Thursday, June 23, 2005

The PRide Parade: Marching or Just Mingling in the Crowd

The three biggest Gay pride parades and celebrations in the U.S. take place this weekend in NYC, San Francisco and Chicago.

These events cap off a great Gay Pride month. Hundreds of cities have already celebrated Pride in their own way. Now the big three get to strut their stuff, bare butt, bare chested and all that.

I fondly remember marching in the 1993 March on Washington as well as Stonewall 25.

These were giddy times. We were fighting for our lives. AIDS and discrimination were killing us. They still are. It seemed the best of times and the worst of times. Don't ask, Don't Tell, a still friendly Congress and optimism galore.

But we got ahead of ourselves. The gay bashing Republicans took over Congress and we were back at square one.

Fast forward to 2005. The under 30 crowd thinks it is uncool to go to the parade, yet alone march in it. We marched squirting each other with water pistols. Hey, who says that we can't have some good clean fun every once in a while.

The Human Rights Campaign Fund and their blue and yellow equal signs still florish at parade time. Safe sex messages and condom tossing is still in vogue along the parade route.

But our parades have become overly commercial. This float sponsored by Bacardi, the Absolut Vodka drag kings, the Bud Light beefcake, you get my drift.

You used to see dollars stamped with pink triangles, currency reminding us that the best way to get our issues addressed is my spending our money at gay owned businesses and letting the large straight corporate America that we have spending power.

But the marriage issue eludes us today. Quoting Mike Albo in the Village Voice's queer issue, "The fuel of anger behind the event of gay pride has gradually turned into a marketing technique." Our tight ass opponents and enemies can just sit back and laugh, because we have lost that fire in our gut.

I, for one, welcome the younger guys to stand up and be counted, instead of crystalizing their life on the endless party circuit. These GoodTime Charlies need to get with the program and march for our right to marry, to live a life no different and every much as equal as straights.

So as we enter our final weekend of Gay PRide, let us reflect upon the past and regroup for the future fights. We have only just begun. Big Hairy Muscle hugs of Pride to each of you.


Greg said...

I agree, Pride is just too damn commercial, and the people that need to be attending are the ones that refuse to go. And for all the progress we've made, there is still way too much fear of coming out of the closet, which defeats the purpose of these events in less populated areas. How do you have a pride event if nobody wants to show their face?


I am one of those that don't really do the gay pride events. The gay pride events in New Orleans are pretty lame though. We have massive turnout for our Halloween Circuit Party and of course Southern Decadence. But Pride has very little attendance. What I try to do is educate my co-workers and my family about "being gay". That is where I feel I can help the community more... by educating them that I am as normal as they are.

Anonymous said...

This is a great post. It's sad that Pride events are being taken over by corporate sponsors, but... if there weren't sponsors, the event wouldn't be so big and prominent in the media. I totally believe that important issues need to be kept in the media so mainstream people don't forget or dismiss.

Ian Johnson said...

I work as a gay marketer - the type you might expect to 'sell' Pride sponsorships as a marketing technique, but I have sat through enough gay marketing focus groups to know that corporate sponsors and community values are not the happiest of bedfellows. I wrote about that last week in our client update service

If interested, see:

Ian Johnson

Mike said...

Thanks for writing this. I really didn't realize that we were ever leveraging our marketing dollars as a way to be heard. I think that's brilliant, and I'm sad to hear that we're not still focusing on that. As far as the participation thing with younger gay guys, I think you're right. Most would rather lock themselves inside of the Eagle during the Pride march than participate and claim that it's because they're not like everyone else. I think that's because the very visible folks marching in the Pride parade are also the flamboyant ones (which is both good and bad). A lot of our more flamboyent brethren are the types that are just happy to have an audience, and it really is just another Halloween or any other party that gives them a chance to play dress up. We need to figure out a way to separate the flamboyant Halloween parade from the civil rights type of march, and then we'd probably be more likely to get participation from the group that you're talking about. That's my opinion anyway. Great blog man. You're a very talented writer.

hbjock said...

Unfortunately, I never really got into Pride. I guess it's because I live on an island in the middle of nowhere and the open gay community here is small and very cliquey... and I never felt like I really fit in there. I've always wanted to go to a big city Pride festival though.. maybe someday I'll get to NY or San Fran for Pride. Hope you had a great time!