Bruce Bawer, an American gay conservative writer, wrote an influential book in 1993 called A Place at the Table - The Gay Individual in American Society. It had a big influence on me when I came out fairly late in life, and helped me to reconcile my basic conservative nature with the left-wing anti-establishment activism of many gay advocacy groups. Bawer thinks the Pride Parade has outlived its usefulness:
"The only time I ever feel ashamed of being gay," says a friend of mine, "is on Gay Pride Day." I know what he means, though my own emotions on that day are, at worst, closer to dismay than to shame.Paul Varnell, another gay conservative writer in the US, has noticed a recent trend. As society becomes more tolerant of homosexuality, affluent gays are abandoning the "gay ghettos" of the big cities, buying houses in the suburbs or the country and "becoming bourgeois":[...]My feelings are always mixed. There's a certain comfort in being among so many people who have all experienced self-discoveries similar to one's own, and who have all had to deal with the same slights and cruelties that homosexuals have to put up with from people who want to inflict pain or who don't care or who just don't know any better.... I know that I'm looking at thousands of untold stories of extraordinary courage.Yet on that appointed Sunday in June there is always for me, as well, certain disquiet. Year by year, I find myself increasingly vexed by certain aspects of the march. Part of me doesn't want to attend it. If at its best the event hints at the diversity of the gay population in America, altogether too much of it is silly, sleazy, and sex-centered, a reflection of the narrow, contorted definition of homosexuality that marks some sectors of the gay subculture.
Consider how bourgeois we really are. Much of the early "gay liberation" polemics seemed heavily focused on sexual liberation--the liberating of the libido (a la Herbert Marcuse). Certainly the legitimacy of gay sex needed to be vigorously asserted in the face of harsh state sodomy laws and discomfort among many gays about their sexual desires. But sexual liberation is now much less an issue and more of a background assumption. It is an availability rather than a mandate. The task for most gays has become not so much one of obtaining more sex with more partners, but that of finding a way to integrate their sexual desires with their emotional longings. In this gays are no different from most heterosexual Americans.
The gay neighborhoods of many of our largest cities seem to be slowly losing their gay density as more gay men move to other areas of large cities or to the suburbs. San Francisco and Chicago are good examples. Often this follows finding a partner and their desire to have a house of their own. Sometimes they move to find lower living costs but equally often they move to find peace and quiet. I have not seen sociological research on this, and we probably won't have a clear idea until a new edition of Gary Gates' valuable "Gay and Lesbian Atlas" based on the 2010 census data. But that population drift could also have an impact on gay business. And finally, let's point out that "queer" is pretty dead. It never really caught on. Longtime gay writer and activist Gabriel Rotello called it "the word that failed." It was floated as a generic term for gays (etc.) on the assumption that adopting a term of opprobrium would somehow reduce the hostility of homophobes among whom it originally arose. To paraphrase Orwell, that is a belief so absurd that only an intellectual could believe it.
New York’s affluent gays and lesbians stayed away from Sunday’s Gay Pride Parade "in droves, taking with them the money that has kept a 37-year-old tradition alive," reports the New York Observer in "Goodbye, Mr. Chaps.". "Queer" journalist Richard Goldstein opines:"White people say they experience the parade as being tired and corny.... They'll say it's unattractive to them. The reason it's unattractive to them is because there are all these faces of people of color from all over the world."Yes, I'm sure that's it, since all successful gay white people simply must be racists. But it also just might be that the parade has to a large extent, and for a long time, become too much of a mix of knee-jerk leftism and arrested-development sexual exhibitionism. That's the dominant image, unfortunately overwhelming the contingents of civic, religious and professional groups who do participate. And you can't blame the media for focusing on the most outrageous elements while demanding "full and inclusive representations" of the LGBT community. That's why I'd submit that a growing number of gays ... simply find pride parades at best useful as part of a coming out rite of passage, at worst an embarrassment, and in any event not representative of our lives.