Why Pride still matters

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We made amazing progress over the last few decades when it comes to queer rights, acceptance & visibility. So much that some people might wonder if we really still need pride parades. Here are some arguments why we do:

1. Pride commemorates our history

In 1969, it was illegal for LGBT people to congregate at a bar, or for bars to serve LGBT people. The Mafia-owned Stonewall Inn, located in New York’s Greenwich Village, was one of the few places LGBT people could get a drink or hang out. Even there, life wasn’t easy: Police frequently raided the bar, issuing fines and violently arresting patrons. In the early morning of June 28th, 1969, a black trans woman named Marsha Johnson struck back by throwing a shot glass at police officers.

This act of resistance, known today as the “shot glass heard around the world,” kicked off days of rioting as LGBT people rose up against the police system’s brutality and bigotry. A month later, Brenda Howard, a bisexual woman, helped plan the first Christopher Street Liberation Day March near the site of the riots. And while the LGBT civil rights movement has made great strides in the decades since then, we’re still far from true freedom and equality – which is why we should never forget where and how Pride celebrations started.

2. People are still attacked because of their real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity

Threats, violence and harassment against queer people happen every day, including during Prides. In a number of countries, events can’t go ahead without heavy police presence. In 2015, while 250 people were peacefully demonstrating during Pride in Kyiv, Ukraine, counter-demonstrators violently attacked the parade and left 10 people injured. In many countries, including in Ukraine, crimes perpetrated because of someone’s real or perceived or sexual orientation or gender identity are not prosecuted as hate crimes, and sometimes they’re not investigated at all.

Homophobic and transphobic hate crimes have a devastating impact on LGBTI communities. The fear of being targeted pushes people to hide their identity. When attackers go unpunished it spreads distrust towards the police and the courts. What’s more, these hate crimes are under-reported, which means people don’t get the protection they urgently need.

3. Prides are an opportunity to challenge homophobic and transphobic legislation

LGBTI rights activists have been prevented from holding Pride events in Moscow, Russia, since 2006 – and following a decision of the Moscow City Court in 2012, for the next 100 years. In addition, a federal bill prohibiting the promotion of “non-traditional sexual relationships” to minors was passed in 2013. In short, the law now bans LGBTI activism and support groups and punishes people for expressing their sexual orientation and their gender identity, including at Pride events.

However, some hope is emerging, as in recent years people in Saint-Petersburg were able to celebrate the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. The relentless commitment of Russian LGBTI activists to organising a Pride is not only about the event itself, it’s also a brave defiance against Russia’s unjust laws curbing freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly.

4. Rights can never be taken for granted

Even in countries where in the past Pride events were allowed to go ahead, we cannot take things for granted. In Istanbul, the Turkish authorities decided to ban Pride, even though parades have taken place since 2003 without incident. Despite the ban, 5,000 peaceful participants gathered but were dispersed by police forces using tear gas, pepper-ball projectiles and water cannons. This appalling backlash is unfortunately one in a long series of harsh restrictions on the right to peaceful assembly, but it was still a shock in a country where last year’s Pride attracted up to 90,000 people.

5. Prides contribute to changing hearts and minds

Change is possible, even when homophobic and transphobic attitudes exist. When 70 LGBTI activists marched in the streets of Riga, Latvia, for the very first Pride event in 2005, they were met by over 2,000 counter-protestors, and many of them were attacked. Ten years on, more than 5,000 people took part in EuroPride 2015, with only 40 counter-protestors and no serious incidents reported. “The marchers as well as the people watching us were happy, many of them were waving hands,” said Rupert, an activist from Germany, who also took part in one of the first Prides in Riga.

Similarly, after being banned three years in a row, Belgrade Pride in Serbia took place successfully in recent years. In both instances the event went ahead peacefully and according to the organisers’ plan, with proper protection from the police. This sends a strong message to the local population as well as other cities and neighbouring countries. It demonstrates a commitment from authorities to uphold LGBTI rights and shows that activism can bring change.

6. Prides are empowering

Pride events aren’t about approval but acceptance. They are about human rights; they empower queer individuals to reclaim the rights and freedoms they are denied, and the public space they are often excluded from. Visibility is crucial, especially when the state and opposition groups go to considerable lengths to put LGBTI people at the margins of society.

Fighting shame and social stigma, and marching in the face of threats and violence – Pride parades are not only inspiring celebrations of difference but also a declaration of intent. Through these events, demonstrators assert that they will not to be intimidated, that they will continue to demand equality, and that LGBTI rights are human rights.

