Pride is an amazing month when people across the LGBTQ+ spectrum (and their many allies) have the privilege of celebrating who they are as a community. I love so many things about Pride, and am conflicted about many others. While I recognize that it is my American privilege to be able to rant about how Pride impacts and troubles me, I think it is important to have open conversations around these topics. I know that if I feel some type of way – others may as well. Again, this is not me being ungrateful for Pride – this is me wondering how it impacts the perception of our community.
On the one hand, I see Pride as a beautiful celebration. There are countless events, parades, and parties across the country (sometimes in states and cities that deal with significant LGBTQ+ opposition). Despite the adversity our community constantly faces, thousands of people come together in an authentic way and literally let their rainbow flags fly. It’s as if the inhibitions and repressions deeply entrenched in so many of us are suddenly non-existent, and we can just be in a crowd of friends and perfect strangers. I love that – and there is something to say for how the images, videos, and firsthand experiences of Pride build a cohesion in our community and publicizes that cohesion to the world.
On the other hand, I personally feel very detached from Pride celebrations. What I see and have experienced over the years during Pride often makes me feel like even more of an outcast in my own community. Certainly, I can appreciate that there are specific hallmarks of the modern queer experience that unite us. For instance, a rainbow flag is as significant to commemorate a Pride event as an American flag is to a Fourth of July event. But why, I wonder, is everyone seemingly competing over how naked they can be? Yes – I can get on board with body positivity and perhaps how nudity is symbolic of a queer liberation or defiance of the years of repression many of us have tolerated. But also, let’s keep it real, most people are doing it for the attention.
It’s this, and so many other things, that I feel detract from what could be a more uniting time for our community. I wonder – do I need to be voguing down a street in rainbow booty shorts screaming “yassss” with 150 strangers? Must I homogenize myself to celebrate my community? What if I really like being gay but don’t feel represented by the dozens of (admittedly lovely) drag queens hired as figures during these events? What if I don’t like the 8 artists they keep hiring to perform at these things – many of whom are straight and teeter on the line of appropriating and profiting off of a community they aren’t a part of? Again, I understand that there is significance to different aspects of these generalizations. For instance, voguing evolving from the queer-driven Harlem ballroom scene and mainstream artists bringing an even wider exposure to gay causes. I get it.
I guess my trouble with Pride is I feel like it is very one note. At work, I was part of a committee that was asked to generate content around Pride month. Again, a blessing that I work somewhere so supportive. But we start talking about pride – the Stonewall Riots, a handful of LGBTQ+ organizations, and the cultural force of Ru Paul’s Drag Race. These things are all important to know, and they all accomplish(ed) amazing things. But I end up feeling so detached. These things feel so distant from what it’s like for me to be an out gay man in my daily life. I know many will say – Lex – this is just your internalized shame. You don’t like “gay things” because of your internalized shame, and you are an asshole and elitist for distancing yourself from what unites so many of us.
But genuinely, I don’t think it’s internalized shame that makes me feel distant. I appreciate a lot of what is happening during Pride. Even if so much of it is not for me, I can respect that it makes so many others happy and brings them together. What makes me feel distant is simply the fact that what the community and businesses have generalized as ways to express Pride are not inclusive of what I personally feel represent me. I’m not mad at a beer company selling to us with rainbow-fied logos and Meghan Trainor entertaining us in a rainbow skirt, but at the end of the day, that’s just business. As these events go more and more in the direction of commercialization and homogeneity, I worry that our community will also be perceived as one thing from the outside – which continually boxes us in.
These are issues I’ve discussed many times before. Gay people are assumed to be so many things. In an extreme and single-sentence example, one popular stereotype is that we are all well-dressed, well-groomed, energetic, pop-culture obsessed, voguing therapists to straight women with first world problems. I worry that Pride drives so many of those stereotypes home, without providing an opportunity to showcase the different (namely, boring) lifestyles of the majority of us out there. Again, no shade to drag queens and performers, you are very much an important part of the story.
But I wonder, where’s the keynote speech at Pride delivered by the LGBTQ+ CEO of a Fortune 500 company? Where are the scientists working every day toward a cure for HIV? Where are the journalists bringing our issues to the forefront in the media? Where are the lawmakers and lawyers fighting every day for our rights? Sure, I bet many of them are at Pride, in a boring float or at a booth. And sure, Pride is a celebration, so I guess the drag queens and performers are better suited than a CEO giving a speech. But in the ruckus of Pride, I feel like so many LGBTQ+ stories get lost. It becomes all about the party, and what you wore (or didn’t), and how much you drank, and who you hooked up with. I don’t have a solution here, and maybe Pride is just the “party” moment for a year full of constant LBGTQ+ progress. I just think it’s important to also use the time to highlight the extreme variety of people and lifestyles that make up our community. Perhaps if we do so, more people will feel a part of it.