Last Friday kicked off the “official” Pittsburgh Pride events that happen over the next 3 weeks. Of all these, the Pride in the Streets dance party, the Pride March, and the PrideFest festival, are the best known, but in my mind, the Advocacy Rally is an equally important, fun and valuable part of the whole thing called Pride.

That’s the first piece of this thing I’ll call the “Pride Controversy.” So often, when someone bashes Pride, the way Derek and Romaine were bashing Pride the other day on their radio program, Pride gets discussed as if it was one, easily identifiable thing or event. Really- Pride is many things to many people, and in every city, different activities and events make up what we commonly refer to as Pride. Statements like, “Pride is nothing but a big party,” are patently inaccurate and wrong. This led me to tell Derek and Romaine that I thought they were full of shit. Now, I love them, and their show, but I guess I expect more than these flip, over-generalizations. Fortunately, as I sat on hold to be on the show, I heard them make some really great and valuable comments that were right on the money. People (not only Derek and Romaine) so often bash Pride, and think it should be something else. If you don’t agree with them, the dialogue rarely goes anywhere. Mostly because of the Pride Controversy, and this attempt to sum up Pride as if it is all one thing or another.

The second piece of the Pride Controversy, deals with what Pride is all about. This is most often expressed in statements like :

Pride should [fill in the blank with your favorite expectation here]!

It is also expressed when talking about everyone at Pride, as if they (collectively?) should act, think, feel, or want the exact same thing. In my experience of being at Pride events for almost 30 years, there will be al sorts of folks at Pride and each has his or her own agenda, ideas, thoughts, feelings, desires and plans. If you can find someone at Pride to find a trick, you can also find someone at Pride interested in activism and speaking out for Equality. If you can find someone there who wants to socialize, then you can find someone who sees an opportunity to network and develop strategies for social change. If you can find someone who feels confident and secure within the LGBT community, you can find someone who feels isolated and marginalized.

Pride isn’t a thing or even an event. It is a fragment of time and space where potential exists. Added to that potential are people who organize Pride with the hopes of maximizing the potential, and people who participate in Pride, who bring everything they have to it. Everything meaning all of those ideas, dreams, fears, visions, frustrations, needs and wants. Mix it all up, and there you have Pride.

My hope always is that everyone gets from Pride whatever is there for them, and they take that, and allow it to fuel them for the entire rest of the year. When that happens, Pride is a success.

Another piece of the Pride Controversy, is the idea that Pride is all about the Straights or it is all about the Gays. The people who fall into the first group are those who freak out because a drag queen or a leather dyke gets shown on the evening news. Those who fall into the other group are the ones who bitch and moan that Pride has become too homogenized or corporatized. These folks were happier when Pride was a little ad hoc thrown together event, when only the die hard activist community would show up. The reality is that Pride isn’t for either the Straights or the Gays exclusively.  It is about everyone and (from a gay perspective) claiming our place within the more broad community. Corporate involvement doesn’t mask it any less about the gays. If anything, a growing corporate sponsorship demonstrates how the larger community is supportive of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans members of the whole community. Additionally, it sends a message to the rest of the whole community that says, “welcome, support and celebrate the diversity that gays, lesbians, bisexuals and trans persons bring to our whole community. This is a powerful tool to assist the LGBT community in our fight for full equality.

The last piece of the Pride Controversy– at least that I’m going to talk about today- is that Pride is about being Proud a person is gay. No it is about being Proud that I am all that I am, and that includes being gay. Pride is an invitation to not lead a double life where one compartmentalizes their life, showing some parts and hiding others. In the words of my favorite Pride anthem:

I Am What I Am.

I hope you can avoid the Pride Controversy and find in Pride whatever is there for you. Share with me what Pride is for you in a comment!

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