Why You Should Be There June 12, 2011
In April, 2008, Philadelphia Magazine, "Contrarian: Leave the leather bike shorts at home," Michael Callahan took several potshots at the Philadelphia Gay Pride Parade in particular and at the LGBT community in general. There were a myriad of mistakes in his article, but, far more troubling is the distain he voices for certain elements in that community, which he, as a self-identified gay man, is part of. He needs to be corrected. And we need to set the record "straight." And, we hope to enunciate why you should be there June 13, 2010.
Callahan used certain criticisms of the Philadelphia Gay Pride Parade as a stepping-stone to criticisms of biker dads, lesbian motorcyclists, drag queens, etc., things that are . . . . well . . . apparently distasteful to a cultured man of Arts and Letters. He describes the Philadelphia gay pride parade in some detail, notwithstanding the fact that all those details are wrong: NAMBLA (North American Man-Boy Love Association) has never participated, the parade has never been on the last Sunday in June, drag queens Hedda Lettuce and Patty OíFurniture have never been in attendance, and there are no lesbian motorcyclists (there is a female motorcycle club). Curiouser and curiouser . . . . Michael Callahan may have objections to some parade, but it certainly was not our parade.
The Philadelphia Gay Pride Parade is a wonderfully diverse and eclectic collection of all elements of the gayborhood. Are there those guys in leather bike shorts? Drag Queens? People in scanty attire? Of course. But there is also Family Pride, P-FLAG, Attic Youth. There are some 15 religious groups and denominations. There are all sorts of political and special interest groups. There are AIDS-related groups, ethnic groups, self-help groups. There are all sorts of businesses. And, of course, if we are lucky enough to get the attention of a 30 second sound bite, the media will focus on our more colorful and less mainstream elements.
Those outside the LGBT community will stereotype it according to those colorful elements, but no self-identified gay man should marginalize his own community by giving credence to those stereotypes. Gay people do not look alike, act alike, believe in the same things, live the same life style. Society really canít tell "us" from "them."
Michael Callahan is as flat out WRONG as that 30 second sound bite — not that it is inaccurate, just that it is incomplete. If you, as a gay person, look at the Gay Pride Parade, and you see the sound bite, there is something seriously wrong. Much like the Pharisee in Luke 18, Michael Callahan is thanking God that he is not like other gays. He doesnít dress like them or act out like them. He wonít wear leather shorts or gyrate on stage or dress up in drag. He even refers to the gayborhood as the gay "ghetto" — a parapraxis (Freudian slip) for a community in which he does not reside. He duly recalls that the gay rights movement was started by drag queens fighting back at Stonewall but opines "tactics that won us the first round will not win us the next." I canít tell you that there is a gay "agenda" for future rounds and I canít tell you that the same tactics will continue to work, but I can tell you that wearing a three piece suit on a suburban cul-de-sac and only being gay when you can safely lock the bedroom door and no one else can see you is a lot like being back in the closet, however marvelously upscale and chic.
The gay rights movement and the gay pride events which showcase it in June of every year, like all movements in human history, are led by the nonconformists, the aberrant and bizarre, the quirky and resolute, the less practical and more quixotic, the more "colorful." The struggle continues, not to change the hearts minds of those who hate or despise us, but to overcome the inertia of gays who are "gay" but not like the rest of those others "gays." On June 13, 2010, anyone can come and see the more colorful and the less colorful elements of the Philadelphia gay community at our Parade and Festival.
The struggles of all LGBT individuals are overwhelming intimate and unique, and none of "us" are really like any other of "us." But no gay person can help in the struggle by sitting home or abrogating the struggle for equality to others then complaining they donít like the look of the others who have stepped forward to fight for their rights.
The Philadelphia Gay Pride Committee invited Michael Callahan to be a celebrity judge of our parade in 2008. He declined. (Surprise!) We wonder is he will discloset himself for this year's pride celebration. Is that you, Michael, under the spandex?
Philly Pride Presents, Inc.