Saturday, June 11, 2011

What Does Pride Month Mean To You?

When you ask someone to think of a gay pride imagine it in there mind...Chances are this is what will pop up:

It's a testament to the power of these images that even someone who has never been to a parade will have some familiarity with them. They paint a collective picture of one giant Mardi Gras-like party stocked with shirtless go-go bois on floats, Scantily clad  lesbians on loud motorcycles, Drag queens in two story tall heels, and rainbows and glitter flying everywhere.

Now...everyone will have their own opinions about what pride celebrations mean. For some, it is simply a celebration. For others it may be a mind blowing first peak at a gay life. And there are those who have criticised it as being more about selling high priced alcoholic beverages and rainbow covered swag than about promoting gay rights. Some see it as a sideshow complete with rainbow colored clowns... and we all know about the crowd that condemn it as an act of "celebrating sin" and view it as an example of "the homosexual lifestyle" if we run around in speedo's and balloon costumes everyday.

 Since it is Pride Month...or Gay History Month more accurately...I have been taking some time to reflect on what it all means to me. "Gay Pride" can be a phrase that has become so loaded with cliches and judgments that it can be hard to find the meaning. What does Pride Month mean  to me?

I don't tend to think that way I grew up is terribly uncommon for a gay man. I come from a fairly religious family with conservative views in a time when the only way gays were portrayed in media was as comedic relief or as something to hide you children from. By the time I was old enough to go to a parade on my own, I was taking with me a truckload of  and stereotypes. I may have been out and already had my ideas about gay people challenged somewhat by then but one of the feelings I remember vividly feeling was fear. These were the "bad people" that my Momma warned me about right? And here I was in the thick of it.I was with my very first boyfriend and a good female friend and I was out in the big bad world on my own. It was terrifying and exhilarating all at once.

What I experienced on that day is forever engraved in my memory because it shattered those preconceived notions of what it meant to be gay. It wasn't because there weren't men wearing nothing but a pair of chaps...or drag queens...or topless lesbians...the sex was there but so was much more. There were couples who had been together longer for decades(something I thought impossible at the time), There were gay seniors and Veterans, Churchs and schools marched, and yes...there were gay families. It was all more than I imagined it would be and I began to understand the incredible spectrum of the LGBT life and why it is symbolised with a rainbow. I sorta grew up in that moment. It was about life and all the people in it...and I had finally found my place....oh, and a hearty love for furry But beyond the spectacle, I had no idea of the meaning or history of a pride parade.

Pride circa 1978...

Now...I love to read up on gay history. There are so many holes in our collective history as gay people that many of do grow up on a metaphorical island. That said...trying to relate events you were not present to see first hand means that mistakes will be it will probably patient with me.

Before there were "Pride Parades" there was the 70's and Gay Liberation Marches, gay-ins, and Gay Freedom Day. These were events that were more activism than party. The Stonewall Riots had just occurred and gay men and women were beginning to get the idea that they didn't have to, shouldn't be...invisible anymore. We had enough of being put in mental institutions and given shock treatments, enough of being arrested and roughed up by police for no good reason at all, enough at being made to feel as if there was something we needed to feel ASHAMED of. These events were acts of defiance against a society that treated us as if we deserved all the bad things they did to us. Without the decades of shaming that gays and lesbians had been made to feel...without the violence...there would have been no need to create a day in which we literally stand up to be seen...with pride. And so...time marched on and with it came change. Liberation marches became more of a celebration and a party than a demonstration. They took on the name "Pride Parades" yet they were still moments to not hide from the world...put on your makeup, your feather boa, your leather(or take some of it off) and show the world who you are....Don't be invisible.

Pride '75

Even though Pride events may have become a party event to rival Carnivale and Mardi Gras...the heart of it remains the same. Underneath the glitz and sequins, behind we are human beings worthy of love and respect. We are fully human in every respect, including our sexuality and have learned to embrace, not shame that. We are every culture, every religion, every color. We are your family and your friends and all we desire is to live that life the same way that you do.

But before we could even get to that level of conversation we had to push back. Were some might see an overly buffed up man  in a speedo dancing on a float and only see that as a sexual scenario(and it is..thankfully)...but there is also the layer of history underneath that is sending a message. He may be there showing off for the crowd, completely unaware of everyone who has marched that street before him. But he is also sending that same message of push back. Coming out of out of our closets and saying "we will not take this anymore" was one of our first steps too makes not difference if it's the activists of the seventies or the party goers of today. This fundamental message laid the ground work for many things we enjoy today...including my marriage and my ability to blog these experiences to you.

