Gay Pride: Does it Help or Hinder?

Recently, I was catching up on gadgetfreak84′s youtube videos. Gadgetfreak is a gay man in a commited relationship. He and his partner make videos where users send in questions about being a gay couple, and they answer them honestly and without hesitation. He’s also very adament about gay stereotypes in the media, and he has a series of videos on this topic which I thoroughly enjoy as well.

In one of his videos, he mentions that he feels negatively towards gay pride parades. This came as a bit of a surprise to me, until he explained his reasons why. There’s a lot of logic in what he says, but I still can’t decide where I stand. To paraphrase, his views are that homoaffectionate people (“homoaffectionate” is a word he coined as an alternative to “homosexual,” as he feels that the latter draws unwanted attention to the person’s sexuality) having an entire parade to themselves, where many of them go a little wild and often behave as if being gay is all about having sex and displaying it to the world, is effectively othering them. He believes it’s sending the message that there’s “normal” parades — fun, family friendly, modest — and then there’s gay parades — sexualized, raunchy, wild. He believes that it’s harmful, because gay pride parades get more media attention than your average everyday gay couple, so the images that the public is seeing on TV and in newspapers is one of sex-crazed party animals, instead of what homoaffectionate people actually are — that is, no different from heteroaffectionate people.

His partner is neutral on the matter and thinks that while he doesn’t have a problem with other people attending and participating in gay pride parades, he himself has no interest in participating.

What are your opinions on this? I’m very interested to hear some viewpoints on the matter. Do you think it’s helpful for gay people to show their pride and get attention in the mainstream media to show that yes, they exist and no, they’re not going to be ashamed of it? Or do you think gay pride parades are othering them from “normal,” non-gay themed parades?

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19 Comments

  1. zp27
    Posted May 10, 2009 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

    I really have no problem with people running around in buttless chaps and fairy wings, dykes on bikes, drag queens, and the multitudes of other forms of queerness and gender identities represented in gay pride parades.
    That being said, I don’t think, as a queer person myself, that my sexuality is the largest or most important part of who I am. I don’t really think about it unless i’m, well, having sex. I support and work towards equality, esepcially in areas where queers are actually discriminated against, but the sexuality and the sexiness is only one aspect of it. I’ve never felt the need to flaunt it, but if someone else wants to? Go ahead and have a blast.
    And I think the video blogger that you mention has a good point-this is the representation that mainstream America sees, and it allows all those self-righteous fundies (not all Christians, I know, I’m not talking about all Christians, or any other religion) to point their fingers and wag their big mouths about how homo-marriage will ruin traditional family values and obliterate good old heterosexual unions. It’s a logical fallacy on their part, to be sure, but it’s a reality nontheless.In one word, it’s backlash.
    In a perfect world, people would just watch these crazy galas and be all like “well that’s not MY cup of tea…what’s on Fox?” and just change the channel, ignore it, and calm down because it has nothing to do with their lives. But that’s not what happens. They get all sorts of antsy, start thinking about how gay marriage would mean more buttless chaps, and start organizations like NOM.

  2. kece80
    Posted May 11, 2009 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    I think the question is not so much does it help or hinder, but rather, how does each person feel comfortable expressing themselves?
    I think that for many people, gay pride parades are a place where they can find acceptance and pride as opposed to the majority of places in our society that perpetuate intolerance and shame. After feeling closeted and suppressed for so long it’s important to provide and support spaces that allow people to shed the unnecessary shame they may have felt throughout their lives in order to embrace an important part of their identity.
    I have always found a tremendous feeling of openness and love at gay pride parades and so I don’t see how discouraging that can be helpful to the LGBT community. As far as offending heteronormative majority? I’m not concerned about them. They can get use to it.

  3. GREGORYABUTLER
    Posted May 11, 2009 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    I have a problem with this whole idea that Gay Pride parades are bad.
    Look, community parades tend to be filled with drunken silliness – ever been to the Puerto Rican Day Parade, or the St Patricks Day Parade, or the West Indian Day Parade?
    But nobody would say that all Puerto Ricans, Irish or Caribbean Americans are alcohol fueled sex manaics, now would they?
    And if they did, we’d call them bigots and we’d be right to do so!

