Why do you have GAY PRIDE celebrations?

//Why do you have GAY PRIDE celebrations?

Why do you have GAY PRIDE celebrations?

Everyone has an opinion about a Pride March such as the annual Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras; often very strong opinions. Predictably, conservative Christians condemn it. Rev Fred Nile, leader of the Christian Democratic Party regularly condemns it. In March 2007 his media release read, “I call upon Anthony Venn-Brown and these marchers to withdraw from this blasphemous, obscene parade and not bring the Name of Jesus Christ into disrepute”. He believes that the judgement of God comes on Sydney because of it and each year encourages Christians to pray for rain on the night.

But criticism is not just from those outside the community. Even some gay and lesbian people think it’s not a good thing to have an annual community celebration, particularly marching publicly down a main street. I love the Simpsons episode where Homer has taken the family to see the Pride march. As the marchers pass the family a group are yelling out the slogan. WE’RE HERE! WE’RE QUEER! GET USED TO IT! Lisa yells back WE ARE USED TO IT! YOU’VE BEEN DOING THIS FOR YEARS”.

Whenever someone voices strong opinions against the Mardi Gras parade you can usually guarantee it means one or all of the following.

1. They have never actually seen the parade in its entirety

2.They have never participated in the parade and therefore don’t understand the dynamics of the experience

3. They have no knowledge of the history of the gay community’s parades and celebrations

False assumptions are the result of ignorance and that ignorance has meant that pride celebrations like Mardi Gras, have been labelled blasphemous, immoral, debauched and promoting homosexuality. For many years, because of my own lack of knowledge and experience, I too was a critic.

Let me address each of these three points.

1. They have never actually seen the parade in its entirety

Firstly their judgment is usually based solely on media images of the most outrageous and least dressed entrants. Well of course. That is the media. They always focus on the controversial and sensational. But you have to admit though that the LGBTI community are a creative and colourful bunch and certainly know how to put on a parade.

Secondly, many people think that these parades are a promotion of sex and reinforce stereotypes. But, the parade is actually a promotion of the LGBTI community. That community is diverse and is reflected in the groups that march. Of the thousands that  participate each year many hundreds of individual groups are represented such as religious groups, cultural groups, groups that promote abstinence from drinking and drugs, political and lobby groups, lifestyle and recreational groups, support groups of every shape and size and disabled groups. Along with this you will see corporate groups that promote diversity and service groups such as the police force and gays and lesbians in the military. Parents and Friends of Gays and Lesbians (PFLAG) and gay parents with their children march. 

2. They have never participated in the parade and therefore don’t understand the dynamics of the experience.

Ask anyone who has actually marched in a parade such as Mardi Gras. For the majority of people it is a life transforming experience. You may begin with all sorts of fears and concerns but by the time you’ve reached the end, with all the positive affirmation and cheering, you have an enormous sense of personal and community pride. As I used to say to the Freedom2b group each year we marched. “The person you are at the end of this parade will be very different to the person you were at the beginning. You have been delivered form any last traces of shame or fear that might be lurking in your subconscious.  You will never forget the first time you marched in the Mardi Gras parade and you will look back at it as a significant moment in your journey to letting go of fear and shame and genuinely loving the person you were created to be. Read how profound that experience can be here. A Divine Moment in the Mardi Gras Parade.

3. They have no knowledge of the history of the gay community’s parades and celebrations

To understand Mardi Gras – we really need to understand its history. “It began on June 24, 1978 as a protest march and commemoration of the Stonewall Riots. Although the organizers had obtained permission, this was revoked, and the march was broken up by the police. Many of the marchers were arrested. Although most charges were eventually dropped, the Sydney Morning Herald published the names of those arrested in full, leading to many people being outed to their friends and places of employment, and many of those arrested lost their jobs as homosexuality was a crime in New South Wales until 1982.” [i]

Of those who were arrested and had their names published many lost their jobs and a few suicided as a result. Today, however there is a better understanding of sexuality, society attitudes and laws have changed, equality granted and therefore discrimination on the basis of a person’s sexual orientation is now illegal in this country. Obviously we owe a great deal to those people who marched in the first Mardi Gras. This is the day we celebrate our community and the progress we have made. Just as many historical events are celebrated annually.

