Saturday, June 29, 2019

Pride and parades

LGBT+ Pride is about a lot of things, and even within our LGBT+ communities we don’t always agree with each other about what those things are. In fact, we have people in our communities who reject the very need for Pride Parades at all, or who say they’re “embarrassed” by them. Even so, it’s neither kind nor helpful when our adversaries belittle our very right to feel pride or to have a parade, and they often do that. One of our adversaries’ favourite old stunts is about to be revived, yet again, and it’s as offensive as ever.

In August, Boston may have to endure a “straight pride parade”. It is a massive trolling operation, stupid, childish, and offensive. As a veteran of the fight for social and legal equality for LGBT+ people, it would be natural to expect that I might be deeply offended by the whole “straight pride” nonsense, but I’m not. I feel sorry for them, sure, and shake my head at their shallowness, but if they want to act like idiots, that’s their business—and their own idiocy to wear—as long as they act entirely within the law, of course.

In the case of the “parade”, the city has no choice but to issue a permit for the “parade”. Boston’s mayor, Martin J. Walsh, explained it on Twitter:
I know everyone has read the news about the "Straight Pride Parade" group that's looking to host a parade in Boston. We want to clear a few things up.

First, Boston's values are clear: respect, diversity, and acceptance of all. As Mayor, I'm proud to host our annual Pride Week, where our city comes together to celebrate the diversity, strength and acceptance of our LGBTQ community.

Second, permits to host a public event are granted based on operational feasibility, not based on values or endorsements of beliefs. The City of Boston cannot deny a permit based on an organization's values.

This "Straight Pride Parade" doesn't yet have a permit, but is working to amend their application for permits to host a public event.

Whatever outside groups may try do, our values won't change. I invite each and every person to stand with us, and show that love will always prevail. Join us in celebration this Saturday for the @bostonpride Parade and in the fight for progress and equality for all.
Case law—including some very recent cases—is very clear on this: No unit of government can suppress free speech unless they can prove it poses the risk of imminent lawlessness. The possibility that the "parade" might inspire people to go out and commit acts of violence against LGBT+ people—as long as it's outside the "parade"—is not risking imminent lawlessness, and so, cannot legally be suppressed.

However, that doesn't mean that the phoney “parade” has to be treated as legitimate, and the city is free to ignore it after the permit, if any, is issued. There was separate talk by the organisers of having a "straight pride" flag, whatever that is, and having it flown from Boston's city hall, but doing that or not is clearly discretionary under law, and the city doesn't have to fly whatever flag they come up with. City decoration, as a nonofficial flag actually is, can be whatever the city wants.

The organisers know all this, and they're trying it on to push the city as part of what's actually a massive trolling operation (as they always are), and it may very well never happen (they usually never happen—have they ever?). Most of the time the sorts of people proposing a “straight pride” parade are merely seeking publicity and attention, giving the middle finger to LGBT+ people, and/or trying to cause trouble, probably for the first reason.

We know that this is just a stupid stunt because the reason there’s no such thing as “straight pride” is obviously that it’s completely unnecessary: Straight people don’t risk being fired or evicted from a rented home if someone finds out they’re in a relationship with or even—gasp!—married to someone of the opposite gender. Gay people still face that sort of discrimination in most of the USA and most countries in the world (not in New Zealand, not legally, anyway). Straight people are never beaten up or killed for being straight, but that happens to LGBT+ people throughout the world, including New Zealand (and trans* people are murdered at a much higher rate). Straight youth are never rejected by their families and churches merely merely for being straight, but LGBT+ youth often are because they're LGBT+.

All if which is why LGBT Pride is actually about celebrating the fact we’ve survived despite all the attempts to keep us down—or even to kill us. Sure, we’re as proud of living genuine and authentic lives as anyone else would be, but the main thing we’re proud of is that they haven’t defeated us. Straight people have never experienced anything similar.

Having said all that, the reason I’m not offended by the “straight pride” bullshit is simple: I fought long and hard and sacrificed WAY too much for one simple thing, namely, the absolute right of people to live their lives authentically. My fight was to make the world safer for LGBT+ people so they could live their true lives. All of that would be for nothing if I didn’t back the right of pathetic losers to act so petulantly and childishly.

They're definitely “pathetic losers”, too, because we fought hard for our rights, and we paid in blood, sweat and tears—and too often our lives. They had those rights handed to them at birth. They fought for absolutely nothing, but they get all weepy because an oppressed minority fought for and managed to win some of the rights straight people were born with, and because we dare to celebrate what we’ve achieved and our freedom to be fully human. It's their own shallowness and bigotry that makes them pathetic losers.

As the saying goes, though, instead of asking why there’s no “straight pride”, they should thank the universe every damn day that they’ve never needed it, and never will. We can't say that we don't need it, because our rights exist on the edge of a knife.

And THAT is why we march in parades, and why still we need to.

This post is a revised and greatly expanded version of a comment I left on a friend's Facebook post. The graphic up top is a meme that pops up on social media from time to time.

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