  4. pepper
    Posted May 11, 2009 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    The gay community does not have to cling to heteronormality in order to be legitimate. Be the queerest queer that ever gayed it up and be done with what mainstream America thinks. The gay community doesn’t exist to be accepted. It isn’t up to mainstream America to sanction actions of people who don’t want to be part of their bullshit.

  5. zp27
    Posted May 11, 2009 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    Actually, some people do say that. And they’re assholes. I mean, yeah, it’s just a parade. But they’ve been drowned out by a majority that says, “Racism is bad, mm-kay?” in this country. There is no such majority drowning out the homophobic bigots. It’s not the parades, it’s people’s reactions to them. It doesn’t mean that Gay pride should stop dead in it’s tracks, but there IS an effect, and if the people paryicipating in the parades don’t realize that, that’s willful blindness.
    That being said, again, I reiterate that people can shake their queer asses at homophobes all they want. Those people probably aren’t going to change, even if all they saw was happy stable homosexual families because their bigotry isn’t even based on anything rational. For the moderate or mildly uninformed, gay pride parades probably put them off a bit. Yeah, that’s THEIR problem, but it’s a problem if they seek mainstream acceptance. Some of them don’t, which is fine.

  6. Edgy1004
    Posted May 11, 2009 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    This argument has been used for a long time: If black people would just act like “normal” (white) people then there wouldn’t be a problem. If Latinos would just speak English then I would not have a problem with them.
    The extension of this argument is if people wouldn’t insist on being different from me I wouldn’t have to hate them. It is putting the responsibility of one person’s prejudice on the other.
    One last incarnation of the argument and then I will quit: “If you didn’t make me mad I wouldn’t have to hit you.”

  7. Anonymous
    Posted May 11, 2009 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    That’s a very astute way of putting things. And I agree completely. But I think originally, the poster is trying to say that gay pride can have as a result the pigeonholing of people into only one type of difference, when in fact every different group of people has a spectrum of behaviour out there. Of course, the answer to this is that the eye of parade beholder is the one which needs corrective lenses to be more inclusive and less unidimensional.

  8. smiley
    Posted May 11, 2009 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    I am not gay, have never been to a Pride parade (of any kind) and have no problem with gays.
    However, I think Gadgetfreak does have a point. If the Gay Pride thing is the most visible manifestation of gayness, then it is not surprising if many people then associate being gay with raunchiness, dreadful music and exhibitionism (and youth). It is only human nature, and it must be acknowledged.
    In short, if a group advertises its wares in a certain way, it cannot decently complain if people believe the promotion.

  9. spike the cat
    Posted May 11, 2009 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    It’s still an unfair double standard though. And the only people who are blind are the bigoted members of the heterosexual majority that have their heads buried in their own sexual privilege.
    It works like this: First the majority group marginalizes minority groups in the media. Then they hold those groups to a higher standard.
    For example in terms of parade and party shenanigans, as other commenters have mentioned, similar goings on happen at Mardi Gras, Carnival, college spring break among heteros in plain view; and yet it is almost never framed as an issue that reflects negatively on heterosexuals as a group—some individuals yes, but never heterosexuals as a whole.
    I’d say in recent years the low point of this hypocrisy among heterosexuals is the mainstream acceptance and almost adoration of the word and persona of the pimp in the media.

  10. allisonjayne
    Posted May 11, 2009 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    I can’t speak for other cities, but in Toronto, the pride parade is one facet of a week (or month, to some) long celebration. We have musicians of all kinds. A family fair with face painting and clowns. Community booths – ranging from political groups, people selling funny hats, government reps, community support groups, etc. A few beer gardens. An alcohol free area with dancing/etc. Youth performers. Film screenings. Art shows. Charity events. etc etc etc.
    And there’s really just as much variety in the actual parade itself. The media prints photos of drag queens in sequins and beefy dudes in speedos and that’s all that a lot of people will ever see. Well, it’s a parade – it would be pretty boring if it wasn’t colourful and wild sometimes (actually, I do find the parade pretty boring, and don’t go very often – you’ll find me watching the bands instead).
    I agree with a lot of what has been said above. Yes, pride celebrations are often focused on sex. Because for one thing, sex can be awesome. And, who we have sex with is the main difference between me and a straight girl.
    I got into a bit of a debate with my (straight) sister about pride once. At first, she didn’t understand – if being LGBTTIQ is not a choice, if it’s something you are born with (that’s debatable, but I try to keep things simple when debating with my family), then why are you ‘proud’ of it – it’s not an accomplishment. I explained to her that it IS an accomplishment to be proud of it – in a society that makes you feel like you should be ashamed and hide it and hate yourself, it’s an accomplishment to be out and honest – if pride is the opposite of shame, and so on. She gets it now. :)

