Tuesday, June 16, 2009

There is Pride in Pride Parade

Recently Mr. Cord Jefferson wrote an article on TheRoot.com entitled "Where's the Pride in Pride Parades" (http://www.theroot.com/views/where-s-pride-pride-parades). While I agree with everyone's right to have an informed opinion I totally disagree with that of Mr. Jefferson. Below is my response forwarded to him personally.

Mr. Jefferson:

I am a little perplexed by your comparison with the civil rights movement and the gay pride parades that take place in numerous cities in this country. I think that there in lies the problem because you are comparing the march for freedom, dignity and equality that took place more than 50 years ago with an outward celebration of self expression. Much has happened in our culture where men and women do not dress as they did when my parents were in their early adult years. Yes, Dr. King did dress in a suit and tie; however, that was the dress of the time. You would be very hard pressed to see anyone in 2009 dressed in business attire if they were not attending work or Sunday morning church service. Actually, these days finding men in suits attending church on Sunday is quite rare. Therefore, your comparison is unfair and uneven. I would ask you to take a look at the footage from a recent demonstration that took place in the south regarding the Jena 6. How many of those individuals did you see in suits and ties in the blazing heat? Because they were not dressed as such was their demonstration any less effective? I would tend to think not. If you want to compare apples to apples I would ask you to look at footage from the Proposition 8 demonstrations that took place around the country. Were any of these men or women dressed in what would be defined as inappropriate?

The pride parades are celebrations of who we are as LGBT individuals…all of who we are. We do not all dress in costumes and parade around in our every day lives as such, however, it is a part of our community and we make no apologies for that. However, we are also everyday citizens as well and for you to simply focus on the outlandish dress that appears in the parade is narrowly focused. If you took the time to attend a pride parade you would see that it encompasses many aspects of the LGBT community. I have marched with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for the past five years here in Chicago. There are a multitude of participants that are not as you described. However, you and various news agencies seem to only focus on those individuals that are deemed out of the norm. Let us be perfectly clear when we discuss the LGBT community and the reporting of it. There is some titillation that takes place when our stories are carried by the mainstream press. It allows the public to confirm what they have always thought about the LGBT community (weird, abnormal, highly sexual, etc.) by those that do not know us or want to get to know us as human beings. If you have never attended a pride parade and only watched and/or read about the coverage by the press you would think that it was just a parade in drag. However, that is far from what takes place. It encompasses community activism, political awareness, culture, etc. In every community there are those that are defined as extremes and to only focus on that is unfair and lacks of integrity journalism.

You site a comment that you had with a Mr. Fowlkes in which he noted that many blacks in the LGBT community intentionally avoid pride parades because of the infamous reputation they’ve gotten over the years. I find that comment interesting and while somewhat true what he failed to also state is that many avoid it because they are dealing with very personal closeted issues. “How would I be perceived if someone from my neighborhood or job saw me out here?” However, this is not isolated to the communities of color. Many are dealing with the possibility of being judged as guilty by association. Just like the mainstream society many of us as black men and women in the LGBT community feel no connection with our white counterparts because racism is alive and well in the LGBT community. Many of us feel no connection to the white community at all whether we are LGBT or not.

In closing, I would have to say that there will always be people that will only view LGBT men and women as you describe for bigots do not try to become informed. There are many that go live by a term my pastor would fondly say about narrowly focused individuals “My mind is made up do not confuse me with the facts.” I only ask you to know the facts.

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