Love It or Loathe It – Gay Pride Is Here to Stay
Beyond the cacophony of shirtless men and excessive drinking is there still a purpose to gay pride parades?
Gay pride season is almost upon us once again. It’s a time for gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgenders and anybody else who identifies somewhere different on the hetero-normative spectrum to celebrate their individualism. Pride has a deeply political history. Back in the 1950s and 1960s, civil rights for those who identified as LGBT were regressing across the world – particularly in the United States. At the time, homosexuality was closely affiliated with mental illness and anti-LGBT discourse was rampant. Small pickets against the discrimination began to gain traction. Then on Saturday, 28 June 1969 campaigners rioted in New York in reaction to the raiding of the Stonewall Inn on St Christopher’s Street in Manhattan. Exactly a year later, what we now know to be the first gay pride parade took place.
Gay pride has evolved dramatically since the 1970s and now takes place in hundreds of cities across the world. It has even permeated traditionally very homophobic and transphobic nations such as Lebanon and Singapore. Earlier this year protesters even took to the streets of Tehran on International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. Though not officially a gay pride parade, the protest encapsulated the same sentiments in a gravely high-risk political and legal climate.
Criticisms of gay pride come from inside the gay community as well as from external skeptics. Gay author Dan Savage was vocal in his opposition, stating that the movement made the community ‘dull and slow as a group.’ He’s not an isolated voice in this argument. Academic Judith Butler refused the Civil Courage Award which is handed out to prominent members of the LGBT community at the St Christopher’s Day parade in Berlin. Butler, who has written extensively on feminism and queer theory, lamented that gay pride has become too commercialised and ignores issues such as double discrimination of transmigrants.
Perhaps then what is needed is a new mobilisation of political issues which affect the gay community? In fact, such as movement already exists in Berlin. Due to the de-politicisation of gay pride, they now hold the annual ‘Kreuzberger CSD’. The event aims to raise the profile of issues such as poverty, unemployment and gentrification from a queer perspective. Love it or loathe it, gay pride will continue to be celebrated across the gay globe this summer. Regardless of if the parade retains any political motivation, we (as a community) must not forget those who fought for the rights we now have or those who still have a long road to tread ahead of them.