View Full Version : Does Gay Pride do more harm than good?
05-25-2006, 01:28 PM
Here's an interesting commentary in the latest Advocate ( June 6, 2006 ) by Michael Levine about Gay Pride and it's effect on LGBT progress:
Is Pride Good PR?
A-List Hollywood publicist Michael Levine assesses the public relations impact of pride festivals and parades.
It is undeniably true that it is difficult to be gay in our society. Cultural, religious, and in some cases governmental disapproval of homosexuality by the majority infects the daily lives of gay men and lesbians, and it can seem that the pressure from all sides to deny one's identity is overwhelming and unrelenting.
The need for release, for freedom, is unmistakable. But gay pride festivals in cities around the country can sometimes do more harm than good.
I say this as a sympathetic heterosexual who makes a living in public realtions and has done so for more than 20 years. When I discuss the impact of gay pride demonstrations and parades, it is not from a standpoint of moral disapproval or even political ideology. I'm assessing the impact made on society as a whole - the good or damage done to the cause of gay identity and rights in the United States - by the spectacle that gay pride demonstrations can make.
From where I'm standing it's not doing a lot of good.
Believe me, I understand that it must feel wonderful to take to the streets with hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people who, finally, agree with you and understand your life. I realize that even in today's less closeted society it has to be a joyful moment to stop trying to play by the majority's rules and simply aknowledge one's own identity: to be you.
But it comes with a cost. Society's mind-set in the 21st century is determined by the media, in particular television. And in a 24-hour news cycle, when entire networks have to fill a full day, every day, with current happenings, the impact of gay pride festivals will be reduced to a 20-second piece of videotape that will be played and replayed multiple times during the day until something new, something else that makes "good television" replaces it.
And if you think that a 20-second clip is going to be a reasoned assessment of the plight of an oppressed minority, a sound bite from a gay man or lesbian who makes a thoughtful point about demanding an equal place in our country, you are living in a very different society than I am.
What's going to be shown on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and for all I know Aljazeera, is a montage of drag queens, leather enthusiasts, and floats in the shape of a penis - all parading down Main Streets in major cities with the implied message to the red states in Middle America that this is on its way to an avenue near you.
We can debate for years whether this is an accurate or appropriate depiction of most gay men or lesbians. But I can tell you from a strict public relations viewpoint that it will not - ever - help the cause of gay equality in the United States.
When Muslims in this country argue that the media ( in news or fictional television and film ) depict only the most radical of their religion and thereby distort the view that most Americans have of all Muslims, they have a point. Such portrayals make for vivid images, something that will cause a viewer to stop channel surfing and take a look - and that's what television networks are trying to do. But it doesn't necessarily paint an accurate picture or provide comprehensive information about complex issues.
You'd think that a 24-hour news cycle would offer more depth, as news organizations would have much more time than they once did - 30 minutes a night until the 1980s - to delve into complex issues. But what has happened is that the news has become polarized, and the extra time is generally given to loud political debate (if one cares to use the most polite term for the screaming that goes on). Discussion of issues is left by the wayside.
I don't argue for one second that gay people should not be proud of who they are, nor that they should deny their true identities for the sake of society. But I don't think that wild gay pride celebrations and demonstrations in public serve well the cause they claim to support.
They make good television, but they certainly don't make for better public policy.
Levine is founder of the prominent Los Angeles public relations firm Levine Communications Office. He is the author of 17 books, the latest of which is Broken Windows, Broken Business (Warner). Find out more at BrokenWindows.com
The Advocate website is http://www.Advocate.com
05-25-2006, 02:53 PM
We're not having these parades for other people, we're having them for oursleves.
The act of honoring and celebrating who we are gives us the hope, energy and vision that we desperately need in order to keep being honest about our lives... to keep working for justice... and to keep remembering that we are valueable & worthy citizens, employees, people of faith, family members & friends.
Yes, the media or the extreme right will try to use one absurd video clip as a means to identify who we are and then discriminate against us. But we have to be honest. Is the work of justice and equality going to accomplished if we got good press from one parade? I don't think so.
Maybe making the parades more family friendly is a good way to prevent some of the REALLY bad press, but regardless of what we do... the simple fact is that in many peoples' minds, I will be reduced to the summation that I, as a gay man, have sex with men(one man, to be precise).
If we are going to overcome people's prejudice and fears, it's going to take face-to-face conversations, coming out in our churches and at work, speaking out in our local political environment, etc. We have to become real to the people around us.
A pride parade isn't going to change people... one way or the other.
