Written By: Patrick S. – Personal Opinion
I remember the first time I attended Pride I was in the honeymoon phase and it was like heaven to me. For the first time in my life, I was free to be myself and without judgment. I believed that Pride would connect me to other gay men and I could finally find a group of friends, friends I so desperately wanted. Let’s be honest what young, single man wouldn’t want to attend their first Pride?
But let’s be real about Pride, after a few alcohol-induced traumas, homonormative influences, and a few too many disappointed Pride’s, you have one person who is really done with the entire experience. There was a point that I attended as many as I could, too finally not attending any at all.
Now understand this didn’t happen overnight and to be honest, I can’t identify one particular thing that broke the “camel’s back” – truth be told it was several things over time that honestly took some time to settle in. I’m not trying to separate myself from the community, and I’ve never thought of myself as being better than anyone else because I don’t think defining ourselves by typical stereotypes or societal expectations is the smart thing to do. But there is no mistaking that Pride events have become commercialized and have to some extent lost its true meaning.
Most Pride Festivals have become about the party lifestyle and thrust upon us by businesses looking to cash in on our love of community. Take New Orleans Pride, I remember a time when it was held at Washington Park (on Elysian Fields Ave.). The community could come together and enjoy great food and music, hang with friends and just relax. But now it appears that just having a Pride Parade is what we are forced to endure, or you can go to several overhyped and overpriced events that have no true meaning. Where is the sense of community? The traditions of camaraderie and fellowship?
Another example is alcohol, for example, you can’t walk a block without hearing about drink specials, and for those who don’t drink Pride can be an awful experience. Absolut is a prime example of a company that capitalizes on Pride. Like many liquor companies they want to ensure that your Pride is the best experience of your life, and according to them what better way to celebrate than getting drunk on overpriced and watered down drinks. Pride has become so obsessed with and focused on doing absolutely everything in excess. Since New Orleans Pride has changed its planning format it doesn’t even pretend to reflect on the community as a whole, nor do they address or organize event addressing current issues that affect the LGBT community.
No instead, like most Pride events around the country, everything is corporate sponsored all in an attempt to commodify the rainbow Pride flag. And why? They want to make a quick buck without ever giving back or spreading a message. Nope, it’s all just a surface level “be proud of who you are” message. For example Nike’s “BETRUE 2016” campaign.
Nike created a campaign that sold Pride merchandise without giving back to the community. They never mentioned if any of the profits were going to go back to the community, instead, it appears they just lined their pockets. Nike just used Pride to make money and to drum up business and never committed to helping advance activism, but they’re not the only ones. One of New Orleans Pride’s biggest sponsors is Walgreens, however, when I tried to inquire about what social programs they support directly in the community I was directed to their Walgreens Charitable Donations page.
So where is all this money going? If it’s going back to the community, it’s not being prominently displayed. When all is said and done corporate American has figured out a way to formulate Pride. It’s really easy for them, they just slap on a rainbow on its products, and presto you have a genuine way to show how proud you are as a company, and people will buy it. And New Orleans Pride along with other Pride organizations have done little to nothing on a national level to combat this.
In my opinion, New Orleans Pride is missing out on the opportunity to bring the LGBT community together in a way that is both meaningful and productive, a way to make life better for many in the community. Instead, Pride festivals appear to be white, fit, masculine men, but Pride organizers will swear it’s all-inclusive, embracing all shapes, colors, sizes, but do you really see that? Then why would black LGBT members of the community have to form their own pride in New Orleans?
The main reason I stopped going is that I’m physically and mentally disassociated from Pride; that is often advertised as “Gay Pride.” Which feels incredibly outdated and exclusive to me. The gay community appears to take center stage and the rest of the community are forced to follow behind, almost in the shadows and take whatever scraps they are given from those with perceived power.
Don’t get me wrong this isn’t true for every Pride, but speaking from someone from New Orleans, the gay community always takes center stage. I don’t want this to be a condemnation of all things Pride. I never claimed to be perfect, so the problem could certainly be with me. But I would love to see organizers of these events engage with all members of the community and remember all the sacrifices that others who have made before us so that we could celebrate their achievements.
As long as Pride itself remains the same, or we change our attitudes and perspective about who we are as a community it will remain the same. We will come together for one day and attempt to celebrate Pride, pretend we are one community, and we are all inclusive when in fact by the next day we will be right where we started.
The following article is the opinion of the author and does not reflect the opinion of Squirrel News, it's employee's or advertisers.