Why have Pride?

Every time a Pride event pops up so do questions about it’s relevance and purpose. On the one hand you have the critics who say it’s just an excuse for a drunken sex fest, that puts on display the worst of our community and on the the other hand you have supporters who say that it is a valuable catalyst to bring attention to GLBTI issues around the world.

This years World Pride in London was no different.

Image by Hans Peters

There is no doubt that the Gays love to party, usually in their underwear and covered in glitter. But does this sexual freedom really do us any favours? Does our overt sexuality harm our cause, and perpetuate the stereotype that we are all just a bunch of drunken gym bunnies looking for sex?

The Gay community wants it’s sexuality to be a non issue for the rest of the world and yet for us it IS the issue. The resulting paradox is PRIDE events that celebrate sexuality instead of Gay Culture. You don’t need to look far to see just how much of the the GLBTI community rejects “Gay” culture as superficial, discriminatory and plastic. I myself have become less and less excited by Gay culture over the past 2 years and although I still attend events like Mardi Gras there are few other events that inspire me.

I remember my coming out experience. I always told people that I didn’t care if people found out I’m Gay, but I don’t walk in to a room and say “Hi, I’m Shannon the gay guy”. When you look at the media the Gay community is all about declaring it’s sexuality. Do straight people walk around saying “Hi I’m John Smith and I am Straight”? No they don’t because their pride is not rooted in their sex drive. The Gay communities is. To be fair we must admit that it is our sexuality that sets us apart and is the reason for so much of our struggle, but we are so much more than what we do in the bedroom.

PRIDE as a celebration of sexuality is an incredibly narrow representation of our community,

and as our sexuality becomes less and less of an issue so will the relevance of PRIDE. It is why those of us who see sexuality as only a small part of who we are feel a disconnection from the Gay community at large.  Nearly all surveys of public opinion demonstrate a belief in equality and for the most part this has been achieved. In the West where PRIDE is suffering an identity crisis there are fewer and fewer people left to fight other than religious fanatics who want to impose on the rest of the world, and old grey haired politicians who peddle fear and hypocrisy. Thats not to say however that the work is done.

To survive PRIDE needs to stop celebrating sexuality and evolve in to a celebration of Gay culture in ALL it’s diversity,

not the homogenised version we see on club posters and in the Gay media. We should be celebrating our contribution to the world rather than our ass-less chaps, penchant for Drag and anyone over 6ft with pecs.

Floats like the Armed Forces, Police, and the Lifesavers are important in showing the community that Gay people are making worthwhile and valuable contributions to mainstream organisations. But do the lifesavers ( which I march with ) really need to dance in their speedos? Don’t we just look like all the other almost nude people dancing down the street? Wouldn’t a more effective demonstration be to march up Oxford St in our Patrol uniforms, with some of the people we have saved?

Wouldn’t the message “my life was saved by a lifesaver with Pride” be a greater statement?

The question of Identity and who we present ourselves to be will always be a question for the GLBTI community, and it is one that I am sure will be debated for a long time to come. There is too much at stake for us to simply continue with ” business as usual “. GLBTI youth are still the most likely to attempt suicide, there are countries where people are still murdered for their sexuality and there are places where state sanctioned violence and discrimination still exist against GLBTI people. Surely we let these people down as a community every time we throw a thinly disguised party and call it a PRIDE event.

It’s ok to have a party. If people want to dance down the street in a speedo or a jock strap then they should be free to do so but lets call it what it is, a party and save PRIDE for those events that reflect a genuine celebration of GLBTI culture and diversity.

It’s time we take a good look at ourselves and decide what we stand for and just what there is to have PRIDE in.