het attendees outnumber LGB/T participants) and spread to such venues as baseball games rather than just being about the stereotypical parade. However, that stereotype is powerful both in the impression which lingers among non-participants and the desire of certain folks, almost inevitably young gay men, to lean into that stereotype. Truth is, this situation is fodder for more tension than should be the case every June.
I admit that there’s an element of the distaste that some feel which is part of a lingering remnant of a “traditional” upbringing that is never altogether comfortable with over-the-top flamboyance. My friend remarked upon it and I can relate. I’ve long been of the opinion that while I’m loath to police the way that other people live out their identity but at the same time, I’m well aware of how “mainstream” America feels about dudes in assless-chaps parading down main street. There is certainly a point at which “By god I’ll do what I want” might well be your right but it’s also self-defeating. When even some elements of the community find it tasteless and off-putting, maybe it’s time to rethink.
Still, there’s a “frat boy” attitude that can be very hard for others to criticize because the whole point of Pride is to NOT be shamed for what you are and how you live. It’s a really uncomfortable thing for any of us to try and police others among us. And that’s not even getting into the internal politics of various events in which really diligent big-hearted people struggle to create the best outcome right alongside others who reduce the event to power-politics within the community. It becomes difficult to resent the latter and praise the former. So it’s not surprising that some people, particularly trans people who often find themselves ostracized among some elements of the gay community, had really just rather not. They might change the filter on their Facebook avatar, or make whatever other gestures, go to those ballgames…but all the showboating just seems a bit alien.
The flip side of this is that Pulse perfectly illustrates that Pride is an ongoing act of defiance. The manifestation of “we’re here, we’re queer, get used to it.” In many places, tons of cis-het people HAVE “got use to it” in spite of the flamboyance and that is an unmitigated good. Those are all people not as easily given to hate-mongering politicians trying to manipulate their vote. It’s pretty impossible to describe the power and importance of that. So if you ask me what I think about Pride I’ll say that it doesn’t matter what I, as a individual person, think about the experience of directly participating in a pride event, the existence of that event, any Pride event, is vital and the bigger and more powerful they are, the better for all of us.
Photo by: Peter O’Connor