Pride Parades in 2020: How can Pride Grow?

In this time of COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine, many Pride celebrations have been rescheduled or downright canceled. Now, more than ever, it feels like the world is changing and so are we as people and communities. A question that has been frequently raised among the LGBTQIA+ community as a whole, is the shift in culture of Pride, namely: is Pride becoming too sexual and are we losing the essence of Pride? To have an educated discussion about that though, we have to begin to dive in to all the things that make Pride, Pride. I think it goes without saying, but it deserves being said: this is a non-exhaustive list of the things that make Pride so special, and if you have things to add, please do! 

Above all, I think that Pride is a combination of things varying from celebration, to honor, to resistance and everything in between. I think Pride can be to honor those we lost during Stonewall and remember everyone who changed the course of LGBTQIA+ history. I also think Pride can be continuing to push our societies and governments against the heteronormative, racist, rich, patriarchal structures deep within our society created with acceptance for discrimination. Lastly, I think that Pride can be about an expression of how far we have come, who we are, and everything we have to celebrate with all the nuances and colors of our rainbow. Pride gives us one parade, one day, one week, one month, to finally, hopefully, exist and exist loudly. So, as we raise the question of if Pride is over-sexualized, keep in mind the many other possible definitions that other people may have for Pride.

This has been a conversation in – and out of – the LGBTQIA+ community. Is Pride over sexualized, should we put limitations on it, what is the true purpose of Pride and do we continue to keep Pride as that primary purpose, or can it shift and change? On one hand, we deserve to celebrate how far we’ve come and who we are and what makes us who we are, even if that means it’s sexual. On the other, are we feeding into the narrative that homosexuality is synonymous with being a sexual predator when we give it such value at Pride? Lastly, is sexualizing Pride disrespectful to everyone who has died and given everything to the fight for all of our rights? It’s too personal to say for every person in the LGBTQIA+ community, but while there is an importance in holding the essence Pride began with, it’s also important to note that as founder of Josh Van Sant says, for a lot of people, their “identity is BDSM [or other kinks], and that’s part of their identity.” Keeping this in mind, who are we to tell them that they are not welcome at Pride when the whole point of Pride is acceptance of how people love and care for each other consensually.

It’s also important to note however, that the inclusion of sexualization on large scales can, while making those people feeling included, could make other people feel excluded, such as people who don’t fit the “mold” of the objectified body type that we see in all media. Comparingly, would allowing Pride to be over-sexualized create an unsafe place for eating disorder survivors as well? And it would be irresponsible to have a conversation about the sexualization of Pride and not to include the necessity of actively creating a safe space for all members of the LGBTQIA+ community, including asexuals. All of these factors are important to take hold of, as we have the conversation of how to create a safe space for everyone who is taking part in Pride.

Along this vein, how family friendly should Pride be? Should Pride show children the type of world that we can have someday, or should it be to continue to make the world uncomfortable, to show what we deserve and demand? If Pride should be to make the world uncomfortable, shouldn’t children still be able to see that so they can learn the importance of fighting for your rights? Josh Van Sant says yes, that “Pride was never about people being comfortable. It was about people who are on the peripheral of society coming forward. I would never want us to have to stop changing because of heteronormative values of what normality should look like.”* We shouldn’t let the world shape what normal has to be for our community and our collective experiences. There’s a beauty in allowing growth and change.

I think that the underlying theme throughout this discussion is the conversation regarding what the purpose of Pride is. Of course, this is impossible to answer finitely. There are so many meanings of Pride and so many things that make it what it is. Not to mention that through history, we have seen the growth and shift of what movements mean and what their purpose is. The Women’s Rights Movement today is very different than it was when it first began, just like the Black Lives Matter movement, and the environmental movement, just to name a few. They all began with very different goals, and as life changed and people shifted and laws were written, movements changed. The LGBTQIA+ rights movement is currently changing into an entirely new wave. So maybe when we talk about what Pride means to us and the over-sexualization of Pride, if there is any, we need to remember that through it all there are cultures, humans, and other intricate factors that will always change this movement into something we can continue to be proud of for generations to come.  

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