PRIDE ’22 – The Culture War
Gay Pride was once about acknowledgment, liberation, and activism. Over the years, pride has changed and become a commercialized stereotype of itself, but it’s time to revisit its original intent as lawmakers mount a cultural war against the LGBTIQ+ community.
Viva La Libertad Gay
It’s 2022 and gay liberation marches have been an annual event for over 50 years now; even before the Stonewall Riots in 1969 when they were originally called “the Annual Reminder”. The term “gay pride” came about in 1970 during the most influential gay march in history. On June 28, 1970, in New York City the first gay pride march was organized to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall uprising – bringing social awakening and change in its wake.
Since then, liberation marches became pride parades and eventually evolved into two- to five-day-long celebrations held worldwide, usually May thru July. WorldPride, the largest of these celebrations, began in 2000 and brings together LGBTIQ+ people from all over the world to “promote visibility and awareness” of issues on an international level through “parades/marches, festivals, and cultural activities such as human rights conferences” (Interpride.org).
Gay Is Nothing New
Although homosexuality is a hot topic for political culture wars and has become a point of contention for religious groups since its introduction in the 1946 Christian Bible, it’s been around since before the changing of the calendar. The word homosexual was first coined in 1868, but the act of same-sex sexual behavior or romantic and sexual attraction between people of the same sex or gender is ancient.
Many historians argue over historical individuals’ sexualities because words did not exist in their time periods to describe the feelings or bonds between members of the same sex or gender beyond friendship or brotherly/sisterly love. Despite the lack of functional vocabulary, historical accounts imply deeper connections that we would describe today as homosexual.
LGBTIQ+ people have existed in plain sight, but have been erased, at least in part, by those that would decry them as sexually deviant. Yet, we still praise their gifts to humanity and culture while denying a quintessential part of their identity – their sexuality, and all the taboo tropes that come with being different in any age of human history. Just to give you an example, here are 10 people that were classifiable LGBTIQ+ from history that I’m sure you’ll recognize:
- Alexander the Great
- Leonardo da Vinci
- William Shakespeare
- Ludwig van Beethoven
- Oscar Wilde
- Virginia Woolf
- Frida Kahlo
We Still Face Erasure
Despite the progressive acceptance of LGBTIQ+ people, recently, the United States has erupted in a new culture war between political parties. From bathroom bans against individuals with gender reassignment to bills that prohibit the direct instruction of LGBTIQ+ history and relationships in grades K-3, citing gay indoctrination and sexualizing of children through support of historical awareness and acceptance of modern-day families – we are constantly under attack and face oppression.
Which raises one essential question in my mind: What is PRIDE for?
Having Pride Can Be Complicated
Being a person who identifies as LGBTIQ+ becomes ever more complicated every year. I’ll be the first to admit that outside of the original acronym LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, and Transgender), I’m not really sure what else there is to describe or why we need so many designations. Our sub-cultures all have sub-cultures now, each with its own set of norms, rules, vocabulary, and expectations.
Gone are the days when an individual was either gay, bi-, or straight. In its place, we near a greater understanding and acceptance of the spectrum of gender and sexuality; a spectrum that we all slide along each day. While the number of categories expands, so does the number of opportunities to find inclusion and feel less pressured to belong to only one category of being.
I’ve personally always believed that human beings are naturally bisexual, but society counsels us to lean toward heterosexuality, otherwise, we rebel and lean hard towards homosexuality. In a black and white world, there is nothing else. But in a spectrum of sexuality and gender identity… there are endless possibilities.
Why else would Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis agree with state Rep. Joe Harding of Williston and state Sen. Dennis Baxley of Ocala by signing into law a bill that would prohibit classroom discussions regarding sexual orientation and gender, if not because they understand that heterosexuality is the original indoctrination that they feel compelled to continue because that’s what indoctrination does?
A young man once asked me, “what is pride for?” He experienced it as just a place for men to meet and hook up. He wondered why so much of gay pride was centered on sexuality. This sentiment is shared by many people, both hetero- and homosexual. They believe that all LGBTIQ+ organizations or events are just excuses to meet other people for sex. An issue we don’t often talk about, but experience is that the common denominator for pride (and LGBTIQ+) is sexuality, so naturally, it’s going to be a sexually charged event.
Even if it’s a family-friendly event, it’s still going to be sexually charged – its theme is sexuality and gender identity after all. Since we are a minority group, we are often accused of being hyper-sexual, however, I’ve seen plenty of family-friendly, heterosexual concerts, movies, and events that were equally sexually charged, but not criticized in the same way for it. Similar to how in mainstream straight culture men sleep around and are praised for their sexual voracity, yet women are slut-shamed for the same action.
