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Part 2: The LGBT Pride Parade Evolves – The Modern Parade

This entry is the second part to my two part series about pride month. Check out Part One here.

Now that you have a little more understanding of how pride month and the pride parade came about, I want to discuss where we are going today in regards to pride celebrations. The subsequent marches the gay community had after the original Stonewall Riots let everyone know that the gay community was there and they weren’t going anywhere. The gay pride events were about political protests demanding equality. I feel like the modern gay rights movement has moved past the original intent of pride month and into uncomfortable territories. If you look back at the first part of this discussion, I mentioned the ignorance people have about homosexuality. One of those ignorances is promiscuity.

I was 24 years old when I went to my first gay pride event in St. Louis. Before that time, I had only seen what the media portrayed gay pride parades to be. When I saw organizations such as PFLAG marching in the parade, I knew what I had seen in the media had to have been sensationalized. It was nice to see parents marching down the street while holding signs that said, “I’m proud of my gay son,” or “I love my gay daughter.” These weren’t images the mainstream media typically showed to their audiences. Last year, I went to my second gay pride event in Pittsburgh. I remember getting emotional as I watched American soldiers marching in their military uniforms in the parade. Again, that wasn’t the image I saw later on in the news. The media typically highlights the part of the gay pride parade that feeds the public’s perception that we’re promiscuous.

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Anyone that has been to a gay pride parade can testify that they’ve seen men and women with hardly any clothes on marching down the streets of the city in the name of gay pride. I can’t help but to think that maybe we show too much of the community. Maybe we parade some of our issues around that are better left for the bedroom. I remember in 2009 seeing several floats advertising gay clubs with scantily clad men and women dancing around on floats. Last year, I took note about a float driving by that represented bears and leathers. They too had very little on in terms of clothes.

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I want to be clear. I have no problems with people that flaunt their sexual interests. I have no problem with people flaunting their bodies. What I do have an issue with is when these things happen on floats in a parade that should highlight inequalities we face and raise awareness for the gay community. Those involved in the first march after Stonewall likely didn’t march in their underwear. They marched to bring attention to their struggle and the bigotry we all face on a daily basis. They marched so what happened on June 28, 1969 would not be forgotten.

I think the pride parades have evolved since the 1970s. While we continue to march for awareness and equality, we also march to promote our community’s intricacies. It’s important to highlight our differences to the broader community, but we must draw a line at some point at what image we portray to society. It’s important for the community to show the world that just like everyone else, we’re diverse. We come from various professions, working side by side with straight people. The only real difference we have with straight people is the sex we love. The image we don’t need to spread is that we’re overly sexualized deviants.

Every year on March 17, people from around the world parade the streets of their cities to show their Irish heritage (or to use it as an excuse to drink alcohol). What we don’t see are leprechauns prancing around in their skivvies. We don’t see Irishmen carrying their “sex slaves” down the street on a leash. So why do we have fairies fluttering along the LGBT pride route?

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It seems like every year, every group within the gay community comes out in droves and each group gets some sort of recognition in the parades, regardless of the image they show the world. That needs to change. We’re losing the original intentions of the gay pride parade and we’re not helping our cause for equality. I think everyone knows straight people can be classified into different categories based upon their own interests, just like our community does in terms of fetishes they have. We must start reconsidering the image we portray to our wider audience. We won’t start winning over people’s hearts unless they can relate to us. Muscle men with their bulges hanging out for everyone to see as they provocatively dance down the streets aren’t going to do it for us. It will convey the message that we’re all flamboyant and promiscuous.

Maybe my idea of a pride parade would be boring; but with how the parades are today, we are cheapening the good causes, such as HIV/AIDS awareness, PFLAG, marriage equality that march along side these scantily clad individuals. The general public will ignore the important issues we march to raise awareness for and stick their eyes and news cameras to the less than desirable images that feed into their ignorant stereotypes. We must restore the original intent to these parades if we want to advance our causes and gain supporters in the process. Think about it this way as you walk to the parade in your local area; do you think the parade respectfully and correctly portrays the gay community, or do parts of it feed into the negative stereotypes we often face? Maybe I’m off-base here, I don’t know. I truly believe that we need to really look at how we conduct pride parades across the world. What do you think? Do we need to tone it down, or do you think the parades are just fine the way they are?

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