What's interesting to me is that I have seen 3 pride parades in Chicago now, and I have yet to see anything that was very risqué. Yes...three years ago there was four pairs of a**less chaps at the tail end of the parade, that's the only thing I would have thought might be offensive to some. Last year's parade was sadly so commercialized that there was hardly any "pride" in the pride parade.
There's nothing wrong with drag queens...they are my people;
nor with dikes on bikes, who are also my people;
the PFLAG moms...I claim them as well;
all those pretty club boys flashing their bodies brightly...they are family;
leather "enthusiasts" (as he says)...a part of my tribe;
those handsome Chicago cops waving and smiling on their float...I'll take them too;
I'd rather be at a pride parade than in the house of those who are ashamed of us.
05-25-2006, 03:48 PM
Nathan. You made some good points. I agree that it's going to take face to face conversations to help people overcome their fears and prejudices. I do that as often as I can. I think that coming out is the single most important thing we can do to achieve equality.
I am very open about my life. Everyone who knows me knows that I'm gay. I have been very vocal about LGBT rights and have written op-ed articles to both the Winston-Salem Journal and the Minneapolis Star and Tribune about what being gay means to me. I have been identified as being gay in several other news articles.
I have been involved in dozens of protest demonstrations and three national marches and have lobbied the Minnesota legislature in favor of gay equality. I have been arrested in a sit-in demonstration at the Supreme Court. In St. Paul Minnesota during a gay rights campaign I went door to door talking with citizens about the importance of gay equality.
I fly a rainbow flag on my house to show my gay pride.
But I am never involved in gay pride celebrations. I avoid them. I agree with Michael Levine in the Advocate commentary that they do way more harm than good.
You say that the celebrations are for us, not them. But you know the television cameras will always be there. And you must know that many of the most outrageous people in the parades do it for the shock value. They're saying, "You hate us America, so here's THIS in your face!"
Over and over I hear the argument from gay people that government should keep their laws out of our bedrooms and that what two consenting adults do behind closed doors is nobody's business. But every year we bring our sexual fetishes out into the open and parade them down Main Street.
We blame our opponents for their homophobia and then we march all their stereotypes and fears about us right out in front of them and their kids.
Can people not see how confusing this might be to non-gay folks?
In all the years that I've been out of the closet I have never heard a convincing argument of why this is a good thing. As much as I've tried, I simply cannot see the logic behind it.
05-25-2006, 04:25 PM
A-List Hollywood publicist Michael Levine assesses the public relations impact of pride festivals and parades.
Interestingly, and this may just be NYC, but every A and B List politician comes out of the woodwork and marches with all those drag queens and Dykes on Bikes- just a little further back however.
I've marched in them (and carried water for the marching band once), watched from the sidelines and stayed away when I had a boyfriend with a house in the A-List Hamptons (they saw themselves a bit above it all if memory serves). They always put the spiritual groups towards the back like they are an afterthought- all the blaring floats with oiled muscle boys and leather guys get to go first. But I've grown disenchanted with the whole business not because it make bad PR, but because the corporatization of the affair.
But can a gay pride parade still have an impact? Heck yeah. Gays in Poland and other countures are fighting to be able to march in the streets. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/4956604.stm
I guess you could say we're further along in the scheme of things, but sometimes I think we're not. As long as we don't have equal rights I think there is still a need for them. Wasn't it Barnum who said: "There is no bad publicity?"
05-25-2006, 04:56 PM
After today Rick, you may not want me agreeing with you..
Not much more of a touchy subject out there... I used to go the parades (Denver) every year. Mostly to see old friends, get hammered, stock up on queer crap and make out in public. I never saw much that made me proud. As my gayness became more assimilated and a smaller part of my identity, I questioned what was there to be proud of. I was neither proud of being gay, nor ashamed of it. Didn't hide it or flaunt it... It eventually felt like I was going to a 'Brown Eyed' or 'Five Fingered Pride Day'... I can't feel a sense of pride in merely what I am. It seems more a feeling reserved for what I've accomplished. What I've worked at...
Now this may be what many will say they are celebrating, "I've Survived your efforts to crush me" and am proud of it! And I could respect that if this weren't the first time most people had thought about it. But it basically is a big party weekend/meat market under the all powerful eye of a thirty foot, inflatable "WET" bottle of lube... just in case you forget what your proud of.
If it were advertised honestly as a big F Fest of public debauchery and hedonism, I'm there. But doing it in the name of pride... you wont even miss me.
05-25-2006, 05:20 PM
OK. I'm TOTALLY missing out on the sex-crazed pride parades. (not really missing out...)
