The editorial in the July 29, 2010 issue of "XTRA!" got me thinking, not for the first time. It spoke about the changes to Pride parades in recent years, including a shift toward commercialization and politicization, how mainstream they've become, and the reality that fewer gay people attend. Robin Perelle, Managing Editor for "XTRA!" Vancouver, writes: "I have yet to find a non-newbie who is enthusiastically anticipating this year's parade. Some grudgingly say they'll go but only because they feel they should. Others are simply done. What's wrong with this picture? Why has Pride lost its meaning for us [p. 6]?"
I put myself in the category of those who are done with Pride parades, and most things gay in an official way. When Chris and I lived in Victoria, it was convenient for us to attend the modest Pride affair there. We lived close to downtown, where the parade ran down Government Street, past The Empress Hotel and the provincial legislative buildings, and through James Bay to Fisherman's Wharf park, shocking some tourists in the process. But, admittedly, the most compelling part of the parade for us was when we walked hand-in-hand behind the final float, usually some huge monstrosity with a drag queen on the back, blasting music through the otherwise sedate neighborhoods of the capital city. Everything else was kind of fun or amusing in a cheesy way, but kind of useless, too.
Now that Chris and I live in __________, it's no longer convenient to drive into downtown Vancouver to watch the parade. Or maybe it's not that it's not convenient, so much as unnecessary. Why go to the trouble of driving that long distance there and back, trying to find parking, and spending our time doing something we've seen on countless occasions in the past, when we can find better things to do with ourselves? We used to consider supporting Pride important to furthering the cause, and, for that reason alone, we made the effort, even though we didn't always want to. But I just don't have the energy to make the effort anymore.
Here's the thing. We're older now. I'm 50, and Chris is 42. How is the parade, and Pride in general, still relevant to us? More club boys dancing in their underwear on floats sponsored by local gay clubs we haven't been to in over a decade? More topless dykes riding Harley motorcycles? More civic, provincial, and federal political figures who are, let's face it, there only to solicit the gay vote? More floats sponsored by cell phone companies, stores, restaurants, and the like? So what? Been there, done that.
You know, when it comes to Pride, it isn't just about a parade, it's about a daily lifestyle, daily choices to be a good human being and citizen first, and gay second. I live Pride every day of the year. To me, Pride isn't about being young and beautiful, naked in public, subjected to advertising, or solicited for political support. Pride is making peace with who I am, being settled and happy, living comfortably in suburbia, sharing a life with my partner. Pride is about loving and accepting myself as a gay man, having self-respect, and setting a positive example of what it means to be gay in 2010.
Does attending the annual Pride parade help to reinforce any of that? Not that I can see. The public spectacle seems to be, first and foremost, about reinforcing Vancouver's reputation as a fun city, since the parade is the only annual public event of its kind. It also seems to be more about drawing attention to a small segment of our population for all the wrong reasons, and excluding what it really means to be gay to me and thousands of people like me. Supporting the gay community via the parade isn't worth the effort. Pride isn't what it used to be. Or, as I've gotten older, perhaps I've seen it for what it really is, and I'm disillusioned that it isn't so much more.
To those of you celebrating Pride this year and taking in the parade, I hope you have a good time. I hope you get something out of it. This weekend, around the time the Parade rolls through Vancouver's West End, Chris and I will be at home, probably working in our garden, reflecting on times when attending the parade was a given because we thought it was worthwhile and important; because we were younger and wanted to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. But, most of all, we'll be giving thought to what it means to be gay for us now, and how the parade, and the Pride festivities in general, have so little to do with that.