Should we take gay pride parades seriously?
Last week in Serbia, the Serbian government canceled the national gay pride parade, despite warnings from a European Union caucus that the cancellation would harm their entry into the EU. While this comes as no surprise (given Serbia’s history with progressive issues) this case seems unique, and one that directly relates back home: How seriously should we take gay pride parades?
Whether in the United States or in any country, the purpose of gay pride parades is to raise awareness and money for HIV research, as well as to promote acceptance of homosexual activity across the nation.
As far as fundraisers go, the gay pride parades are great: They make quite a large contribution toward funding extremely important research that aims at finding a cure to a deadly disease.
However, when it comes to promoting acceptance of homosexual activity, all I can see is the exact opposite. The problem with gay pride parades as I (and I think to some extent, Serbia) see it is that they’re too extreme. Since this opens the floor for all sorts of attacks on my character and intent, I’ll make myself clear: I don’t think that gay pride parades should or should not be run a specific way, nor am I trying to attack the gay and lesbian community. Rather, I think that if the community’s goal with the pride parades is to raise awareness and acceptance of non-heterosexual lifestyles, the way gay pride parades are set up is at best ineffective and at worst counterproductive.
On the rare opportunity that I get to catch the Chicago gay pride parades, I don’t find myself watching for too long. The amount of blatant, overt and offensive sexuality makes it hard for me to take the gay pride parade as anything other than attention seeking (and perhaps rightfully so, since at heart, the parades do provide plenty of charity money). However, it’s hard to have a calm, rational discourse that clearly explicates the position of your interest group when the members involved look like they came straight out of a porno.
While everyone does have a right to their own lifestyle choices, if the goal of the gay and lesbian community is to gain acceptance within mainstream culture, it’s a terrible idea to shock and offend those very same people you wish to persuade to support you. If anything, all the shock factor serves to do is reinforce the negative and false stereotype that gays and lesbians are wild, immoral sex fiends.
Instead, I think this would be a better approach: Have a parade with completely gay and lesbian people, dressed as they would dress to go about their daily lives, and put an emphasis on their work and home life, their interests, their hobbies.
The best way to remove the social stigma of homosexuality is to show people that gays and lesbians are real people, with texture and substance—not mere caricatures of weird, abnormal freaks. Of course, this doesn’t only extend to the parades themselves: This message should be carried by homosexuals and heterosexuals alike. Gays and lesbians are people too and fairly well adjusted people at that.
Of course, all of this could just be seen as enforcing heteronormativity and marginalizing the voices of minority subcultures. Perhaps this is just an “Uncle Tom” approach to appease those who seek to oppress the gay and lesbian communities. These points are valid, but ultimately there will be no gay pride parade in Serbia. My emphasis is on the goal: If homosexuals are okay with being unfairly stigmatized for their behavior, they should express their individuality and solidarity as social groups in any way, shape or form. However, I’m sure that at least some people are sick of being treated unfairly and simply want to be treated normally. If that’s the case, the closed-minded, ignorant population isn’t going to change all by itself—it has to come from within the community itself. Consider this an outsider’s view.