Check out the LONG list of rules for Austin's Pride parade.
If your parade is too "debaucherous" get involved and clean it up! Good lord.
Ours is a community event... these are all organizations I'm involved with or people I've met...
Yeah, there's a couple tacky bar floats, but even they have to abide by the dress code & rules.
05-25-2006, 05:47 PM
The Austin pride parade sounds like an event I would feel comfortable being involved in. Apparently I was wrong to generalize all pride events as wild and offensive.
Thanks for posting that link.:)
05-25-2006, 09:15 PM
I'd rather be at a pride parade than in the house of those who are ashamed of us.
Dash, this one quote said it all to me. I would rather be there too, instead of hiding in some dark corner of a church, sneaking around to be with my wife. I made a crude (only because it was hastily handwritten) sign last year at Houston's Pride which read "God Loves Gays" and it got published. I was excited. My wife was driving and was worried I would fall out, but I told her, "I won't and even if I did, I want these people to know God loves them." It is sorely needed in this community of people who have been shut out of their families and churches because they are gay. I,as a lesbian, want them to know that. :)
05-26-2006, 07:47 AM
And thus the "Agenda" we seek that they most despise. Pride is the opposite of inclusiveness.
I find the word ‘Pride’ offensive. It's the worst sin there is because it leads to all others.
So I think we should still have the meaning of Pride events, and yes “out there,” but more politically “oriented,” see how clever I am, we have our first float to desensitize the barrage of thinking machines about to come their way. Replete with all the colors and singing and dancing of course, just this time with some focused meaning.
We have ONE day out of the year to make our statement. We just need to professionalize the celebration. And politicize it with exactly the right sound bite messages in the most fun and creative ways that our message of freedom and happiness for ALL, as in “gay,” gets through louder and clearer than what the “media” spin zone advocates will end up proscribing it as.
Instead of downplaying our “out-ness,” we should focus on being “out there” with our message of Equality and more importantly, inclusiveness, and a PFOX float in every parade to prove it!
We should say that our shift from pride to politics is warranted, skipping the whole "intentionally politicizing" and "agenda" criticisms.
We should have organized themes. We could start with, “It’s NOT A Choice!” In fact let’s make an entire float like that for each ‘Untruth’ (to put it politely* (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YoCWopvArfo)). Think about it, we could have Bobble head effigies of all the people we’re passing out information on.
To not report on that politicization would be a story in itself and draw criticism. The only 'politically correct' option would be to suggest our politicization as a “flagrant” part of our “agenda,” and to do that while showing a bobble head effigy of a local candidate (for example). It practically screams to go find out why they feel that way.
I was going to write two sentences and all that came out. :D :rainbow: :D :rainbow: :D :rainbow:
05-26-2006, 09:52 PM
While this thread has questioned the continuing role of gay pride parades here in the US, there are still places in the world where they do not have the luxury of debate.
At a recent LGBT conference, the grandson of Oscar Wilde had eggs thrown at him and a judge ruled that the mayor of Moscow was within his right to deny marchers a permit:
Moscow is the only major world capital not to have a pride parade. In denying the parade permit Luzhkov said he was concerned about potential violence.
But on Russian Radio on Friday he cited moral reasons for the ban.
“I believe that such a parade is inadmissible in our country above all for moral considerations. People should not make public their deviations," he said
This brings to mind the words of the great Oscar: Manners before Morals. While we many not all have the same morals, I hope that we at least can work on our manners.
05-28-2006, 01:10 PM
I've never been to a Pride Parade, but I'm very excited about going to my first one this June - the infamous one in NYC. I'm planning to wear a shirt reading "We Are Everywhere" with a rainbow on it. Why? For me, it will be the celebration of making it out of the closet alive and enjoying the experience of being around such a large group of supportive people.
Is it right? I don't know yet. I'm not sure I think the displays of sex are necessary for pride. I, too, usually feel that sex belongs in the bedroom and is a private thing, but I respect those who might feel otherwise and might like dressing in a provocative way. I do question whether or not the time and place are appropriate for sexual displays. I don't mind them and I respect it, but it might not be appropriate at a "pride" parade. Maybe a different sort of event would fit better.
05-31-2006, 10:06 AM
I’ve been giving this thread a lot of thought and trying to see both sides clearly. Interestingly, my new issue of Curve magazine came a few days ago and it’s the “Pride” issue. On the one hand, I can see your point Rick. Appearances can be very meaningful (someone’s perception is their reality). That said, must admit that I totally understand why people want to have Pride days, marches, parades, activites.
