The Importance of Pride Parades

by Beverly Greene
August 1996

Happy (belated) pride day (depending on your location in the world). My wife and I attended our very first Pride Day Parade in early August and that got me to thinking about just how important something like this is for the community as a whole, those who attend and those who don't. Coming together in one giant rainbow flag of lives will have lasting effects on all participants and on-lookers.

In the past, the picture history left behind after the numerous gay pride parades were only the pictures of those on the fringes of all forms of society. Before, the only pictures that graced the cover of magazines were of those who were beyond stereotypical, some would say even comical, as they were meant to be. However, these pictures were not taken or portrayed in the humor that they were intended by the subjects, they were seen as a Norman Rockwell of gays and lesbians, painting a clear picture of our "lifestyle" which would confirm the prevalent attitude that gays and lesbians are "abnormal" and "freaks." Slowly, this is changing.

In recent years, we've seen many more pictures which actually do paint a portrait of the gay and lesbian reality. Today, many more magazines, both gay and non, are showing pictures and word portraits of gay and lesbian couples, holding hands after being together for 15 years. The pictures show lesbian and gay youth who look just like anyone's daughter or son. The pictures also show gays and lesbians who look at everyone's grandpa or grandma. This is our reality. We are everyone, everywhere, everything.

So, you may be asking, how does this tie into the gay pride parades? What other time, outside of San Francisco or a gay/lesbian/trans night club will you ever see such a large group of lesbians or gays gathered? Nowhere, except the parades. These parades, held all over the world, give those outside the rainbow community faces, bodies, real people to apply their stereotypes to and realize how much they do not match up. Parades are the one major time that gays and lesbians of all races, ages, and social classes come together in one giant group. By coming together in such large numbers at parades, those who see the people marching see people who could be (and just might be) their mother, father, sister, brother, wife, husband, friend, or coworker. It is always easier to hate faceless masses than it is to hate individual people with names, lives, and families.

Now, of course, I'm not saying that the parades have the power to stop or even decrease hate crimes. People who commit such horrid crimes obviously have no sympathy for fellow human beings or themselves to begin with. But, if a parade can make one person think about the horrible things they joke about, say to people on the street, or feel regarding lesbians and gays, then I believe marching in the summer heat was well worth it.

I know I've talked about how important it is to make people around us re-examine their thoughts and feelings about homosexuality/bisexuality, but I just can not stress this enough. It's been proven over the years time and again that people have more sympathy, compassion and understanding for people with faces that they can see. Hateful words can really hurt the person they are aimed at, and sometimes, the idiot saying them may not believe that what they say really does hurt someone, or they may believe falsely that the person "asked for" or "deserves it." If we can show them faces, both in our everyday lives and in parades as a community, then perhaps just one person will say, "Hey! That fag looks like my dad! What if..." and get themselves really thinking about the fact that it could have been their dad that someone was beating up, screaming crude things at, etc.

Another wonderful thing about the parades is the sheer number of people. Many people want to sweep our demands for equal rights under the rug with the excuse that there just aren't enough of us to be demanding anything from them. Some people just make themselves feel "safe" from homosexuality "striking" anyone around them because they feel that we are so few and far between but just hang out together to give the illusion of larger numbers. I have also talked to people who believe that gays and lesbians are only out if they are they are outed by force (emotional or otherwise) because they were very stereotypically gay or lesbian and that no one would choose to be out if they could pass for being heterosexual. In fact, they went as far as to tell me that we should try to at least pass for heterosexual and have no right to be openly gay or lesbian. While we all know that this is the stupidest idea ever and that our degree of "outness" should be a personal choice which we can feel comfortable with, perhaps by seeing so many happily out lesbians and gays in a parade who probably don't look like the gays and lesbians they have heard about or seen on TV, these people might begin to realize that we have every right to be proud of who we are, and being gay or lesbian is a part of our whole individual selves.

We all gain from gay pride parades, whether we are in one or not. Those of us who get to march are surrounded by our brothers and sisters and get to bask in acceptance and community pride. Those around us get to see how happy we are being who we are and how normal we really are. Hopefully as my wife and I marched hand in hand with all of the other gays and lesbians in the Vancouver, BC (the Canadian San Francisco of sorts) that we made at least one person stop and think twice the next time they went to say something derogatory to someone on the street just like me.

Beverly Greene, 21, is from British Columbia, Canada. She can be reached online at: poetica@Unix.infoserve.net.
©1996 Oasis Magazine. All Rights Reserved.