Why do you have to have a special day and parade?

This is a criticism we often hear, ‘you are flaunting your sexuality and promoting homosexuality’ some people say. Every year there is a father’s day, mother’s day. Every day of the year around the world we celebrate heterosexual weddings and anniversaries, engagements, baby showers etc, etc. These are all celebrating heterosexuality and their relationships. Surely it is not too much to ask that for just one day a year, we too can celebrate our lives, journeys, culture and history as a community. Some people don’t understand why we have to have Gay Pride. The reason for that is pretty simple; they have never personally experienced gay shame.

When you hear of Gay Pride, remember, it was not born out of a need to celebrate being gay.

It evolved out of our struggle as human beings to break free of oppression and to exist without being criminalized, pathologized or persecuted for being who we are.

Depending on a number of factors, particularly religion, freeing ourselves from gay shame and coming to self-love and acceptance, can not only be an agonising journey, it can take years. Tragically some never make it.

If you are wondering why there isn’t a straight pride, be grateful you have never needed one.

Celebrate with us.

[i] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sydney_Gay_and_Lesbian_Mardi_Gras

By |2018-02-28T14:33:58+00:00February 28th, 2018|Categories: LGBTI|4 Comments

About the Author:

Anthony Venn-Brown
Anthony Venn-Brown is one of Australia’s foremost commentators on faith and sexuality. His best-selling autobiography 'A Life of Unlearning – a preacher’s struggle with his homosexuality, church and faith', details his journey from being one of the first in the world to experience religious gay conversion therapy, becoming a married, high profile preacher in Australia's growing mega-churches, such as Hillsong, to living as an openly gay man. Anthony was the co-founder and former leader of Freedom2b. He is an educator and consultant on LGBT/faith issues and leader in deconstructing the ex-gay/reparative/conversion therapy myth. Anthony is the founder and CEO of Ambassadors & Bridge Builders International. Anthony has been recognised on a number of occassions for his contribution and impact including being twice voted one of 'The 25 Most Influential Gay and Lesbian Australians’.

4 Comments

  1. Steve Erickson March 1, 2018 at 5:21 pm - Reply

    Personally, my problem with Pride parades is not one you brought up but that at least in NYC, ours has moved away from the political roots you mention, and became an excuse to sell vast quantities of rainbow-colored plastic crap. There’s not much that makes me feel less proud of my gayness than using it to make me a target market for $5 rainbow flags that will fall apart the next week.

    • Anthony Venn-Brown
      Anthony Venn-Brown March 2, 2018 at 1:52 pm - Reply

      “Pride marches went over the cliff a few years ago when we decided all that crap about rights and equality was cutting into our partying. In the early years going to pride was an admirable, courageous act, the equivalent of going on a firewalk. Today, Pride marches are more like freak shows than rites of passage. And bad ones at that. My biggest beef against them isn’t that they suck (they do — I’ve seen better floats in high school homecoming parades) or that they tear down everything we work for (we act out every offensive stereotype we spent the past year trying to break down). No, my biggest beef against Pride marches is that they celebrate the wrong thing — being gay. Why? Because there’s nothing intrinsically good about being gay. For every Walt Whitman there’s a Roy Cohn. For every Elton John there’s a Jeffrey Dahmer. For every gay hero there’s a gay asshole.” –Syndicated gay columnist Michael Alvear in an April 27 filing.

  2. Steve Erickson March 2, 2018 at 2:08 pm - Reply

    I have no objections to the “freaks” and “stereotypes” Alvear is probably thinking of: drag queens and leather men are a real part of our community, and if you watch an entire Pride parade, you will see just as many gay and lesbian cops or “dykes who play early music” (whom I saw one year.) But the turn away from politics is genuinely problematic, I think, although when these parades started their hedonism itself was a political act. In 2018, that’s no longer really true. And there are way more people with an average mix of good and bad qualities and talents than Walt Whitmans *or* Roy Cohns. I hope I don’t sound like Alvear.

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