Got Pride?There has been a lot of talk lately on many of the blogs about whether New York City's Gay Pride celebration has run its course. Has it lost its importance? Many of the blogs site a New York Observer article cleverly titled Goodbye Mr. Chaps which examines the issue of the dwindling popularity of the Gay Pride Parade among white, affluent gay men in New York. While I question the reporter's choice to survey patrons of Chelsea's G Lounge, a bar that has always appealed to a very specific kind of elitist crowd (why not walk around the corner to Rawhide or down the street to Gym for a more accurate sampling?), he makes a point about a certain indifference among New Yorkers toward Gay Pride. And to a large extent it's true, I understand his point.
You see, we're lucky in New York. We live in one of the easiest cities in the world to be Gay. We're everywhere, in every neighborhood, we don't have to hide, we have laws protecting us. In a sense, we've achieved what those rioters at Stonewall wanted back in 1969. So, maybe our inclination to wave a flag is not quite as enthusiastic as it once was, simply because it doesn't need to be. Also, New Yorkers exhibit pride in different ways. When we can freely sit at a sidewalk cafe sharing a romantic dinner with our partner, or mix at a straight cocktail party or discuss our lifestyle freely with co-workers without fear of prejudice, are we not proud?
The article also goes on to say that the Pride Parade has become increasingly ethnic and that's what's keeping the rich, white gay folks away, essentially calling them racist. I'm not sure that's quite the reason. But could it possibly be that gay men and women in communities of color experience more prejudice than those in white mainstream culture do nowadays and therefore feel more of a need to come out and celebrate their Pride than their white counterparts? The parade was once almost exclusively white, but now the movement has spread to other communities. So isn't that a positive thing? New York Pride also attracts a huge tourist demographic. Gay men and women from Pennsylvania, Ohio, Delaware or other places where they can't be as visible as we are lucky to be here in New York come out to express their Pride as well. For many of them, it's the only time of year they can really do so.
Also in his article, John Koblin waxes nostalgic about the days when the gay community had a unifying cause to bring us out to Pride. Another valid point. In the 70s and early 80s the Pride Parade was simply about visibility: We're here and we're not going away. After we established that, in the late 80s and 90s we had AIDS to unify us, once again, to make ourselves visible to a government who was ignoring the issue and later to march for those who were no longer here to do so. But due to major advancements in AIDS treatment and medications, thankfully, this cause is not quite as pressing as it once was for the gay community. So, our focus has shifted to another cause, that of gay marriage. The difference between this cause and the other two is that marriage is about assimilation, not visibility. We are now fighting to live our lives quietly and peacefully with the same legal rights as any other tax paying American. It's not about flag waving.
One other piece to this puzzle is that New Yorkers are curmudgeons. We have a parade for everything around here. If it's not St. Patrick's Day, it's the Puerto Rican Day Parade, Columbus Day or Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. To many New Yorkers parades mean crowds, noise, garbage and traffic jams. We're jaded. It's kind of our job. I'll admit I'm one of these New Yorkers. I usually plan to be out of town for Pride weekend. But I lived on Christopher Street for 7 years in the 90s. I hosted the brunches, had people hanging off my fire escape to watch the parade and even did the Pier Dance. In a sense I feel like I've done my Pride thing.
Now I choose to go to New Jersey's Pride Parade in Asbury Park. There's a fledgling gay community still taking shape there. In a sense I feel they need the support more than New York. Gay Pride is still about visibility there. Also, I was lucky enough to attend the True Colors concert with Cyndi Lauper at Radio City this week. The event benefits the Human Rights Campaign, and therefore I feel like my support there is going to a group who will further LGBT causes (although I've had some issues with the HRC's actions in the past.) There was a tremendous sense of community pride at the concert that night, one I haven't felt in years at the Gay Pride Parade. So the point is there are many, many ways to celebrate gay pride these days. We don't all necessarily need a brass band. Or go-go boys.