In response to Sundar

Jason Clevenger | Op-Ed Submission

AJ Sundar’s analysis of gay pride parades starts with poor assumptions, so it is not surprising that he reaches a poor conclusion. He claims that the purpose of the parades is to raise money for AIDS research and promote acceptance of homosexual activity across the nation. But why think those are the only two purposes? And why think they are the most important? There were gay pride parades before there was an awareness of AIDS. And as the issue of AIDS begins to recede in importance, gay pride parades will go on. As for being a vehicle for acceptance, Sundar misses the mark completely. Gay pride is about visibility, community and identity. It is easy to underestimate the value of these things in today’s gay-friendlier culture. But for decades, pride parades were one of the few venues outside of the bars where people could find out they were not alone, they were not monsters, they were not worthless.

Imagine Sundar’s argument extended to other groups and their parades. The Irish should stop wearing green and drinking, the Shriners should stop wearing those silly hats and driving those little cars (well—maybe they should). Catholics should stop the festive debauchery of Mardi Gras. They should all act more normal. Let’s have a parade of those “…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.” But would that really be a parade?

Anyone still doubting the real purpose of a gay pride parade should read Benoit Dnizet-Lewis’s article “Coming Out in Middle School” in the Sept. 23 issue of the New York Times magazine. Fifteen-year-old Austin, living in Michigan, had never met another openly gay boy. Last June, his parents agreed to let him go to the pride parade in Chicago, two hours away, providing one of them went with him. So he and his dad went to the parade, and Austin warned his dad, “You can’t get mad at me when I scream at cute guys in Speedos.” That’s what the parade is about. And oh, by the way, that is what acceptance is about.

Jason is a 1995 alumnus of the PNP graduate program at Wash. U. He can be reached via e-mail at jasonclevenger@wustl.edu.