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Irene Monroe: Pride Needs More Diversity, Less Division
2006-07-01

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Pride parades are taking place all over the country. But as we all rev up for this year's festivities, the fault lines of race and class rev up as well. While Pride will be going on, there will be a segment within our population going to Black and Hispanic Pride events.

And oddly enough, the racial divide that is always evident at Pride events across the country shows us something troubling and broken about ourselves as we strive to be a community and movement. It shows us that the spiritual and political life of our movement cannot afford to be fraught or stymied by bigotry, but instead it demands inclusion and constant growth. Our movement and communities call for the varied expressions of the life, gifts and talents of the entire LGBTQ community.

Our gift and our struggle are that we are a diverse community. And our diversity should not dilute our commitment, but rather our diversity should teach us more about its complexity and, by extension, teach the larger society. For many in our heterosexual community, Pride is viewed as a conspicuous parade of unbridled hedonism. And from this community, the event always spawns moral condemnation, fear and homophobia.

For example, World Pride 2005 was postponed. Why? As the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Religious Leadership Roundtable stated in a press release, it was because ' [ h ] omophobia has marginalized people throughout the world, creating places of tyranny and violence toward people who are [ LGBT ] . This event in Jerusalem will be a testament of the solidarity in the movement toward equality, justice and full inclusion for LGBT persons across the globe.'

And just recently, the news was about how the mayor of Moscow flatly refused its LGBTQ denizens a gay pride march, leading to marchers being beaten and arrested.

But let us not forget our homeboy, right-wing televangelist Rev. Jerry Falwell, who shared his views about Pride with the Associated Press in 2000: 'There's a lot of talk these days about homosexuals coming out of the closet. I didn't know they'd been in the closet. I do know they've always been in the gutter.'

But the views on Pride are also mixed inside the LGBTQ communities. For many, Pride is a bone of contention. Once, many thought the celebration was too political and it had lost its vision of what it means for people to just have a good time. But others now think of it as a weekend bacchanalia of drugs, alcohol and unprotected sex during which the history of Pride is desecrated.

But at its core, Pride is about remembrance, thanksgiving and an invitation for community.

As a sign of remembrance, Pride keeps in our minds the 'reparative therapies' to cure our homosexuality, like testicular castration, electroshock therapy and lobotomies. Today we have so-called 'ex-gay' ministries, which aim to 'cure' us of our 'perversion' with the right spiritual dosages of God and damnation.

And let us not forget the summer months of 1998, when the country was hit with an explosion of 'ex-gay' ministry ads that appeared in major newspapers like The New York Times, The Washington Post and USA Today. The ad stated: 'Please, if you, or someone you know or love, is struggling with homosexuality, show them this story. If you truly love someone, you'll tell them the truth. And, the truth that God loves them could just be the truth that sets them free.'

Pride is an act of thanksgiving. It allows us and our heterosexual allies to commemorate the Stonewall Riots of June 27-29, 1969, in New York City's Greenwich Village, an event that sparked our modern queer liberation movement.

Pride is also an invitation for community. It is one of the loci of the ongoing battle in the LGBTQ community for inclusion into mainstream society. And because of the ongoing struggle, Pride challenges society's exclusion of us by inviting everyone to join in the parade. Pride need not be viewed as either a political statement or a senseless non-stop orgy.

Such an 'either/or' viewpoint creates a dichotomy that lessens our understanding of the integral connection between political action and celebratory acts in our fight for our civil rights. Pride is a reminder to us all of how far we have come down the road as a people, but it is also a reminder of how far down the road we still must go.


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