A few years back, Bill O'Reilly suggested to me that gay pride parades were a big problem for the gay rights movement. These parades shoot your movement in the foot, he told me in front of his faithful viewers one night in June (including my mother). His argument of course, is that the more "normal" we appear and behave, the lower the "ick" factor, and the greater our chances for securing equality (I hope I have the chance to talk about the "normalcy" of marriage with him sometime).
I remember thinking that O'Reilly thought I had quite a bit of power. I remember his words "your movement." MY movement. Wow. He thought I was in charge of all the gays. Hell, I can barely handle my three children -- how could I taken on 5-7-10% of the U.S. population?
Or here's a better question. How could I get all the "Dykes on Bikes" and all the drag queens on roller skates to agree to stay home? Was he expecting me to have a big meeting of all the gays? Maybe a conference call -- I suppose that would be easier than attempting to arrange for all the travel. (except of course the dykes on bikes -- they have their own transportation).
Bill, there isn't going to be any meeting. You see, the gay and lesbian community is diverse. I do not own a motorcycle. I think they are scary and dangerous. I am considering leasing the new Honda Pilot because our 13 year-old son needs more leg room. And the thought of going topless down 5th Avenue horrifies me at least as much as I believe it would horrify onlookers.
But that's just me. I feel strongly for one day a year, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities get to celebrate who they are. It's a lot of pride and a good dose of Mardi Gras. Pride parades are moving, theatrical, hilarious and powerful -- for those who march and for those who look on. And not all of the festivities are everyone's cup of tea.
I have long argued that it is neither the drag queens nor the dykes on bikes that are the issue when it comes to Pride parades. Instead, the perception of the parade is shaped by Mr. O'Reilly's industry. God knows that a drag queen on roller skates makes for much more interesting photos and video footage than the Gay Alums of Yale or the hundreds of families who push strollers down 5th Avenue or the Gay Officers Action League, the organization of gay and lesbian law enforcement personnel in NYC.
I think it's Mr. O'Rellly who needs to call a meeting of his peeps.
As for me, I rather wish I could pull off the big gay meeting. I'd tell everyone to have fun, be proud and to be whoever they would like to be. I'd tell everyone that the parade is fun and it's important. I would ask everyone to take home at least one pamphlet from a gay organization and commit to reading it the next day. I'd remind people to be safe. And I would remind them that as they walk down 5th Avenue, they stand on the shoulders (sometimes padded) of many who walked before them. Many who walked at great risk and many who are no longer here. And I would remind them that others will follow their lead.
(PS. If O'Reilly isn't going to show the diversity of Pride Parades, I will. Send your photos along to firstname.lastname@example.org)