Many people, even people who identify as LGBT, argue that there is no point to Pride season and the Pride parades because “no one cares if you’re gay anymore, gays are equal”, “why can’t we just be normal?”, “Pride is too in-your-face” and “what about Straight Pride?”.
These plaintive cries are very similar to the #notallmen movement, the anti-feminist and Men’s rights movements and those who deny racism against People of Colour exists because they, as a straight white cis man, have experienced prejudiced due to being working class etc.
The reasons for these attitudes are many, but in this article, I will tackle them one by one, and provide evidence that, although it has lost its way in many Western countries, Pride is still an occasion to be celebrated and commemorated, even in the West.
What is Pride?
Pride serves many purposes, even though to many outsiders (and even insiders) it often looks like a mere raucous and hedonistic party, it is not. It serves many purposes. Pride is:
- A memorial of the Stonewall Riots of 28th June 1969 where LGBT people first stood up for their rights. They are widely considered to constitute the single most important event leading to the gay lib movement and the modern fight for LGBT rights. The Stonewall riots were a series of spontaneous, violent demonstrations by members of the LGBT community against a police raid that took place in the early morning, at the Stonewall Inn, located in the Greenwich Village, Manhattan, New York City. They are considered the “first Pride” by many historians as the celebration has taken place on or near that date every year in various cities worldwide. We remember this day every year just as we would celebrate or commemorate a great historical day such as Guys Fawkes Day, the Notting Hill Carnival, Independence Day or Armistice Day.
- A commemoration and celebration of various leaps in LGBT rights. This year for example the U.S. Supreme Court finally declared all state laws prohibiting gay marriage unconstitutional. However, even though so many other leaps forward have taken place, some countries still languish in LGBTphobia.
- A protest against oppression. There are still many rights that LGBT people don’t have. Same-sex pension rights for partners are still not equal in the UK for example, but it’s more than what happens in rich countries with relatively developed nations-discrimination laws. In many countries, LGBT people are verbally and physically attacked, beaten and killed by the police and even hanged or beheaded by the authorities. In some countries, gay and lesbian people are forced to undergo so-called “ex-gay” therapy, some gay and lesbian people are put on drugs which suppress their sexual urges, leading to depression and suicide,ms till others are forced to undergo gender reassignment so that their sex matches their “appropriate” sexual orientation.
- A show of solidarity with LGBT people in other countries and other oppressed groups. As I said in point 3, many countries still don’t have the rights which LGBT people in developed countries take for granted. However, it is not just LGBT people who are welcome to march at Pride. Pride has traditionally stood for all oppressed people, various ethnic groups, trans inclusionary feminist groups, trade unions, HIV+ people, people with disabilities and the poor.
LGBT people are equal we don’t need Pride any more.
One argument goes that LGBT people are now totally equal. Nobody cares if you’re gay any more, so we don’t need Pride any more. This argument is erroneous for two main reasons.
- As I said before, Pride serves multiple purposes. It is not a protest for rights that we already have. It is a celebration of the rights that we already have, a commemoration of our history, and a memorial for those who have died protecting those rights. Nobody says to a grieving widow “Pull yourself together, he’s dead and not coming back”. Nobody criticises Christians for celebrating the birth of a man who lived and died 2000 years ago, in fact, even most atheists celebrate Christmas and the season has acquired different meanings for different people. Last year was the 60th anniversary of the suicide of Alan Turing, the British inventor of the Enigma Machine, the world’s first computer, who killed himself after the chronic depression caused by the drugs used to chemically castrate him, to prevent him from engaging in homosexual activity. This year was the 30th anniversary of when the National Union of Miners and other unions marched with LGBT people against Thatcher’s cruel government in the UK.
- LGBT people are NOT equal either in developed countries or developing ones, in majority non-theistic countries or fundamentally religious ones. If, as a man, my husband dies, I don’t get his full pension, only his pension since I’ve been married to him, simply because we are gay. On the other hand, if my wife dies, I get her FULL pension, simply because we are a heterosexual couple. No other reason. It may seem like a minor issue compared to the state of things in other countries, but that is not equality.
Just have faith that public opinion will shift attitudes.
If you are happy to sit and let governments altruistically offer us full equality (in developing countries , but also in the UK with pension rights) then you’ll be waiting a long time. We have seen countless movements in the past which have been criticised using the same reasoning. The African-American Civil Rights Movement (1954-1968) were told that they didn’t need to fight because public opinion would soon turn. The Suffragists/Suffragettes (1866-1918) were told the same, and the Labour Movement (1864-1899) and the Chartists (1838-1858) and the Abolitionists (1775-1833) were all told the same. It simply isn’t true. Sitting passively and invisibly changes nothing. Without these movements, we’d have no rights.
