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Voice Male - Summer 2005
Pride (Marches) and Prejudice
By Carl Erikson
Gay Pride Marches fill May and June around the U.S. I'm ambivalent about them, particularly when media coverage dwells on the things I don't like about them. Instead of making me proud as a gay man, they drive me into my journal to explore my connection with "gay" and "gay community." They cause me to ask a number of questions to which I don't have adequate answers. Here are a few:
Should we focus public attention on our differences--our extreme differences? Are they that crucial to us? If they aren't crucial to us, why are we flaunting them in the public's face? Isn't a large chunk of me just like everybody else? I worry about paying bills, keeping my job, selling my artwork, getting my books published, navigating my social life, figuring out how to be a good father to my grown kids...is that any different from my next-door neighbors?
The "proper people" complain about Pride Marches and all our efforts to be honest and be safe: "You're forcing a 'gay agenda' on the world, and on me in particular," they say. But I've yet to see or hear any gay person knocking on doors to convert anyone to a gay sexual identity, and I've never heard a gay person tell someone that he or she ought to have gay sex in order to be respected or saved or to live a life of his or her choice. The only gay agenda I've ever heard or seen is our desire to be safe and respected, to be free to live our choices respectfully and fully in our own lives and homes.
All well and good, but I still don't like the sex and anarchy messages Pride Marches so often deliver, which are enhanced by the three-second media sound bite treatment. This isn't me; this isn't what I want to tell the public about me. I don't think it's what many gays and lesbians want to present to the public either. How do I tell the public that I'm an intelligent, compassionate man who pays his taxes, causes little harm to anyone, drives safely, keeps several organizations financially organized, brings great beauty to people interested in his art, and treats chocolate with the obsession it deserves? I don't have a clue.
So, what do I do about Pride Marches? Sabotage them, agitate to ban them? Give my money and time to plan and support them? Yes, I could tolerate them and ignore them, but this feels like a copout. Whether I like it or not, Pride Marches affect my life--distantly maybe, but concretely.
I have to conclude that the statements Pride Marches make are too important for me and for lots of unknown people in this society to be ended, wiped out of our society. Maybe, like democracy, Pride Marches are a bad system but the best available to deliver the messages and opportunities many people need to hear and have. Maybe I just have to hope that, long after the parade passes by, its anarchy and raunch will fade from a viewer's mind, that he or she will give honest thought to people who are gay and lesbian and figure out that the lives of the viewer and the gay person have a lot in common.
Seems a mighty slim hope in the midst of all the naked and near-naked bodies and circuslike atmosphere of a march. Do I trust that most Pride March viewers will make that kind of effort? Ten percent of them? One of them? I'm sure of the one, but that makes it a very long time before Pride Marches become unnecessary. Maybe I can hope for a dozen; that will speed things up.