The Pride Parade is not my cup of tea. I think its over-the-top displays of hedonism and sexuality perpetuate some of the worst stereotypes about gay people. It sends a message to straight people that we're shallow, image-obsessed, licentious and horny all the time. When I finally came out to my mother a few years ago, after a good cry she said to me "Well, as long as you're happy I'm OK with it, but I have to tell you that I have a problem with Gay Pride parades". I assured her that she would never turn on the six o'clock news and see me marching down Church Street in assless leather chaps.
However, the parade is important to a lot of gay people who have in many cases suffered real pain and alienation as a result of their sexual orientation. Attending a Pride parade is an important rite of passage for many newly-out gays and lesbians who find for the first time an opportunity to be open and honest in a supportive environment.
My problem with the Pride parade is the political baggage that now clings to it like barnacles on a whale. Should it be publicly funded? Should Queers Against Israeli Apartheid be allowed to march in it or not? What politicians are marching and which ones are conspicuous by their absence?
In the old Soviet Union there was a huge May Day parade every year in Moscow and members of the Politburo appeared on the top of Lenin's Tomb to watch it. Pundits pored over the pictures to see who was there and who was standing where to glean some kind of insight into the secretive inner workings of the Kremlin. The Pride parade now serves the same purpose; elected politicians now feel obliged to attend to publicly prove their tolerance and open-mindedness. It has become a Canadian political litmus test into which people read all kinds of ulterior motives whether they are intended or not.
The so-called Gay Community is not monolithic; the only thing we all have in common is our sexual orientation. Our Venn Diagrams overlap in only this one area of our lives. We are urban and rural, old and young, professional and blue-collar, single and married, parents or childless, and - believe it or not - left wing and right wing. Marching in a parade should not be a yardstick by which politicians are judged when they have such divergent policies on the real issues that affect gay lives; mundane things like taxes, snow removal, garbage collection and policing.
Chris Selley wrote in today's National Post:
Is Mr. Ford homophobic? A few moronic outbursts notwithstanding, I see no reason to think so. His reputation as a sort of minorleague all-purpose bigot is baffling when compared with his record as a municipal politician: He obsessively solves people's problems, no matter who they are. This is a man who wouldn't hang up on a dude trying to score OxyContin. So the idea that riding a float at Pride would change anyone's mind about Mr. Ford is laughable in the first place. Many of the people professing "disappointment" at his decision this week were clearly overjoyed to have an opportunity to hate him even more.So Mayor Ford would rather spend the weekend at the cottage than attend the Gay Pride Parade. So what? I agree with Chris that there is no evidence that this makes him homophobic or that he cares less about this segment of his constituency than any other. Did he march in the St Patrick's Day Parade, and did the Irish community wail and gnash their teeth about it? Is his attendance at Caribana now mandatory to demonstrate his support for Caribbean immigrants? He should be judged by his actions at City Hall, not by superficial photo ops at festivals.
For the record, I too am relaxing on "Pride Weekend" with my partner over beer and barbecue, miles away from the parade. I'll raise a toast to Mayor Ford while I'm at it.