New York Pride Parade Suffering

Here is a good article from June 19 in the New York Observer about the dwindling popularity of the New York City gay pride parade. Different people are quoted, giving their takes on why pride parades in general are suffering, but the major consensus seems to be that gay people are more assimilated into mainstream society now and so the parade has become less of a big deal and meaningful event. Many city dwellers in their mid-20’s to early 30’s are quoted, and I can’t help think how smug their comments sound. Their “so what” attitude, flippance, and disregard for the history of the gay rights movement – and ignorance of the struggles we still face as a nation (maybe because they’re cloistered in their urban utopian bubble) – kind of disgusts me.

This quote is a good example. A man named Nick Shapland is quoted. He is described as a “tall, well-tanned and skinny 22-year-old with carefully tousled brown hair” – gag! “Gay Pride is boring,” he said. “Maybe in the 60’s, it was fun when you’re like, ‘Fuck you! Fuck you, I’m gay and you’re an asshole,’ you know? Then you fast-forward from 19-whenever—whenever the gay revolution was, I don’t know, I’m not a scholar—things go on and get kind of boring.” Not a scholar, indeed.

This article calls to mind the issues I addressed in my blog about Gay Pride earlier in the month.

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15 Comments

Filed under 06_mr_furious

15 responses to “New York Pride Parade Suffering

  1. Erin M

    It could be the urban bubble speaking, but I sort of see M. Shepland’s point. New York, Berlin (Christopher Street Day is this weekend, for example), other metropolitan cities, they don’t have huge problems with gays at this point. The mayor of Berlin is out, and has been since he was running for office, for that matter. It’s the places that aren’t like that, the places that are what New York was when Stonewall happened, that need Pride now, I think. In New York or Berlin, it’s just a big party with outrageous floats. In Moscow, they can’t get a parade permit. In many places in the US, I’m sure the protesters outnumber the proud. I can’t say that I know what the New York parade means to someone who doesn’t live there. Maybe it’s a beacon of hope, or a chance to be out for one day that they can’t have at home without fear of reprisals, social, physical or otherwise. I don’t know. But I don’t think it’s wrong to say that New York may not need New York’s pride parade as much as it used to, even if other parts of the country still do.

    And for my part, I prefer living in a place where it can be treated as no big deal day to day. I’d like to say that was true everywhere, eventually. But I don’t know where the New York parade fits into that.

  2. Blows my mind. I live in New Jersey, and 2 summers I was in a diner (’cause it’s like a required thing here) with several 20somethings of varying sexual orientations. And one young gay guy starts bitching about how he hates the parade, why do gays need to be so flamboyant, blah blah blah. And I go a little medieval… I certainly raised my voice, If it wasn’t for those ‘fags’ putting it out there, you guys wouldn’t be able to sit here safe and warm and not getting your asses kicked; you have no idea how far we’ve come, etc.
    Complacency. History forgotten, doomed to repeat. This is the same generation that really doesn’t believe in AIDS.
    Maybe we have moved beyond a parade. But I don’t think so, because I don’t think we’ve moved beyond needing a visible reminder of Pride.

  3. Todd

    I respect that point of view. And I understand how living in a mostly liberal metropolis can relax you and make you feel like we’ve achieved a nice level of acceptance. We certainly have in some areas (you have New York, I have Chicago – and I appreciate it). However, until we are on equal ground legally and socially EVERYWHERE, we still need Pride. I can’t help feel that the complacency of New Yorkers, Chicagoans, or other city dwellers is a slap in the face of small town gays and lesbians who must still live in the closet or risk their lives. It’s still a very sober reality for many across the country.

  4. Todd

    Roberta – thank you for mentioning the AIDS thing. Because, like it or not, we’re entering another AIDS resurgence reminiscent of the beginning of the outbreak because these young queers haven’t been raised with the same education and fear of AIDS that we were. It’s a fantastical fable to them and nothing more. As you said, they don’t “believe” in it, and so they bareback or whatever, and thus spread the disease like crazy. It’s scary and real and it has to stop.

  5. Erin M

    I can’t help feel that the complacency of New Yorkers, Chicagoans, or other city dwellers is a slap in the face of small town gays and lesbians who must still live in the closet or risk their lives.

    This is exactly the kind of thing I was trying to grok, but having grown up in suburban New Jersey it wasn’t the same sort of issue it could be elsewhere. Thanks for pointing it out. An educational moment.

  6. oddjob

    Todd you can get angry and disgusted if you want, but at least realize this is really typical human behavior. The same thing happened in the women’s rights movement as the 70’s ended and the 80’s began. Younger women just weren’t as interested.

    Life gets better for those who follow, but since they’ve never experienced anything but the better they don’t share the urgency or passion.

  7. Melissa McEwan

    Younger women just weren’t as interested.

    You’re totally right, Oddjob–although I do think there’s a difference between simple disinterest and a sort of eye-rolling hostility toward people who are “all serious about equality and shit.”

    The quote Todd cites seems to me to fall into the latter category. Okay, fine, you don’t want to pick up a sign and march, but don’t get all shitty about the people who did so that you don’t have to.

  8. I think the problem with the generation enjoying the work of the previous generation without appreciating it is that we don’t raise our gay kids. They are raised by straight people who don’t teach them our history.

    And then we are so age segregated as a community that we don’t learn from other people’s experiences of what is was like BEFORE all of this work was done.

    I am of the generation the benefited from the 70’s and 80’s activism – I have encountered anti-gay bias in my life, I am just as passionate as the people who went before me (and about feminism too).

