Gay pride and prejudice: A look at the LGBT Civil Rights movement

By Kyra Hall

Pride is listed as one of the seven deadly sins. It come before a fall, and it is also the word used to describe parades held every year by LGTB communities throughout America. Gay Pride Parades, as they are most often referred to, are as diverse as the communities in which they take place. These spectacles have been likened to the Civil Rights marches of the 1960s, but there is a fundamental difference. The marches and peaceful demonstrations of the Civil Rights movement worked hard to convey an image of dignity, whereas Gay Pride Parades serve to reinforce negative stereotypes about the LGBT community. By publicizing outrageous, stereotypical behavior, gay pride parades are doing immense harm to the LGBT Civil Rights movement.

In 2001, satirical news outlet The Onion published an article entitled “Gay-Pride Parade Sets Mainstream Acceptance of Gays Back 50 Years.” This article was meant to be a comedic piece, but instead it demonstrates the central problem with Pride parades and their effects on the LGBT community. These parades showcase a microcosm within the larger LGBT community, but they have become the icon of the movement for Gay Rights. Most of the people that identify themselves as LGBT are productive, non-obtrusive, upright members of society. These are not the people who march in gay pride parades. The public is presented with outlandish costumes and baffling levels of debauchery, while the perpetrators scream for the rights of the LGBT community. Looking back on the history of the Gay Rights Movement, there is a reason for this behavior.

In 1969, a bar in New York known as the Stonewall Inn was subject to a police raid targeting gays. The ensuing riot became the focusing event for the LGBT community, who were fed up with discrimination targeted against them. Pride events began as a way to commemorate this event and to spread awareness of the plight of homosexuals, bisexual and transgendered people everywhere. At these original events, the flash of modern parades was present as a parody. Over the years, the ironic nature of the parade participants’ behavior has been lost. The average American now looks on a pride parade entirely without context, and what they see is the worst, most extreme segment of the LGBT community.

Since then, the Gay Pride Parade has devolved dramatically. While the outlandishness increases, the references back to its origins decrease. Many parades and events flaunt the stereotypes in a way that utterly discredits the movement. In 2011, the Toronto Pride Parade launched an advertisement that was met with a tremendous amount of scandal. The ad prominently features numerous LGBT stereotypes and even goes so far as to say that “whether your LGBT or QXYB; we all want the same thing: the best chest.” This advertisement was utterly galling to gay rights advocates. For those of the LGBT community who are fighting for freedom from discrimination, these sorts of media messages are inexcusable.

There are those that argue that once someone has attended a Pride Parade, they will see that they are not as bad as the media would have us believe. Only the most extreme things are publicized. Those that make this claim have missed a vital point; those who spread anti-Gay sentiment are almost certainly never going to attend a parade. This means that the general public, as well as those trying to sabotage the Gay Rights movement, are armed with information that paints LGBT people in the worst possible light. It is easier for the community to be utterly ignored because, to the nation at large, LGBT activists are those silly people that prance around in rainbow thongs chanting, “We’re here. We’re queer. Get used to it!”

An excellent example of hate speech propelled by misconception cites a poster depicting a bastardization of the Last Supper, in which the food on the table has been replaced with sex toys and the disciples and Jesus have been swapped for people in full S&M gear as an example of Gay Pride propaganda (Sodom and Gomorrah of Folsom Street). This particular poster was not advertising a pride parade. Rather, this poster was advertising a fetishist festival held in San Fransisco, which some gays attend. A quick trip to the fair’s website does little to dispel the misconception. There is a video on the site’s home page; the costuming and music displayed are nearly indistinguishable from advertisements promoting Gay Pride parades. Prominently featured in the video are numerous gay and lesbian couples dressing and behaving in ways that would get them arrested for public indecency in many places. This small subgroup of gays have painted a big red target on the rest of the LGBT community by proclaiming themselves as the spokespeople for the movement. The unacceptable behavior of the few is preventing the acceptance of the many by fueling hate speech with extreme stereotypes.

LGBT people want the same rights as everyone else. They want to be able to marry, adopt children and not have to face daily discrimination in public places, at work or school. The way to obtain these things, as the Civil Rights movement of the African Americans clearly shows, is not by behaving like spoiled, hedonistic freaks. A shining example of the techniques the LGBT community should be using were displayed by Bayard Restin. Restin was a close confidant and key advisor of Martin Luther King, Jr. He was also gay. He knew what he had to do in order to advance the movement and get rights for African Americans all over the nation. He advised the movement in peaceful protest and was key in organizing the March on Washigton where King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Brayard was careful not to damage the movement by behaving outlandishly.

Prominent gay figures of today, by contrast, are flippant about behaving in offensive ways. A recent party held by President Obama invited several prominent gay figures to the White House. Some of the guests then took this opportunity to photograph themselves giving the middle finger to a portrait of President Reagan. One of them gave the reason that he was president during the peak of the AIDS epidemic and just sat back while gays died. This represents not only a lack of respect for a man who once held the highest office in the land but a fundamental misunderstanding about how the AIDS epidemic was handled. A gay news publisher, Mark Seagal, was quoted as saying that “It’s not a gesture that I would use in the White House when representing our city and our community.” Seagal instead opted for giving a sarcastic and non-offensive thumbs up to the portrait of President Bush. He made his point about the politician without resorting to lewd gestures and hopes to be invited back to the White House in the future.

Those who participated in the Civil Rights movement knew that they had to be on their best behavior because even one iota of misconduct would have been taken by segregationists and used as a weapon against African Americans as a group. Instead of taking the road to equal rights, well-trodden by those before them, the LGBT community’s fringe groups seem hell-bent on undermining the rest of them. Pride parades provide bigots with weapons that are slowing down progress, and eroding the movement all together. Rights are not won by behaving in ways that alienate those that might help you. If the LGBT community wants to truly gain their place in the nation and win the rights that all humans deserve, they should take a page from Bayard Restin’s book and “realize what blacks learned long ago. Unless you are out here fighting for yourself, then nobody else will help you,” as quoted from “Out of the Past,” a documentary on prominent gay figures throughout history.

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