Before you knock it, just think about the middle school kid for whom going to a Pride event is a dream because they’re so excited to get to be themselves somewhere without fear of judgment. Think about the elderly gay man for whom pride is a reminder of how far we’ve come. Think about these people (and more) before you think solely about what Pride means to you.

Comments 16

  1. Pride started with political protests and were necessary to bring LGBTQ rights to light. Now it is not so much about protest as it is a celebration of what we have accomplished.
    Also let us not forget that there are western countries like Russia that still discriminate against queer people.
    It was only one supreme court decision that legalized gay marriage in the US, and it only takes one more decision to reverse it. It doesn’t take much to loose everything so we must remain ever vigilant and continue pushing forward.

  2. In 1969 Stonewall was hardly one of the”few” places gays could meet up and hang out. There were gay bars all over New York. But even better, it was very easy to link up with some beauty at many venues ON THE STREETS without the need for even setting foot inside a bar. If your desire was to have sex with a beauty then the 60s was a golden era. It is not without reason that Dr. John Money titled one of his interviews in the 1990s “We are Entering the New Sexual Dark Ages”.
    Gays who think things are better today for sex are living in some kind of Orwellian trance.
    “The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became the truth.” -George Orwell

  3. Most of these are arguments from pride activists, one is even about prides for their own prides’ sake. There are many other ways today to achieve equal rights and respect, and some are much more effective than infuriating homophobes with provoking attire.

    A direct personal talk has been proven to change their minds durably, more than any pride or TV documentary, for instance.

    There is still a lot of work even in the U.S., to change minds, to fight the “gay panic” [il]legality, all the homo or transphobic state legislations, etc. Prides can play their part, but working directly on the field with legislators, talking to your representative or senator works better.

    Plus, I am allergic to all forms of commemorations, so that first argument did not work for me! As for the rest, making strawberry preserve is probably just as effective to reduce the number of homophobic attacks. As long as it’s organic.

    There are really no studies to support most of these claims, it’s pretty obvious to everybody that people waving hands at prides were not homophobes with a sudden change of heart by just watching a pride, they were of course already sympathetic to gay rights. No, homophobes were born this way, you can’t convert them from dumb to smart! ;)

    That being said, I totally support prides, especially when they are threatened or illegal, even if they’re not my thing. Just like I support drag queens or bears. I think such public exposure is great, especially for kids who may not otherwise be exposed to such realities of life.

    Now, back to these strawberries scavenged from the food store…

  4. A wonderful article and hope not too many ‘get carried away’ with their endless blurb of crap and just enjoy everything good about Pride 🍭

    1. Exactly! I was a grown man when I went on my first Pride march in London but I still remember the feelings of exhilaration, excitement and of finally being myself that were present on that day. It is too easy to get jaded and forget the many people, young and old, for whom coming out is still new and who value the shared experience of what can be an amazing day.

  5. I think the final final paragraph in the article sums it all up perfectly :

    > Before you knock it, just think about the middle school kid for whom going to a Pride event is a dream because they’re so excited to get to be themselves somewhere without fear of judgment. Think about the elderly gay man for whom pride is a reminder of how far we’ve come. Think about these people (and more) before you think solely about what Pride means to you.

  6. I think there are two primary ways the “hearts and minds” of societies can and will change in any definite levels:

    1) The discovery of a loved one that is gay within a family structure — whether he/she came out voluntarily or otherwise.

    2) The most helpful purpose of the Pride parades are to show societies the numbers of gays among them — and their increasing numbers.

    The vast majority of societies usually start “thinking twice” about homosexuality and homophobia when a relative — particularly a close relative, and even more so with a “popular” relative — either comes out voluntarily (preferred) or even if outed by another family member or within their environment [school, employment].

    Pride parades are very useful to continually show the increasing numbers of gays within their particular community/society — and even more when smaller communities start having their own Pride celebrations in various ways — not just parades, but also social events put together by school groups (usually off-campus at this time for most places) and other commonality groups. It becomes even more difficult to deny the rights of an increasing number of gays that show themselves in public. Also, these celebrations/events are great for showing that the gays are hardly just the ‘measly’ 3-8% [depending on which lie the churches are trying to shove down the throats of their donating societal members] of any general population — they and reliable polls show they are easily within the numbers of 15-20% of any given society and most probably even greater — approaching 25% — and these increasing polls are proving this correct. It’s only a matter of time (in USA) for the younger gays to start coming out in increasing numbers by the time they are just 13 years old and just like the forced heterosexuality here, will start their romantic pursuits at younger ages.

