AI: Pride Events
Yesterday, a friend of mine shared a picture on facebook that compared the Brazilians’ attendance to São Paulo’s Pride Event – over a million people – and to a march against corruption in our politics, held either in São Paulo or Brasília?, which had only about 2,500 attendees.
He then went on to make this remark about that difference (and here you’re gonna have to forgive my poor translating skills): “Amazing: there are more people fighting for the right to get fucked in the ass than people trying not to.”
Now, there are one hundred thousand and one different levels of wrongness in that sentence (he has no way of telling if the people at the pride weren’t at the march, or that they don1t care about the march; being gay is MUCH more than getting fucked in the ass – some don’t even do that at all, shocking!, and he completely excludes lesbians and trans people from this; fighting for gay rights is WAY bigger that fighting for the right to… well, you get the point) which I addressed in the topic over there, and for which he sort of apologized, but they are not what I’ll be focusing on – though you guys are free to do that in the comments.
Ultimately, after apologies were made, the discussion shifted to question the utility and efficacy of Pride Events as political events, and a lot of people seemed to think they were more like a huge party than anything else. I have never attended one of such events, so all I could say was that they were supposed to be political, and that even if there are people that go in the hopes of having a good time, it doesn’t nullify the importance of it. (And then people would tell me I couldn’t really say anything because I’ve never been there.)
So, I turn the question to you:
Have you ever been to a Pride Event? How important do you think they are? Do you feel they are becoming less and less political as time passes? Do you think it (or the media coverage of it) sometimes helps building stereotypes of the LGBTQ community? Do you think we should be worrying about “more important” things?
The Afternoon Inqueery (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Queereka community. Look for it to appear Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays at 3pm ET.
I don’t know if a one-liner is necessarily the place to criticise someone for being reductive, unless the tone is clearly negative or disparaging. That’s how humour works–by generalisation, association, andrecasting meaning. Maybe it was more problematic in Portuguese.
As for Pride events, I have also not gone to any (despite Montreal having several large ones each year), because I simply don’t enjoy noisy, crowded, street-party style events. I also have better things to do with my time than being groped in public by drunk pervs, which happens frequently to friends of mine who do go. I’ll leave aside how this is apparently “all in good fun” in the context of Pride and not a huge invasion of personal space and sexual autonomy to get to my real point.
Politically speaking, Pride events serve to increase visibility and not much else. This is especially important in places where there is still a lot of denial in mainstream culture about the existence of queer people and (especially) their numbers. It’s even more important, if very dangerous, in places where homosexuality is illegal, as a form of civil disobedience.
That said, I don’t think the kind of visibility Pride events create is necessarily the most effective kind for making political headway. The average voter, for instance, is far more affected by being made aware that people they know and love are gay than they are by watching a semi-naked dance party on TV, especially one that might reinforce existing stereotypes of how “those people” are hypersexual, degenerate, etc to someone unfamiliar with queer culture/politics.
Anecdote: I studied for a year in a fairly conservative, medium-ish Italian city (a few years ago), and virtually no one I met there thought they knew any gay people. Of course they were simply unaware they knew gay people, but this had a huge effect on their thinking about queer issues. Indeed, the next year a Italian exchange student at my college remarked to me in amazement how many openly gay people there were there! It really highlighted how much harder it is to hold a discriminatory attitude once you attach a face to the “other”, and how important being out really is. (It seems to me like things have changed a bit there in the last few years due to the internet, but I don’t want to stray too far off-topic).
But even speaking of political engagement, I do think that people are much more likely to get involved in issues that directly affect their civil rights and those of their loved ones than they are to get worked up about government misbehaviour or corruption in general (especially in places where this is considered par for the course). Sure, it’s frustrating if government officials take kickbacks to assign contract work (or a similar scandal), but fewer people are going to get worked up about a few dollars of their tax money than their right to get married.
I’m not so sure the only function of Pride is to increase visibility to straight people. They are big community events that also serve as reminders of the sociohistorical roots of the LGBT rights movements. More specifically, they began as annual commemorations of the Stonewall Riots.
Today, there is a lot more than just people dancing on floats that goes on at Pride. There are educational and outreach programs, voter registration drives, and many other important social causes that set up booths at Pride events.
You said: “The average voter, for instance, is far more affected by being made aware that people they know and love are gay than they are by watching a semi-naked dance party on TV, especially one that might reinforce existing stereotypes of how “those people” are hypersexual, degenerate, etc to someone unfamiliar with queer culture/politics.”
I’m very disturbed by this type of thought process. First, it comes across as you saying that people should act a certain way to please the straight mainstream people of society. Second, there are plenty of people who couldn’t give a shit about what straight people think about gay people and they don’t want to fit into straight mainstream society (the old “liberationist vs. assimilationist” battle). Third, even if the main point of Pride was visibility, that doesn’t mean they are trying to convince “the average voter” of anything–it could just be “we’re here, we’re queer, get used to it.” Finally, how can we make people more aware of “queer culture/politics” and everything that entails–including our “semi-naked…hypersexual, degenerate” community members–unless they see it?
It’s an argument I’ve seen from many “assimilationist” gays, where they want us to appear “normal” just like the straight people, so that we can have our equal rights within the current structure. And I’m just not so sure the current structure is so great, nor am I concerned with the approval of straight people concerning my queerness.
