Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Prideful Thoughts...

June is LGBT Pride month in many cities around the world.  So as the rainbow flags fly along Market Street in downtown San Francisco, on the Social Conservative Right wing,  something else springs  up as well.   The annual debate on why are Gay Pride celebrations acceptable but. "Straight Pride" celebrations are not.

This year in particular we are seeing some remarkable reactions to the recent advances in LGBT civil rights, especially in the United States.  But certainly the US is not alone in having its share of folks who are convinced that equal rights for people they don't like is somehow an attack on them.  An Australian couple are so upset at the idea of possible marriage equality for Gays Lesbians that they have publicly threatened to divorce should same sex marriage become legal down under. (hat tip to joemygod..)

Nick Jensen, who posed with his wife Sarah on the cover of the latest issue of Canberra CityNews, writes of the Christian couple’s decision to end their marriage under the headline, “Gay law change may force us to divorce”.

"My wife and I just celebrated our 10-year anniversary. But later this year, we may be getting a divorce. The decision to divorce is not one we’ve taken lightly. And certainly, it’s not one that many will readily understand. And that’s because it’s not a traditional divorce. Our view is that marriage is a fundamental order of creation. Part of God’s human history. Marriage is the union of a man and a woman before a community in the sight of God. And marriage of any couple is important to God regardless of whether that couple recognises God’s involvement or authority in it."

- Nick Jansen, writing for Canberra's City News. Jansen adds that he and his future ex-wife will continue to live together.

It's very  easy  to laugh at wackjobs like the  Jansens,  or the  various American Talabangelicals  who are shrieking hysterically how an anticipated US Supreme Court ruling on Same Sex marriage  will result in nothing less than some sort of  Gay,   Nazi... apocalypse.


Setting aside the fact that allowing same sex couples the same legal rights as opposite sex couples doesn't impact Bryan Fischer's life in any way.    Fischer and his assorted ilk in the social conservative wingnutosphere  are doing all they can to flog the talking point that giving equal rights to Gay people is somehow taking rights away  from  them.

Which brings us back to annual debate over the merits of LGBT Pride celebrations. It's a debate that rages both inside and outside the broader LGBTQ-XYZ123-whatever-else-you-want-to-add-on... community. Inside the community the question always gets asked ; does some of the imagery of Pride celebrations hurt the cause of equal rights? In addition, this year in the wake of significant legal victories for LGBT rights, especially around an expected SCOTUS ruling legalizing Marriage Equality for the whole US; Some are asking do we even need pride celebrations anymore?

While on the other side of the debate , critics and opponents love to point to that same imagery as evidence of Gay folks wanting "special rights", and then pull out their favorite chestnut, of asking why are Gay Pride Celebrations acceptable but Straight Pride celebrations are not?   The debate is also in full swing on social  media.   With some people adopting a straight "pride logo" as a response to rainbow flag or red and white equal signs.

Seriously??  It's like asking why isn't there a "White History Month".  It's always interesting to see people who have never faced  discrimination based on their sexual orientation, claim any sort of recognition of the dignity of people who have faced that discrimination , is somehow an attack on them.

I think a fundamental question here is what is the actual purpose of  Gay  Pride celebrations in 2015?   Is it "celebrating" being LGBT?   Is it (as it was originally), a protest to fight bigotry  and discrimination?   Or is it a bit of both?   In truth,  Pride celebrations are more than all that.  They are a message.  Sent to those  who are not actually there attending those celebrations.

I remember the first Pride event I ever attended.  It was Chicago's  pride parade in 1998.    I had recently moved to Chicago,  and had not yet  had the "coming out talk" with my own family.   I lived on the North side of in the city in the Lakeview neighbourhood.  An area known as "Boystown". As it was centre of Chicago's LGBT Community. 

My reasons for attending the parade that day were not to "celebrate" the fact that I was a Gay man, who finally had come to terms with my own sexuality;  But rather to do for someone else what Pride participants years past had done for me.  Send a clear and very public message that being who you are is ok,  and there  really was life outside the "closet."

The truth is, Pride celebrations are not for the people who attend them. Instead they are for the people who cannot attend them. Growing up as a Gay kid in a small town in South Central Wisconsin, there were times when I was convinced I was the only gay person on Earth. The constant message from popular culture, religion, family and peer groups was "boy meets girl, they fall in love, get married (or not) and have kids (or not) and live happily ever after". There was no happily ever after for someone who felt what I was feeling.

Then, in  June, I would turn on the TV News and see thousands of people...  just like me, in places like New York, San Francisco and Chicago saying "No, that's not true, you are not alone, and there is a big wide world out here beyond Sun Prairie Wisconsin. So hang in there .... we're here and we're waiting for you!" 

Pride Celebrations are the original  "It Gets Better Project". 

So  "straight pride" isn't  bigoted, it's just silly.   No straight kid growing up was told that being heterosexual was evil, or that God was going to send them to hell, for  wanting to be happy and fall in love.  Growing up,  how many books, songs, television programs, and movies  did you see that  featured  straight couples meeting,  falling in love and living happily ever after?   Pretty much all of them.   Ask someone who is Gay and  was born before say... 1990,  how many  positive images in popular culture they had  growing up that affirmed who they are?  The answer is, none, or at best few,  if any at all.

To my Straight friends,  I have to ask,  how many times have "respected" public figures, politicians, pundits and clergy gone on national television demanding that everyone be given the chance to VOTE on your civil rights?  How often has someone told you that not being able to discriminate against you was somehow an attack on them?  When was the last time  you heard a member of the Supreme Court saying that simply by being allowed to exist, you were "an attack" on the moral fibre of America?

Anyone??   Yeah...I didn't think so... I have a flash of the obvious for you, every month is "Straight Pride Month."   Saying LGBT people are human too, isn't an attack on straight people.  
My straight friends never needed to be told that being straight was  okay, and that they were okay   because nobody ever told them they weren't.   Pride isn't about celebrating being Gay, it's  about publicly showing that being  LGBT  is just as much a part of the  human experience as being straight is.    I for one would love to see the day when Pride is obsolete. When that scared closeted  kid,   doesn't need to be told that he or she is fine just the way they are. 
But until that day comes, my husband and I will be adding our voices to the joyous mob in places like Market Street in San Francisco, Oxford Street and Trafalgar Square here in London, Halsted Street in Chicago and Fifth Avenue in New York City. If for no other reason to let that kid know, it really does get better. There is a world where "boy meets boy" and "girl meets girl", where they fall in love and (if they want to) get married, and yes, even live happily ever after...

Happy Pride Everyone.

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