    I believe the reason for this is because I was raised to be socially responsible and invested in justice for all people. I think the complacency we see about GLBT liberation has everything to do with a nation that prides itself on apathy, on not being involved. It is a symptom of a larger problem.

    With the rollback of lots of the gains made by the identity movements of the 70’s and 80’s there is a new generation coming along to fight and prevent those rights from rolling back any further.

  9. RachelPhilPa

    Since I have not been to pride parades elsewhere in the country, I can only speak in relation to the Philadelphia pride parade, but here’s what I see:

    (1) What oddjob and bluestockingsrs said.

    (2) Possibly this is part of the overall trend of activism moving towards the internet. Protests and parades don’t mean much if the powers that be simply ignore them. Millions of immigrants across the country participated in last year’s immigrant-justice protests – did the powers that be pay any attention to them? On the other hand, internet activism played a major role in cutting into Rethuglican hegemony in 2006.

    (3) I think that many queer and trans-identified people (including myself – I’m a queer trans woman) see the Phila pride parade as not representing them. [begin rant] The Phila parade does seem focused on white, upper-middle to upper-class, relatively gender-normative gay men, with some white lesbians and a small sprinkling of trans/genderqueer people thrown in to, yanno, add some color.

    The parade does not address the needs/identity of femme gay men, fat gay men, bears, etc – the same ones that are frozen out of the dating scene by straight-acting gay men and their “no fats no femmes” personals.

    Nor the needs/identity of many lesbians / bisexual / queer woman.

    Nor the needs of the trans / genderqueer community.

    Nor the needs of people of color.

    Nor the needs of poor people (white and of color).

    Nor the needs of those who wish to participate in a true community-based and driven event. The current pride parade is heavily sponsored by corporate interests, thus making the parade a part of the megatheocorporatocracy (that word comes from ) that many of us oppose.

  10. RachelPhilPa

    oh, damn, I fucked up the link.

    (that word comes from ) should be

    (that word comes from Twisty Faster)

  11. Gabe

    Some of the disinterest may be due to the content of the festivals and parades. My first one was in West Hollywood in the early 90s and there was almost nothing about it that was politically or historically informative. I went to the smaller Long Beach festival a few years later and found the same thing. San Francisco in the late 90s — same thing. Don’t get me wrong, I had a good time. But each was more like a carnival or music festival in feel — nice. So when were pride parades and festivals all about “the movement”? My own experiences in the last 16 years of attending them hasn’t turned up one that was vaguely political.

    Not all the blame can be placed with “today’s” youth. There are plenty of people around still from the movement’s heydays. The “youth” don’t run the whole show and that claim certainly can’t be made if they’re being chastised for apathy. Maybe the majority of the gay community has moved on? I don’t know for sure but it seems to me that blaming it all on the young twenty-somethings doesn’t make sense.

    Last year I went to the NYC parade for the first time and it was a turn off for me too. It wasn’t even a just-for-fun sort of atmosphere. I remember there were Lancome and phone company floats…don’t ask me who was on them. San Francisco and LA parades and festivals were highly commercialized when I went five or six years ago but nothing like what I saw here in NYC last year.

    On a slightly different topic, I don’t happen to believe that “fear” is a useful word when it comes to AIDS. If you’re educated about it then there’s no need for fear. It bothers me because when people learn that I’m HIV positive I see fear most of the time — bright, sensitive people who can’t separate fear of contracting it from fear of a person. Fear is a motivator to be used with caution. At best it’s a catalyst to an education. But fear is not the final goal — it’s not a useful way to live for the person harboring it and the person on its receiving end.

  12. oddjob

    So when were pride parades and festivals all about “the movement”?

    I may not be the best one to respond since I can count on one hand the number of pride parades I’ve attended, but my impression from what I’ve read is that the first ones – the ones in the early 1970’s back when police in large cities still raided gay bars – were most definitely political and very given to protest.

    However, the protests soon became protests expressed most particularly by displaying what at the time was shockingly public non-conventional sexual behavior (like dressing in skimpy leather garb).

    I think that’s the point from which the evolution to partying and celebration was launched. Now that same behavior which once was explicitly political is not political, both because those doing it aren’t especially interested in political protest per se and also because that behavior no longer shocks (although of course there are still those who are offended by it).

  13. oddjob

    Maybe the majority of the gay community has moved on?

    Possibly. I also think the gay community now is both a lot bigger and also more politically conservative than it was then. The actions of the radicals then (& they were political radicals, not simply liberals) made it possible for others who were much less radical, or not even politically liberal, to also publicly acknowledge their homosexuality without having their lives ruined for doing so.

  14. Not just gays. Try asking young women today whether they are feminists. Note the vehemence of the immediate denials. Yes, complancency. Yes, the inability to appreciate how much better things have gotten in so very many respects. Yes, the inability to see how very far there is still to go. It’s the old saw about those who forget the past being doomed to make the same mistakes and all that.

  15. MI expat

    I’m sorry, you all, but I really think this griping is misdirected. Young 20-something politically active lesbian here, just so you know where I’m coming from.

    Have any of you ever been to pride parades? I mean, dykes on bikes are cool and all, and I love a bunch of bodybuilding men in thongs as much as the next dyke. But two things:

    1. If you’re wanting to move gay acceptance and gay rights forward there are a lot more powerful ways to be involved. You will probably never see me at pride again, but that doesn’t mean I think there are no more problems or am not trying to address them.

    2. I don’t think they serve the same purpose anymore they used to when people were so closeted. And especially in major cities. And that’s progress, people, not something to bitch about. I’m out all the time, I’m out at work, it’s not remotely radical in my world anymore to stand around chanting “I’m here I’m queer.” I don’t NEED pride the way I might have even ten years ago.

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