In PinkNews.co.uk today, Topher Gen writes to explain how he believes that modern Pride parades perpetuate an image of gay people as ‘hedonistic, sex-crazed deviants’, that drunkenness and drag don’t make the bold statement some might think.
I think Mr Gen is quite mistakenly focusing on the wrong elements of Pride. It even seems reading his words that his only experience of such event comes from mainstream media coverage which does seem to linger on the more colourful and exotic aspects of the parades.
Little, if at all, do we see the hundreds of “normal” people who do take part in the marches. The families, the pensioners, the volunteers with various charities. For them it’s not an occasion to get pissed (that usually happens after the parades anyway) or drag up, it is a moment of affirmation and empowerement. For a few hours it’s an opportunity to take the streets over, to be what they normally are not: the majority.
Mr Gen also seems to believe that Pride events are the only occasion that straight people find themselves in the presence of gay people. This may have been true thirty years ago but not any more. With so many people out and proud everywhere, straight people are bound to be confronted by the greyness and monotony of everyday gay lives, being shown how little they differ from theirs.
Following, Mr Gen’s reasoning perhaps we should cancel all carnivals. Surely St Patrick’s Day, which does seem to be mostly about drinking, gives a very bad image of the Irish. The Notting Hill Carnival with all those arrests and that violence can be good for how Afro-Caribbean people are percieved.
As for the the rainbow flag, it is most certainly not a stereotype. It is a unifying symbol for the community. it speaks of its history and its stuggles. Just like the million Union flags hanging all over britain following the Jubilee. Are these stereotypes too?
It is also interesting that Mr Gen only singles out what may be described as the gender bending aspect of Pride marches. Nothing about pumped up naked bodies or leather-clad buttocks, which could just as much been seen as gay stereotypes. They have however the “merit” of being “masculine” and this leads me to thing that Mr Gen may be evincing symptoms of that old friend of ours: Internalised homophobia. Mr Gen is embarrassed by that which is different, he wants to pass, and he is sadly not alone in this backlash against the camp and the effeminate, lately.
And he may not be the only one wanting to conform (after all the current quest for marriage equality is in some part at least linked to that) but many others in the community don’t want to live as straight people do. They want to remain individuals with their own way of doing things.
Trying to stifle those aspirations seem to me very similar to those of the homophobes, who cannot abide something different to their view of the word. As a persecuted minority (although thankfully not in the UK), the gay community generally is accepting of differences and it should remain that way.
Live and let live, I say. Only those who want to be shocked will be shocked by what happens at Pride.
Nicolas Chinardet is involved with various LGBT community organisations and charities. Find out more at www.zefrog.eu.