Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Why Mainstream Pride is Important - Commercialization and All...

I'm aware that many people in the LGBTQ communities have little use for the big Pride celebration and its evolution into a highly commercialized event, with its attempts to bury our political past.  But I think it is a mistake to claim we've moved past the need for such celebrations.

I have a different perspective than the majority of my queer friends:  I did not come out until I was 35 years old, and having spent all those years deep in the closet meant I had no connection whatsoever to the gay community.  The big Pride parade was my entry into my community;  it was a way to ease in and be with people like me, even though I might have been reluctant to get involved.  Pride weekend gave me an opportunity to stand on the sidelines and become acquainted with the groups, organizations, and subcultures - at my own speed.

I am now friends with a lot of wonderful, long-time queer activists who were at the forefront of the fight for our basic rights.  Although I have the utmost respect and admiration for these people, it frustrates me to hear them dismiss mainstream Pride as irrelevant.  The calls for a return to a smaller, more grassroots-style Pride is problematic if it means abandoning what we have now.  The intent is fine but ultimately the grassroots events end up being exclusive;  there would have been no access to them for the isolated gay man that I was.

The thing I love most about Pride is the wall-to-wall crowds on Church St.  It is the one time of the year when I get to be a member of the majority - and that feeling is one that everyone in the world should have a chance to experience.  I find it offensive when gay activists dismiss Pride as made up entirely of straight people gawking.  Yes, the gawkers are certainly there, but so am I.  I have a need to be there, and I am far from alone.

I'm now plugged into the queer communities, and I love that.  I get a lot of invitations to really great community events.  But I remain aware that not everyone does.

I'm well aware of the many problems that have come with the growth of our Pride into one of the largest in the world.  But however troublesome I find the banks, the police recruiters, the military, and so on, I am deeply attached to mainstream Pride.  It's certainly not a vital part of everyone's life, but it continues to serve a vital role for many.