For some reason it sent my response to you down below instead of here.
I don’t know if a one-liner is necessarily the place to criticise someone for being reductive, unless the tone is clearly negative or disparaging. That’s how humour works–by generalisation, association, and recasting meaning. Maybe it was more problematic in Portuguese.
It’s clearly disparaging. Reducing a million-attendee LGBT-pride march to “fighting for the right to get fucked in the ass” qualifies as disparaging if anything does. That’s how language works – with words, that have meanings, used in a larger social context.
dis·par·age [dih-spar-ij] Show IPA
verb (used with object), -aged, -ag·ing.
to speak of or treat slightingly; depreciate; belittle: Do not disparage good manners.
to bring reproach or discredit upon; lower the estimation of: Your behavior will disparage the whole family.
I’ll apologise that my tone came off as patronising, as your reformulation of my comment makes clear.
Obviously words do have meanings and larger contexts, as you say. Humour can subvert these in specific contexts, by highlighting absurdities and drawing attention to inconsistencies in thought, symbolism, or cultural attitudes. I’m not saying it did in this instance (we aren’t given specific context and it’s unlikely).
Nonetheless, the joke is partially based on highlighting the use of anal sex as a metaphor for abuse, mistreatment, or fraud, and recasting it in terms of real-world discrimination against queer people, an aspect of which has historically, currently, and undeniably been the enforcement of sodomy laws. Synecdoche is reductive but not inherently disparaging.
In before “Oh it’s OK because it’s IRONIC,” which is not what I’m arguing.
This is a pretty huge topic, and there are some stellar critiques out there regarding the commodification/sponsorship/de-politicization of pride events, and larger LGBTQ/pride movement.
I’ve been to 2-3 pride parades. For the recent pride events in my city (northern town in B.C.), a group from the local collective put together a contingent of pink-and-black flags (anarcho-queer intersection) and a banner that read “[Collective Name] Remembers Stonewall”. We also set up a table with the various zines and books we have on the subject and some related topics, and had some excellent distro’ing and discussion. It truly felt like an act of community-building and outreach.
Pride events are important, but I think part of the “visibility” goals should be at reminding queer folks of the radicalized history that precedes us. I’m less interested in attempting to sway the minds of everyone else. A big proportion of people that choose to hate us because of what they see in a parade, would choose to hate regardless. And if someone (or a whole society) chooses to denounce me and my community because they’re afraid of glitter, gender-b(l)ending, or displays of sexuality, than I don’t want to strive for their allyship.
I think overall, it’s a great injustice that any demographic – particularly marginalized populations – need to struggle to fit into a particular mold and appease the “average voter” to grant them basic rights. However, I’m aware that realistically, that assimilation is needed because of the current situation.
I’ve been attending some form of Pride events every year since I came out (1995/96-ish?), first in Halifax, and then for the last 10 years here in Toronto, and I’m a big supporter of the history and politicization of Pride.
In the last couple of years, especially, here in Toronto there have been some big shifts in how our Pride events are run, and some really interesting and critical discussions about who Toronto Pride should be catering to. Several issues, including TO Pride’s treatment of minorities (POC, trans people, and people with disabilities) as well as the particular political messages of participating groups (QuAIA (Queers Against Israeli Apartheid) vs some (non-queer) Jewish groups), have combined in the last 2-3 years to create something of a “perfect storm” for the organising bodies, where city funding has been on the chopping block and the queer “community” has been pretty divided.
For me, Pride serves a lot of different purposes: It is absolutely political, which even a surface examination of Pride’s history and present status will show; It is a safe haven/affirmation for gay youth and for queer people from small towns where they may not ever have the chance to be surrounded by a million other people “like them”; It is a celebration of difference, of self-acceptance, and even of frivolity.
The “ideal pride” to me would serve two ideal goals: recognition and celebration of (sexual,gender, etc)diversity, and protection and use of freedom of speech.
The conflicts over Pride in Toronto have really done a lot to solidify some of my beliefs, and have motivated me to become more active politically. I think every Pride is going to be different and focus on different things, but as an entity I feel that it is still relevent and a powerful voice…so long as we use it wisely.
I’m not making an assimilationist argument, nor am I expressing any value judgements about current political and power structures or how people behave at queer events.
I said that, given the political motive of visibility and achieving civil rights (which, come on, is at least one reason Pride exists), this may not be as effective as other tactics. That doesn’t invalidate it, nor do I think people shouldn’t do it.
I did not address people going to Pride for other reasons, some mentioned in the thread (like outreach or education, or just to express themselves), which is perfectly fine. You may be reading more into the fact that I don’t like going than I intended. I don’t like a lot of social events that other people find enjoyable, especially loud and crowded ones where physical boundaries aren’t respected.
My experience of St Louis Pride (which they simply call “pride” and not “gay pride”) is that it’s mostly about vendors trying to reach a few new customers, and that includes churches. Even my Ethical Society (an atheist unchurch) was there. Now, there are useful things like free HIV testing and vaccinations, so overall I think that makes it worth it. Come for the drag, stay for the testing. 😉
I go, I get a lot of free stuff, I listen to my friend in the lesbian choir, nothing rowdy happens, I leave.
Oh wait, one interesting thing did happen last year: a group of high school kids set up a rogue table next to the booths and passed out literature on anarchy. I had to admire their spirit, even if I disagree with their philosophy.