The GLBT community as a whole have been looked down on by society (esp here in the US), we have been treated as less than humans, been the recipients of violence and hatred, we have been suppressed, oppressed and depressed, have realized the struggle of ‘hiding’ out, having to accept ourselves and then having to muster the courage to stand up for ourselves and what we believe in, in a world that doesn’t always or even often accept us. ‘Pride’ means, we are okay just like we are, we aren’t pretending anymore, aren’t hiding, aren’t being who you think we should be. ‘Pride’ means, standing up, having the world take notice, saying we are okay just like we are, showing our courage, tenacity, individuality and doing it together as a whole. Each person is unique and even if there are those who want to demonstrate in ways that not everyone can appreciate, it doesn’t necessarily make it wrong. I consider myself a Christian (although always say not a very good one) but I am also glad for the ability to appreciate each individual’s uniqueness and creativity even when they might be crossing that invisible line between rated G and well past R.
I love my God, my bible, my routine often mundane life, and I love drag queens, raunchy floats, strippers – life is an amazing adventure to me, and I relish it all. That isn’t to say there aren’t bad things in this world (murders, crimes, hatred, war, etc.), but to me, life is truly wonderful and I’m so very glad to be a part of it – risqué Pride floats and all!!!
05-31-2006, 10:44 AM
The LGBT community - and I believe that many add more to that definition - and accurately subtract many organisations or worse, paedophile groups who try to attach themselves to our just civil and moral cause- do qualified good in achieving full civil rights.
Our "community" as do all minorities, embrace any and all life experiences, philosophies of life, or actual choices based upon socio-economic, academic or professional or occupational realities.
I realise that corporate media, all owned by the planet's ultraright wingers, always want controversy and will highlight those within our community who are most likely to produce derisive commentary. Rarely, if ever, are parents with children, or the quiet majority of monogamous couples who are not activist, are highlighted.
Can you imagine if the heterosexual majority had parades that included men who live in strip clubs, couples who swing with their neighbours, and had their versions of SM groups parading as well?
We must embrace diversity of expression and realise that dominant or passive, top or bottom or whatever psychosexual position that you might assume, or not at all....must be honoured by all segments of our community.
Does it do more harm than good ? In Canada, men and women - gay and gay affirming went to the streets for our new freedoms. Also, the straight Churches joined the gay-centred Churches in meeting the Roman Catholic and fundamentalist onslaughts.
Nathan should be proud that it was a Los Angeles divorced Pentacostal minister, Elder Troy Perry, who started the first "gay" Church in 1968 created the force that in 2001 gave us our freedom in 2003 by having the first legitimate marriage in ANY country. (Yes, the Netherlands started in 2001 and Belgium in 2002, but the marriage licences given to our Canadian friends were dated in 2001 before the Dutch marriages....since the Canadian marriages were valid retroactively and occurred first...).
05-31-2006, 01:11 PM
I have just been lingering around this thread for a few days, not really sure what my specific opinion is on it. Must be because I have many various thoughts on the topic. I read that piece in the Advocate myself. I really did not consider the thoughtful discussion that could come from it, but I guess that is the difference with being in these forums, that we all express what we think, feel, and believe. Maybe the point is well taken that many others have said here, is that the events themselves would be better served in their purpose to be called something different, or maybe not. My gay identity, although only one aspect of me, is an essential part of me, and I do feel a sense of pride in being gay. However, I think any participation I may or may not have in the future in attending or participating in events has more to do, for me, in showing our PRESENCE as a community rather than our pride, although I don't know what motivates Dykes on Bikes or other more graphic attendees, if it is pride or shock or "We're here, we're queer, get used to it". If anything, we are showing a variety of aspects of our community by allowing the variety of groups to attend and participate that do. I know it does not do much for us in terms of understanding and/or acceptance with some groups, but we may not reach those groups anyhow, no matter if we play by their rules or our own. The part of being a gay person that I have strengthened my resolve in over the last few years- for myself, for my child, and as a role model for gay youth- is to combat the invisibility factor of being gay. It is so easy for us to be invisible to others, to have others never know our orientation unless we let them know. Sure, that has kept me emotionally safe in many circumstances, but it also perpetuates shameful feelings in some of us. Pride events and festivals allow us to be out, loud and proud, in a way that many in our community would not be on other occasions. It brings us together, lets us meet one another, celebrate our diversity within our community, and express ourselves. I don't know if I would bring my daughter to one of the more wild events like that anytime soon, but I might want to indulge at some point in my life (I have never been to one).
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