Culture August 29, 2017
It is important to emphasize the positive aspects of mass visibility.
You can catch me wholeheartedly marching in every year’s Pride Parade as long as it stands.
The LGBT Center does amazing things for queer youth and queer health in NYC. Marching is never just about yourself, it’s about showing someone who might look or be like or you that, yes, they too can live this way and be happy and supported and safe.
I saw multiple articles about how people in our community were going to protest Pride this year. And while there are definitely valid critiques for corporatized Pride, I will outright say 2017 is not the time to tackle this.
Think of it this way: If a coalition of cheetahs are gnashing their teeth about to rip you and your entire family to shreds in the next 30 seconds, are you really going to start yelling at your younger sister for wearing a sexist shirt from a trendy retailer near you?
I give this absurd analogy because that is what is happening in our world right now. While some of us are using all of our energy to criticize friends and family on Facebook for problematic behavior, the cheetahs are actively ripping apart the world. Yes, tackling offensive beliefs is VERY important.
However, the free world is currently being dismantled, so think of protesting Pride like not speaking to your friend anymore because she took a great job as a correspondent at ABC, only then to realize while you were busy yelling at your friend, a cheetah (or dingo) ate your baby. Where was the problem again?
This stands for the larger movement I’ve seen where people are saying “Pride is a corporate shitfest for straight white people.” Correction: straight white men run the corporations, yes. BUT these are networks and products everyone is familiar with. I know too well coming from my own experience as a queer from a marginalized group that just because someone is from an oppressed group doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t capable of oppressing their queer or trans family members.
If a mom or dad sees Crest Toothpaste and Good Humour Ice Cream and NBC or the Governor of their state marching and handing out freebies, they might say “Oh, wow… well, if my toothpaste I’ve used since 1971 is cool with gay pride… maybe I should learn to accept my gay child.”
It is important to emphasize the positive aspects of mass visibility. If you are not near gay culture, or exposed to it on a daily basis, then the branded “pride” merch could come off as a bit laughable. But “Pride burgers” or “Rainbow fries” actually have a lot of meaning to a little voguing femme boy in the Bible Belt being told homosexuality is a sin at school or Church.
This little future RuPaul’s Drag Race Star, seeing a rainbow on their box of fries the next time their homophobic family whips through the local drive-thru with gleaming eyes full of hope is so much more important than my own “moral integrity” against Corporate America.
Yes, it’s laughable to us who experience, live, breathe and participate in big city gay life and help support small queer bookstores and queer-hosted events, but that is a privilege that doesn’t exist everywhere else. More acceptance means, yes, brands will try to capitalize on any hot trends in our flawed capitalist system; and the LGBTQ community is hot, hot, hot!
I am a democratic socialist at heart and totally believe we need to dismantle our capitalist society built on the backs of discrimination of women and black people and other people of color. However, when basic necessities of democracy are crumbling — now is not the time to protest a mostly gay-hosted event.
More acceptance also means more awareness. Ellen for Covergirl, or Laverne Cox in a fashion ad doesn’t mean LGBTQ culture is being stolen — it’s that we are now being included. In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have to participate in the problematic corporate structure. Despite this, we should still show up for all of the kids and teens of all colors, creeds and identities growing up who are not seeing positive queer role models in their daily life.
This worldwide amplification of corporate Pride is something that I can accept for now and definitely be on board with. I personally subscribe to the brand of queerness that says, “Yes! Everyone’s welcomed. Hop aboard the LGBTQIAGNC+ Ship of Rainbows (and Eat at Wendy’s if that’s where we are now, OKAY!”).
I love participating in an event that, while flawed, is inclusive, intersectional and more welcoming than usually anywhere else at any other time. To me, that’s what is important about Pride every year.
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