Denial of this doesn’t make it any less true, and there are of course exceptions to the rule as all human beings differ so do their levels of libido and intentions. But it has to be said. Sex and sexuality being the basis for our community lead to a sexually charged atmosphere regardless of the intent. Is that a bad thing?
Pride v. Shame
Sex and sexuality are major parts of being human. Families would not exist if not for sex, and why is it that sex has the negative connotations that it does anyway? Human myths, legends, and stories tend to revolve around love, loss, and sex more than any other subject or concept.
Part of the issues that exist within our modern-day society is much to do with sex and its, still, taboo existence. We recognize it’s a biological need (but don’t accept it), we see that monogamy is not as easy as we are made to believe because sex and romantic love are not mutually exclusive partners, and we are shown (at least in the United States) that even masturbation is a shameful act.
I think of pride and shame as praise (reward) and punishment. The powerful take pride in traits that they value and show shame towards traits that they don’t. Men and women, white and black, straight and gay – all the groups that have power maintain the status quo through indoctrination of each new generation, which includes oppression of the other half. Oppression is sometimes clear and deliberate, like legislation against a minority group, but sometimes it’s subtle like a reaffirming smile at the sight of a male child forcefully kissing a female child that tries to escape his embrace.
Pride Is For The Brave…
For many, gay pride has become a profit-generating opportunity focused on retail, food, and alcohol sales, and for many others it’s a huge, fun, gay party where people can flaunt their sex-positive outfits and bodies, and break social conventions. Celebrations are littered with vendors and corporate sponsors that support the events expecting an ROI via increased sales year over year for their brands. Gay Pride slowly loses its potency as its meaning becomes watered down with capitalist ambitions and overshadowed with pure lustful intent.
What brought LGBTIQ+ people together originally was the need for a community to keep us safe from the majority in power. As the world’s population increases, so do the number of human beings that see themselves in various places on the spectrum of sexuality outside of being hetero- or even homosexual. As sexuality becomes less one or the other and more of a spectrum, the powerful are losing their influence over the next generation – which they believe to be their legacy. Sexualities and races are mixing, genders are no longer binary, and people are less concerned with outdated ideas of us versus them.
Gay pride, no… pride is about so much more. It’s about our history and its erasure. It’s about our right to exist. It’s about unraveling the human experience and sharing it with others to benefit humanity’s future. It’s about the spectrum of sexuality and embracing every highlight and shade there within it. It’s about body positivity. It’s about individual identity. It’s about social justice. It’s about love. It’s about sex. It’s about change.
Pride is for the few brave enough to stand separate from the many. It’s about acceptance of one’s self and the annihilation of shame for being what we naturally are – human.Tweet
Let It Be Known
During my research into gay history for this post and other similar projects, I came across a Dutch artist and writer named Willem Arondeus (1894-1943 AD). Willem identified as homosexual and joined the Dutch Resistance against the German Nazi occupation of The Netherlands. In 1943, he led an attack with other homosexual resistance fighters on the Citizen Registration Building of Amsterdam to cripple the Nazis’ ability to track the movements of populations they sought to control which included homosexuals. That year, he and his friends were betrayed to the Nazis regime. Willem was sentenced to death and executed, his last words being, “Let it be known that homosexuals are not cowards.”
Groups in power will always seek to oppress others to maintain their power. We must not allow our history and contributions to humanity to be erased and undermined. We must continue to empower those without power, raise those that are downtrodden, and promote acceptance and understanding for all human beings.
Thank you for your courage, Willem. This homosexual will not let you down.
Support Local LGBTIQ+ Organizations
The Treasure Coast Youth Alliance, founded under PFLAG of the Treasure Coast
The Treasure Coast Youth Alliance was a youth group developed under PFLAG of the Treasure Coast to serve LGBTIQ+ tweens and teens and Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) in local area middle and high schools. It lasted two years, then dissolved due to inadequate volunteer staffing. As one may imagine, working with youth can be tricky. All the more tricky when working with LGBTIQ+ youth, some of whom were not yet out of the closet or still discovering their own sexual orientation and gender identity. Finding trustworthy leaders to support this cause was impossible, for a time.
Since then, a new organization, The Sanctuary, has grown on the Treasure Coast and has built a membership of volunteers that want to work with and support tweens, teens, and adults of all ages in their pursuit of a happy and socially connected life with meaningful relationships.
Please consider becoming a donor to The Sanctuary to support their goals of creating a community center for LGBTIQ+ individuals on the Treasure Coast.
This year, enjoy Pride, get involved in activism to protect your rights and let yourself consider all the possibilities that exist within the spectrum of being human.