What’s the fuss about Pride parades?

Chapter Two: Being Out & Loud

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Neko-kun: During the summer of 2004 the first Athens Pride, a parade dedicated to LGBT rights and visibility, began its activity. At the time I couldn’t visit the parade out of fear, the fear of someone noticing my presence and telling my parents, but I recall how negative most people were about it. “Faggot pride? Then why not have a straight pride too?”, “Everyone can do what they want, so long as it stays in the bedroom”, “That is sinful behaviour, not something to be proud of”, “That is propaganda to turn Greeks gay”, “I know homosexuals who are against the parade, too”. These were the thoughts of the average adult in this -very conservative- country and it wasn’t helpful that there was no real sanctuary for those of us who needed to discover ourselves more and wished to come across to a more positive reaction.

Eventually I turned 18 and my adult life began. I started coming out to many people -thankfully to face better treatment than in school-, reading more and going to lectures concerning gay rights, health, etc. I finally met people like myself and I started to realize just how bad I needed to see that I was not alone. By that, I don’t mean that I needed to see LGBT characters in fiction or celebrities that belonged in our group. Sure, it was nice having that too, as an extra, when it was possible. But to meet simple, everyday people who could be my friends or lovers, people who could tell me that what I felt was not wrong, that they had similar experiences and, eventually, they survived and they are happy and healthy, was a priceless gift that was essential to my mental survival.

Before moving on to the next chapter, I’d like to answer to some of the thoughts I mentioned about. Let’s sort them out, one by one:

1. “Faggot pride? Then why not have a straight pride too?”

Because there is more than one straight pride. Every wedding, engagement, romantic tv series and most commercials celebrate the various concepts of heteronormativity -namely, masculinity, femininity and the traditional family. Is that a bad thing? My answer is no, though I’d like to see more diversity. But I don’t see how exactly having one institution that states pride for all kinds of love, is offensive in anyway to a civilized, free society.

2. “Everyone can do what they want, so long as it stays in the bedroom”

Shall I guess then that you won’t announce to your parents that you have a relationship? Will you avoid kissing or hugging your partner in public because that is something that concerns “only the bedroom”? That sort of double standard is forced exclusively upon the LGBTQI community and as such it is a shameful, prejudiced argument. Being LGBTQI isn’t a sexual fetish, neither something that doesn’t concern both our social and private existence as individuals.

3. “That is sinful behaviour, not something to be proud of”

That is your religious prejudice and I own nothing to live by it. This is a secular, not a theocratic state. Perhaps I should better say it’s your prejudice, the end. Research has shed light to same-sex unions between two men or two women under the eulogy of the church. Even if you doubt the nature of these rituals, you most probably have ignored the true meaning of certain phrases in the Bible. You also conveniently forget that Bible allowed slavery and many other little every day practices we take for granted today (eg. mixed fabrics) were forbidden.

4. “I know homosexuals who are against the parade, too”

I know black people who are against interracial relationships and societies, or women who are as misogynist as it gets. Knowing a person that approves of discrimination while belonging to a minority group means nothing when it comes to individual, human rights.

5. “That is propaganda to turn Greeks gay”

Satan couldn’t turn Fudou Akira gay, I doubt a parade will turn a whole country into a homosexual heaven.

Aguren

Foxy Lady: “Hope will never be silent” said Harvey Milk and that’s the main spirit behind pride parades. They encourage people to form a community, to come out and find consolence and joy in each other’s presence. Ash Beckham claims that “a closet is no place for a person to live” and likens the closeted state with holding a grenade of negative emotions and pressure. The events during the pride festivities and the parade give the courage to let go of the grenade. Moreover, the livelihood of the parade and its overall atmosphere embody the three pieces of advice Beckham gives: be authentic, be direct and be unapologetic. The parade is also called pride of freedom for a good reason: it’s a symbolic way of breaking free from the scrutiny and repression of society; we say we don’t care about the patronizing gaze of others; we throw away the three sizes smaller shoes [3] we wore up till now and breathe.

Besides visibility and companionship, pride parades offer for those who have eyes to see many stories. It’s an opposition to the caricatures tv feeds us. The single narrative about any minority group or someone whom we don’t encounter often in our surroundings is a very dangerous thing. It others the unknown, dehumanizes it and at the same time creates false expectations. Stories hold power [4] underlines Chimamanda Adichie and through the parade lgbt reclaim their dignity. There is the story of the butch and that of the femme, the one of the drag queen and that of the transgender, the other one about the bears and the one about the lanky gay man, the story of lgbt families and so on and so forth. There is no black and white, only 50 shades of gay as iO Tillett’s photo collection proves.

Some don’t understand why the discrimination we face as community should be a separate case. I am not one who would turn suffering into a contest, but the truth is that the lgbtqi kid or teen often is in danger from its own family, something that doesn’t happen with the chubby girl or the black boy who will find comfort in their parents’ arms. Pride festivals create an occasion and craft a family for those who are rejected by their biological one and that’s why it’s so important. This is also not a case where we separate ourselves as something alien but as a group with similar experiences and goals -as similar as they can be among huge number of people- where lgbtq individuals can find a safe space to exist and to seek comfort.

Others will try to argue against pride parades and the rights we demand through them using the ‘non-serious’ factor. And by that I mean how it features strippers and drag queens. I must point out that one purpose of the pride is to showcase diversity and make people understand we might have different ‘aesthetic values’ but we deserve respect equally when it comes to basic human rights like housing, work and recognized by state relationships. It is something similar to the quite straight carnival with the half-naked female dancers which few protest. It’s a statement of the community that we don’t only survive the bullying but we are many and despite the difficulties we can enjoy ourselves.

Pride parades are also a commemoration of the Stonewall riots that broke out in protest of police harassing queer costumers in the Stonewall Inn. What way is more appropriate topay them respect if not by showing that their struggles blossomed and we are having fun? After all back then the bar culture was prevelent and people participating in it colorful.

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Footnotes

[3] Analogy by Lyo Kalovyrnas, Greek gay activist and psychologist.

[4] Adichie talks mainly about race, but her talk applies to other issues as well.

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2 thoughts on “What’s the fuss about Pride parades?

  1. I just wanted to say: thanks for sharing your stories. I found them to be incredibly moving and inspiring. As someone who is becoming increasingly more conscious of gender and LGBT issues, I appreciate your open-mindedness and your honesty.

    Like

    • Thanks a lot for your comment! It’s always great when people give a second thought to such matters. The world then seems to come ever so close and it gives us smile. You’re always welcome here!

      Like

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