  11. Eresbel
    Posted May 11, 2009 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

    I agree with the Youtube guy about the effect of gay parades. I think they just reaffirm stereotypes, concentrate on sexuality and ignore the familial aspects of homosexual lives. It’s not that gay people “can’t act ‘queer’” but that parades end up representing a sub-group of a minority and managing to paint the picture that all gay people are like those in the parades all the time.

  12. zp27
    Posted May 11, 2009 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

    Ugh, I agree about the pimp thing.
    And yeah, I’m with you on that it’s not fair. I’m not defending that type of privilege, I’m saying it exists. People freak out about Gay Pride parades, that’s the reality. They should calm down. They won’t.
    One point you make that I didn’t think of orginally is that the media, to a large extent, complicit in this. They kind of point the fingers and wave the flags.
    Maybe someday we’ll live in a world where they won’t, because queerness will be normalized to the extent that there’s no need for a parade or a whole separate movement. until that time though…

  13. cand86
    Posted May 11, 2009 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

    I find the term “homoaffectionate” utterly silly. I understand the good intentions behind it, but really, it’s just silly, as I know many heterosexual folks who enjoy cuddling, touching, being close to and even almost flirty with the same sex- but who don’t want to have sex with them (to be fair, I guess they’d be “panaffectionate”, since they’re that way with everyone). It just makes me laugh. “Homosexual” is the equal and opposite term for “heterosexual”, both with the word “sex” in them. Yes, gay people are affectionate and romantic and relationship-oriented. We also f*ck just like anybody else.
    Also, tying into that, I can’t be the only person to note a sort of “sexual white-washing” of homosexuality. I understand the desire to put a less sexualized face out there to the rest of the world, but at the same time, our sexuality is the part about us that has always been both integral to our sense of identity and either left out of gay portrayals (see: Will and Grace) or mocked in that void (all sorts of homophobic jokes made at the expense of men who like anal penetration, etc.). I find it somewhat upsetting, I guess, that we have to present ourselves as desexualized “partners” in order to be palatable to the rest of society, that our acceptance hinges not on the fact that we deserve to be treated equally, but on the condition that we “behave ourselves”.
    I hate feeling the burden of supposedly “perpetuating stereotypes” for being ourselves- when the real problem is in the eye of the beholder assuming that we’re all the same.
    So, yeah. (I realize I echoed a few people here, and forgive me for that, guys).

  14. Electrickoolaid
    Posted May 11, 2009 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

    OP here! I can definitely understand your feelings about the term “homoaffectionate.” In fact, I don’t often use the term myself; this post just made me feel like I should because I was sharing the viewpoints of a man who’s VERY keen on homoaffectionate as an alternative to homosexual.
    I agree with you that it shouldn’t be the responsibility of homosexuals (and heterosexuals) to take the sex factor out of their sexuality, and that rather it should be the responsibility of the public to get the fuck over it and realize that people of all orientations enjoy sex and nobody has any reason to be ashamed of it, or make anyone else feel ashamed for it. However, I genuinely think that Gadgetfreak’s intentions are not in any way to desexualize homosexuals. He just hates the misconception that being homosexual or bisexual is all about sex. Saying, “I’m a lesbian” doesn’t JUST mean “I’m a woman who likes having sex with other women.” It means much, much more than that. It means being affectionate on many levels, and that includes sex. At least, I’m pretty sure that his definition of affection includes sex; it’s like the word “intimacy.” It can mean sharing a hug, or sharing personal information, or having sex, or lots of things. It’s not limited to one strict definition. By taking the word “sexual” out of it, I think he’s trying to shift the focus from who the person has sex with and direct it more on who the person cares for, is attracted to, has relationships with, AND has sex with.
    It doesn’t seem to me that Gadgetfreak has any intentions to make people completely ignore the fact that gay people enjoy sex as much as straight people do. From what I gather, he just wants the general public to view sexuality as more comprehensive than, “This is the gender I have sex with.” Because sexuality is way more complex than that. I think Gadgetfreak just wants people to acknowledge that.
    All that said, like I mentioned above I’m not what you’d call an aggressive proponent of the term “homoaffectionate.” I understand the reasons behind it and I think it’s nice that he and his fans use it, but it does seem just a little bit silly and excessive at times to me as well.