So after some considerable time thinking about it...this is what pride means to me. It does not mean that I am so special that I deserve my own day and a parade to go with it. It means that we will not be invisible anymore. We will not go back in closets. We will not let you shame us for existing. We will live in the open. We will love who our hearts call us to...and we will reach out to the world to share who we are. We will demand to be treated equally. And yes...sometimes we will cover ourselves in glitter and dance on a parade float (but not me mind you..that would be frightening).

Until next time dear readers...


  1. I just got back from marching in Boston's pride. It was my first time marching in one. Coming back and reading this blog post of yours pretty much brought me to tears. You are so, so right!

    Even real estate agencies, banks, Walgreens and such were there. All who, just by their presence are saying we recognize that we're part of the same community.

    It is all about community, and supporting each other, and seeing so many people out there from all walks of life having a grand old time really helps you know that you are not alone. And if all of these people are okay, I must be also. "It Gets Better" - pride parades are proof that slowly, but surely, perhaps it really does. :)

  2. I think you have captured things wonderfully, I love your description of the first pride you went to. Even though my family and the church I went to where very gay friendly, When I went to my first pride in Seattle (with friends from the local Front runners) it was a very exciting and scary thing like you said.

    How ever for me I think that the best pride I have been to has been my local one, The first time I went to Bellingham pride (city I live and work in) it was neat because you get to see friends and neighbors and customers (I do work retail) all making a statement and celebrating too. That and the year that I first went was an election year so there where plenty of political interest represented at the booths set up where the farmers market lives on saturdays.

  3. havent been to a pride parade yet but i cant wait. my question is do u take the kids every time? if so how do u explain the sexy stuff? do they ask questions? If i was a parent i couldnt imagine having that conversation with my kids

  4. As usual very educational and entertaining. Thank you!

  5. Sometimes I get so upset with the media. They always focus on the drag queens and the lesbians on motorcycles. They never even show the Jays and Bryans of the world. That is what is so great about YouTube. We can bypass the media and show our own real lives.

  6. A comment/question that keeps coming up is... " why do you have to be so "out"?. "Why do you have to push it in my face?". Because you have to keep being reminded time and time again that it's not fair. The way LGBT are treated is not fair or right and you keep hoping we'll be quiet. It's not fair that LGBT are killed, bullied, beaten, regarded as second class, ridiculed and hated.

    In time, history will look at the LGBT community as people who fought their battles without guns or explosives. A battle fought with body glitter and feather boas. A battle won by love and community.

    Eventually the world will learn two things, that we are a necessary part of this world and that there is a way to effectively fight back without the need to cause pain. Holly xx

  7. Pride is coming up in Nashville TN on 6/18 and I am super excited to go. I totally agree with you and always have that "pride" should not be looked upon as a celebration but more of a protest. People of gay, lesbian, bi, and transexual have fought for many years to get were the U.S. is today. Being gay myself I plan on being at every "pride" parade and equality events that I can attend. Despite how fare we have come over the years it is still a long road ahead before people will be all accepting and open minded. I hope to see the day when people are at peace and there is no more hatred. Somehow I don't think it will happen in my lifetime.

  8. @wizkid

    Yes we have taken our kids on a couple of occasions because we marched with the S.F. county Sherriffs contingent. Being IN the parade means that they don't see everything but we do still see lesbians flogging each other on motorcycles and the occasional completely naked man. As a parent we try to strike a balance between shielding our kids from sexual actions and helping them accept the human body as a normal thing not to freak out over. So...long story short...we will steer the kids away from anthing that is a sexual situation(flogging for example). Those scenarios are pretty rare in a parade of thousands. Most of the floats and contingents run the range of normal people in street clothes marching for the school or church to oiled up go-go boys.

    When it comes to nudity...I tend to tackle that the same way you would with a painting or sculpture. It's the human body..we all get one...and it's not somthing we need to freak out about. We explain to the kids that we do no condone walking around naked in public but that neither should we all have a cow. My experience is that they giggle a little bit and then move on to harassing me about buying them another three dollar rainbow necklace or who gets to ride in the squadcar(so they dont have to walk)

  9. I loved he article Brian! I am gay and only came out about 2 years ago and after reading your post, i can't wait to be at Ottawa's (Ontario, Canada) pride parade. It will take a bit of courage from me to get there and participate in the parade, but I think I'll be able to pull it off. You guys actually really changed the perspective I had on my life and I thank you both (Jay and Brian) a lot for sharing your wonderfully happy family life with us. And PS: I think I might have a crush on Brian lol :P

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