This year, Pride took place in the shadow of the tragedy in Orlando, which killed 49 people and injured over 50 more. Despite fears of possible further attacks, and under a heightened security presence, record numbers turned out at pride events all across America. Parades, parties and political rallies garnered huge audience numbers as people came to celebrate our community, what we have achieved, to remember those we have lost and to honour those who fought to get us where we are today.
Invariably reach year, the question of the value of Gay Pride is raised. This year, given the media attention devoted to the Orlando attack, those questions were more muted. But a trending hashtag on Twitter – #HeterosexualPrideDay – at the end of the month, brought the issue back into the spotlight.
The issue with Gay Pride as I see it is two-fold. As demonstrated by the straight pride hashtag, some people think that since gay people have a pride celebration, straight people should have one too. Fair’s fair, after all. If a little boy can play with a toy, a little girl should be able to play with the same toy as well.
The second issue comes from within the gay community itself. Gay pride has its history within the protest/activist movement. Gay pride has always been closely associated with movements of protest aimed at gaining rights for the gay community, starting with Stonewall, continuing through the HIV/AIDs crisis and culminating recently in the fight for marriage equality.
Let’s begin with the first issue. While it’s easy to dismiss people who support the idea of having a straight pride (and many already have), let’s explore what might be going on here. If we assume that most people who support straight pride are straight (and this is just an assumption, so work with me here), the issue might not be one of hatred or homophobia directed towards us. It could be as simple as a lack of understanding of the constant and current issues people within our community face.
Think about it. If you’re straight, how would you know just how much hatred, violence, bigotry and discrimination gay people face in their lives? Sure, you might hear about it occasionally on the news, or from friends or relatives who are gay, but not having the lived experience of it, means that it’s not at the forefront of your life.
Think of a group you don’t belong to. Whether it’s male/female, trans/cis, Muslim/Christian – how much do you know about the issues affecting that group, not being a part of it yourself? Assuming you’re a pretty clued in person, even if you are aware of the issues that group faces, how often do you think about them? Probably not as often as the people within that group, right?
The same goes with straight people and us. Maybe there is a small undercurrent of homophobia to the straight pride hashtag, but let’s not give the homophobic fringe even a fraction more attention than they deserve.
My own personal view, based even on the good-hearted straight people in my family and friend circle, is that the straight pride hashtag has a dominant element of ‘if they have something, why can’t we have it too?’ That’s as deep as it goes. Without realising all the reasons why we need gay pride, it is highly likely that the straight pride hashtag mentality is one based more on a sense of simply having access to something too.
The second issue with Gay Pride comes predominantly from within the gay community itself. The issue? Well, it can be pretty much summed in the meme below, which also made the rounds on social media late June.
The argument goes that pride used to be a protest, a call to arms to the gay community to become visible, stand up for our rights and be heard. Today, pride is just another chance for gay guys to party, acts wild in public, have sex and generally celebrate the more hedonistic aspects of life. So, it’s a case of the opposing forces of a protest movement versus partying in public basically.
The main counter-argument I’ve heard is that Pride can be both. It can be both a protest, as well as a party. We’re a diverse community, and how we choose to express ourselves in public, as well as in private obviously, should be up to us. To try to define Pride so narrowly (and by who, by the way?) goes against some central values of the gay community, including acceptance of differences and incisiveness of anyone who is ‘other’.
Personally, I don’t have an opinion on this issue, other than I can see both sides to it. I can see how some from the protest side might see what’s happening in pride celebrations as miles away from where the pride movement began. But I can also see the argument for celebrating the fact that pride has changed, because so has the world since pride began.
I think the bigger issue here might actually be with what the term Gay Pride means, specifically with the word pride. The word ‘pride’ is often understood to mean a feeling or sense of satisfaction, like when you’re proud of having reached a goal, or accomplished something you set out to achieve.
But pride in the Gay Pride context, is more closely aligned to another meaning of the term, namely that it’s about consciousness or awareness of one’s own dignity. It has nothing to do with boasting, and is instead a recognition of being.
The issue is that most people focus on the former definition, not the latter.
Which is why I believe one possible option worth exploring is changing the term Gay Pride (when used to describe Gay pride Month, or any Gay Pride celebrations, floats, parties etc) to Gay Rights. Doing so, would:
- Clearly show straight people that what we’re celebrating and highlighting during this month is our own ongoing struggle to achieve equality, thereby negating the need for them to have their own straight rights pride too
- Honour those who have come before us in our community, largely from the protest and activist movements, by continuing their important legacy
- Allow people to choose for themselves how they want to approach the month, whether it’s with anger and protest, or frivolity and fun, as a way to escape lives where outside of this month, they may have to be in the closet, or hide who they really are, or live in an area where there are no gay clubs, or simply want to have some fun with awesome gay guys
Alright, I am stepping down off my soapbox and throwing it over to YOU. What do you think about changing the name of Gay Pride to Gay Rights? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Let’s chat about this on Instagram.