  15. Adrian
    Posted May 11, 2009 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

    I disagree with the entire premise that Gay Pride Parades are all about sexual display and attempting to shock the mundanes. That may have been the case 20 years ago, but most recent pride parades are very family-friendly. I think TV and other media give a distorted impression, as they are looking so hard for an exciting image that fits what they expect to see at a gay pride parade. Half a dozen church groups proclaiming themselves “welcoming congregations” aren’t likely to get photographed. Neither are the gay-straight alliances from local high schools. And of course PFLAG is old news, and not especially photogenic. A big enough group of people pushing strollers and waving signs about marriage or adoption *might* get a picture in the paper, but probably won’t get much attention. Two women dancing with their shirts off? What do you know, lots of pictures.

  16. Gular
    Posted May 11, 2009 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

    I have issues with Pride for an entire different reason.
    Pride was the chance for the community to show itself as something which is here, and queer, get used to it. It’s now become a corporate smorgasbord of sponsorship and excess. It’s not representative in the way most queer people live their lives (which is remarkable similar to about 98% of the population, except we like to boink people of nontraditional gender expectation).
    Every year, because someone invariably has me go with them, I get a bit disaffected by the whole thing. Yeah, sure, it’s a great big party with all the other homos, but it wasn’t always a party.
    Prides started, in the US anyway, as an act of defiance because it was a reinforcement of Stonewall. That’s why Pride Month is traditionally in June — because that’s when Stonewall happened. It’s completely lost touch with where it began — the group of people who went “You know what? FUCK THIS! I want to be me. FUCK YOUR OPPRESSION!” and then rioted for 3 days in The Village. All because the police kept raiding the gay bars in homophobic shut downs.
    The gay movement has always been about the freedom to be and fuck whoever you want. The problem I have is that it’s some carnival sponsored by Absolut that’s completely lost its meaning as a protest for visibility of the community.

  17. rustyspoons
    Posted May 12, 2009 at 12:58 am | Permalink

    I like the Gay Pride Parade the way it is — both as an expression of civil rights and sex-positivity. (I could do with a few less floats blasting house and techno though! Personal preference). All parades are extravagant and larger than life in some way or other.
    If I want a family-friendly parade I’ll watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving one.

  18. Transcend
    Posted May 12, 2009 at 1:15 am | Permalink

    The relationship of any “moderate” members of a minority to their more “extreme” compatriots is a tricky relationship, indeed: the fact of the matter is that in almost any minority group, the more extreme members will be more vocal, and moderates fear that they will become overshadowed by a group that represents them no better than other groups or institutions.
    But what I think a video-blogger like gadgetfreak misses (and what a lot of moderates miss) is how important so-called “extremists” are to setting new stakes for the argument. For example, most of us would prefer the world envisioned by MLK, Jr. than Malcolm X, but in some ways, the moderate civil rights leaders were so successful because more radical leaders like Malcolm X pushed the envelope a little bit. I see “atheist/agnostic” developments as similar: Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Dawkins, etc.
    It’s important for moderates to speak up, especially when they are in fact the majority: Islam is having this crisis in certain Arab countries, for example. But it’s important for moderates not to abandon the rights of radicals to self-expression who often blaze new paths and prepare the status quo for something a little less radical, but radical nonetheless. You may not ever march in a gay pride parade, but the phrase “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it” represents both moderate and radical.

  19. bifemmefatale
    Posted May 12, 2009 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    Ah, but is that what the gay community is promoting as its image, or is it just that the media find it far more fascinating than a nice couple going about their business at the grocery store, work, etc?

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