In 1807 when the slave trade was abolished after extensive boycotts, many naysayers said that “public opinion” would shift the governments hand. Did it? No! It took many more years or fighting and martyrdom, protests and civil unrest to reach the point in 1833 when the slaves already captured were released. Just because LGBT people can marry, it doesn’t mean that other areas in which we are unequal will automatically set themselves right because of the kindness of people’s hearts.
Maybe from our privileged ivory towers in the UK and the USA we may feel free and we are indeed approaching equality, but not elsewhere in the world. Look at what happened in Turkey, a relatively liberal and democratic country, in June 2015! Turkey has signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, yet the government still fires water canons at protesters for exercising their rights under Article 11. Another example, at Pride 2013, I was marching with a woman from Uganda whose gay brother had been killed and his body thrown on a railway track, and whose lesbian sister was being denied asylum in the UK! There is a long way to go here in the UK regarding attitudes toward LGBT people. Not to mention that LGBT people are still hanged and beheaded in other countries.
Pride is shoving our sexuality down people’s throat
I don’t know why anyone think Pride is “shoving our sexuality down people’s throats”. If having an annual parade offends you, what do you think of having a church on every street corner, or having the church as an integral part of our government, or having Christmas season, Black History Month, Easter season, the Notting Hill Carnival or countless other religious and secular holidays? Is the Notting Hill Carnival shoving blackness down our throats? It’s all about the way you frame the issue, and if your attitude is bitter and negative toward a certain group of people (even if you are a member of that group), you will hyperbolically frame their celebrations as “aggressive”, “ostentatious”, “too showy” or “shoving it down our throats”.
What do you think of the fact that if a straight couple hold hands or kiss in the streets, nobody bats an eyelid, but if a gay or lesbian couple does the same, they are stared at, mocked or even stoned to death in some countries? There are egregious double standards in our society, straight people have been “shoving their sexuality down our throats” for millennia, now when we want to be recognised, we are accused of the same thing!
We’re not forcing people to be gay, bi, lesbian or trans, we’re celebrating a historical event which led to us being recognised for the first time. If that hadn’t happened, we wouldn’t be free to be who we are.
Gay Pride is disrespectful of religion
What is more “disrespectful”? Me waving a rainbow flag vaguely near a Church, or the violations of human rights which religious organisations have imposed on LGBT people? In Iran for example, many gay and lesbian people are forced by the government to undergo gender reassignment surgery against their will.
I’m not saying that two wrongs make a right. However, the amount of LGBT people who really show disrespect to religion is so minuscule, and the opposite is and has not been not the case.
Whatsmore, nobody complains that Christmas is disrespectful to non-Christians, or Guy Fawkes Day is disrespectful to Catholics or the Notting Hill Carnival is disrespectful to white people or Holi Festival of Colours is disrespectful to the British, nobody complains that Glastonbury is disrespectful to classical music lovers. It’s quite frankly hateful and ignorant to moan about Pride so much. It’s a yearly celebration, commemoration and protest like many other festivals, carnivals and public celebrations (that has admittedly lost its way a lot), but if you don’t understand the meaning of it, please get educated.
There are double standards in this world and by criticising Pride as a concept (rather than rightly criticising it for bowing to corporate pressure and being bribed sponsorship deals) shows you have a lot to learn about both history and current affairs.
Pride is too in your face and not what I’m about.
Yes, we’re fabulous. Come join us, won’t you?
Agreed, Pride has become a bit of a glittery fun-fest, but if that’s not your thing, it doesn’t excuse you from attending a Pride parade. If you’re not in to the midnight madness and neon joy, then find a more family friendly or daytime event. Don’t stay home just because it’s a bit much. That’s sort of the point. We’re here, we’re queer and here’s some glitter.
Pride may make you sick, but think to yourself, does Christmas make you sick? Does the Notting Hill Carnival make you sick? Does the End Austerity parade make you sick? If not, you need to look deep down and try to understand why Pride makes you sick. The first time I went, I didnt understand its purpose, but I quickly realised the historical, political and cultural significance of it when it was explained to me.
I don’t define myself by my sexuality.
They don’t have ‘straight pride’!
How ridiculous. Tweeter Arthur Chu once put it very succinctly…
It’s like saying “what about White Pride” or “What about Men’s Pride”. Straight people are not a minority who have been oppressed for millennia. The reason #BlackLivesMatter hashtag was devised was because black lives are treated as if they don’t matter. Similarly, I don’t know of any stories where a person has been discriminated against because they were straight, and even if there were such a story, it wouldn’t be a symptom of an institutionalised system of oppression.
Pride has become too commercial
Finally, a good reason for boycotting Pride!