      1. NO, it’s YOU who’s delusional — EXACTLY like your delusion that humans aren’t having more sex in today’s societies than before. You keep falling for the absolute BULLSHIT of the churches and a few really stupid feminists.

        It’s YOU who needs to WAKE UP to REALITY.

      2. Wordworth:
        “Gay males are nowhere near 25%”

        First, I didn’t say “gay males” …. I said GAYS (which include females and trans* as well) and I said they (all genders) could very well APPROACH 25% of a given population/society.

        Learn how to read properly. That’s probably a major reason you’re so delusional about feminism — you THINK you read an article, but you obviously DON’T actually comprehend what’s being written.

        1. Still, most studies point to 3-10% max, including the whole LGBT spectrum, probably around 4% for LG only, nowhere approaching 25, 20 or even 10%, we would be so lucky: Most cute guys are straight! ;)

      3. Woodward, Chimel [and others who think similarly]:
        “Still, most studies point to 3-10% max, including the whole LGBT spectrum,”

        Both of you are totally deluded. Those numbers are supported and INFLUENCED by churches and the religious “community” because that allows them to continue the bullshit and brainwash the general society so that they can keep the LGBT community on the fringes and therefore marginalize them as much as possible.

        Allow me to [this one time only] PROVE TO YOU that those numbers are pure bullshit — in no less than 3 ways:

        1. What about the tens of millions of ‘minors’ — under 18 and even 21 that have NOT responded to (nor would respond to) any of those bullshit “polls” that ARE gay?

        2. What about the tens of millions of elderly that ARE gay and couldn’t be bothered to respond (nor would respond to) to said “polls”?

        2. What about the tens of millions of otherwise non-engaged in any social means that ARE gay and again, wouldn’t know about/wouldn’t participate in (nor would respond to) any such “polls”?

        And as a bonus:

        3. What about the tens of thousands of those incarcerated in any way who ARE gay but would NOT have responded to (nor would respond to) any such bullshit “polls”

        One last thing: josh reported on an Iranian poll that put their own extreme islam controlled society having approximately 17% homosexual population. If THEY can have such a “liberal count” (as you seem to think), then how would a definitely liberal country [by comparison] such as USA have such a huge difference in those numbers?

        Just the above shows that those small numbers are pure religious brainwashing numbers to continue marginalizing as many in societies as they can get away with.

  7. Totally agree with Kimel. I am, too, mostly unconvinced by these arguments. Even though I am not necessarily against prides, I believe they are far from being the best way to achieve equality and justice for sexual minorities.

    While prides may help to draw attention to “our” numbers, “our” history and “our” cause, they also give the false impression that there is such a thing as “us” (e.g. a well articulated and unified LGBTQ community). And this sense of community just might be straight out false, further hindering sexual minorities from effectively achieving changes in their country’s legislation.

    At least when it comes to gays, what is referred to as a “community” is more of a group of highly competitive and discriminating individuals than an empathetic and supportive family of strangers with common goals and political agendas (with much basis in human nature and evolved male behavior). I highly recommend Michael Hobbes’ Huffington Post article “The Epidemic of Gay Loneliness”, which takes on some of these issues and its consequences on the mental and physical health of gay people.

    To the elderly gay man for whom prides represent the historical accomplishments of our community I would say: read the news, and check the stats, particularly those which point out to gay marriage being irrelevant to depression, addiction and suicide rates among homosexuals. As for the middle-school gay kid, I would recommend him psychological therapy and a healthy life-style. Those will likely help him get through the years to come…more than attending a gay parade at least.

    Seriously, read the article.

  8. 1. — IFF you are in a safe cube, any mass outing is ok. Otherwise, NO so go attend. If you be queer and afraid, you might sneak in and see but never do partake. What if ”the they” see me …. !
    2. — Iff you are safe, attendance to a homo queer event, such as naked bike riding, is ok. Otherwise, no be no way.
    3. — Bike ride as a naked guy is for safe guys. How the hetero public takes it all, as a homo nakedness of males parading around, is not what the typical news is going to tell. We do not know the reacts. the opinions, the majority’s and the powers’ feelings. They see zero.
    4. — NEVER see nor hear on public tv nor radio ANYTHING to do with any homo demonstrate. Most queer stuff is to the queer and of not the nightly news. BEING there of the odd event is nice. The future is another thing.

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