I’m actually typing this up on Sunday night, right after I got home from our local pride parade while it’s still fresh, but you all won’t see it posted until Tuesday. Anyway, as I said, I just got home from my first ever pride parade (we do it in September instead of June here in Texas because of the summer heat), and for the most part, it was a positive experience. However, about halfway through or so, something kind of disturbing happened, and I wanted to discuss it, and give some advice out there for those who aren’t queer in some way.
We got there really early, got our spot, sat outside, chatted, and had a good time. A couple hours later, the parade started, and we were right up against the barrier in our chosen spot. But about halfway through the parade, we started getting crowded, not by the throngs of queer folk and allies, but by a couple of families with a lot of kids, some as young as probably about 4, and it was very apparent that this was just a spectacle for them, some way to keep the kids distracted for a few hours at no cost to the parents. They brought the kids there for beads and candy and entertainment. At one point, I literally had a little girl (probably 4 or 5) squeeze in between me and the barrier, then leaned back and hit the back of her head against my crotch. And the parents were just standing back a few feet away behind us, letting their kids do their own thing (some even jumping the barrier for beads).
So for my readers who are heteronormative and cis, some advice. If you’re coming to pride because you want to be an ally and support us, that is awesome, and we welcome it. Every time someone walked by with a sign that indicated they weren’t queer, but supported us and our quest for rights, I heard people from the crowd shouting their thanks for the support. Our heteronormative cis allies make a world of difference for us, so again, please keep coming if that’s your intention.
However, if you’re just coming to gawk, to stare at the spectacle, then please think twice about coming. We’re not out there putting on a performance for your enjoyment. Neither are we “circus freaks” or anything similar. We’re human beings, and these pride events are as much civil rights gatherings as they are us declaring that we will not let the culture we live in force us to live in shame of who we are. It’s a party for us as well as a declaration of power in the face of oppression. When you come to just “watch the freaks,” you perpetuate that oppression. And while by and large, we’ll ignore your presence there and continue our parade, you’re not contributing either.
In regards to children, if you’re bringing them along to help teach them about diversity, tolerance, and equality, I encourage that. However, keep in mind that the leather community has been closely tied with the gay community since World War II (about 70 years) and the rest of the queer community for some time as well. We’re not going to kick them out, but they are a primarily sexual community. They are a sexual minority same as us. As such, there will be some people in some very interesting outfits with interesting behaviors at these events. Today I saw, in the crowd across the street from me, a pair of guys, each wearing a pair of leather boots, a leather thong, and a leather cover (a type of hat). One wore a leather harness on his chest, the other some leather bracers. That was all they were wearing, in the rain. And none of us blinked an eye at them, as this was a rather tame display (I’ve seen events with leather folk smacking one another with crops as well). One of the groups in the actual parade was a local club, and the guys from that float were in nothing but briefs. Education for tolerance and the like should start at home, and only bring the children to parades when you’re ready to discuss sexual stuff with them. It’s not all about sex, but eroticism is present.
However, if you’re bringing your kids along to entertain them, keep in mind what I just said. These are sexual minorities celebrating in their diversity. There will likely be things there you don’t want your kids to see. We are not here to entertain your kids any more than the next person on the street. And my group of trans folk (some of us very much androgynous from our varying stages of transition) were some of the more normal looking folk out there. Your kids are likely to have questions you may not be ready to answer. Do the right thing and leave the kids at home, either with a babysitter if you yourself want to come to pride, or stay home with them if you’re not personally interested in pride and it’s just a distraction for them.
Later this week, I’ll post some advice for the queer folks for these events. But for now, does anyone else have any horror stories of pride events that went weird because of the non-queer people there?