My best friend for a quarter century has been "out of the closet" all of his life. Me -- since I was 26.
We find we agree on almost everything except Mariah Carey, Katy Perry and gay pride. Our opinions on Carey and Perry are insubstantial.
Pride is another matter.
He calls Pride "a bunch of half-naked gays taking up space on a main street -- why bother?" I say it is one of the most important celebrations a gay or lesbian may choose to partake in. How can two people who are so close have such differing views?
I believe it has to do, in part, with the fact that we each came out so differently. My friend was born out; I had major orientation confusion until my mid-20s.
But there were many other factors:
- I was raised in a rural area in a fundamentalist religion, whereas my friend was a city boy raised by liberal-minded parents.
- I never met an open-practising homosexual until I first entered a gay bar at 25. My friend had gay family role models.
- When I finally figured out I was gay, I wanted to shout it to the world. For my friend it was just another day in his life; there was no milestone, no turning point.
I found the label "gay" something to be proud of. The first quarter century of my confusion and pain needed a day of reckoning. My quest since coming out has been to be a positive, healthy example of a homosexual life style -- well, as much as humanly possible.
When people think of me, I hope they think of the human being first and what that means. The gay label is just one small part of the big picture. But take it away and I wouldn't be me.
My friend thinks some make a spectacle of themselves on Gay Pride Day. Well, "some of us gotta do what we gotta do!" I shoot back. He says, "You don't see other minorities having parades."
I don't agree on both counts. I don't consider myself a minority -- just part of the human race. And I feel there is no difference between the importance of our Pride Day, its origin being the Stonewall riots of '69, and the 1960s Afro-American civil right marches. At that time their marches were also considered radical gatherings.
Cartoon used with permission from Carlos Latuff, @CarlosLatuff
What my friend and I do agree on is that we believe we are living proof that our orientation is as much a part of us as the skin colour we were genetically given. We don't think our orientation is up for debate.
The problem is there are still a lot of people who don't agree with us. Even though we believe that is their problem, that they should "get with the program," I differ from my friend in that I feel we still need Gay Pride days to show the world we are what we are and we're here to stay.
Certainly in many parts of the world we have found acceptance but the images of solidarity can mean a great deal to an individual experiencing "pride" in solitude.
For example I have pen pal from the Ivory Coast who is studying in Ghana. He envies our freedom as he writes, "gay interaction is illegal here."
But I understand why my friend doesn't have a similar desire to proclaim his sexuality on any given day. He's been doing it all his life. In his own unique way, he's been proclaiming his gay pride every day of the year.
Because I was a caged bird growing up, I'm the one who had the desire and need to sing it in a pubic manner. I guess I was trying to make up for lost time.
Where I have to give my friend some credit is that the spirit of Gay Pride day, although positive and moving in itself, is not always displayed by all members of the gay community year round. But what group of humans doesn't have similar growing pains? Our differences are what make us, as individuals, unique.
I respect my friend's point of view.
He appreciates my desire to celebrate Gay Pride day (even if it's as simple as supporting a parade passing by!) in view of the long journey it took me to get to the place where I could be proud of my sexuality.
Oh, and in case you're wondering -- while my friend is watching the latest Mariah Carey video, I'm listening to Katy Perry's song "Firework" playing on my headphones.
Ironically, I'm trying to resist the urge to message him, "Can you tell your Mariah, 'Put some clothes on!'"
On the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York's Greenwich Village. Although police raids on gays bars were common, the bar's patronage, as well as more than a hundred spectators who gathered outside the bar, decided enough was enough -- they fought back. It was the first time that queer people stood up to police on such a large scale, and is often cited as the beginning of the modern Gay Rights Movement. For more information on Stonewall, check out the PBS documentary, Stonewall Uprising. Photo via yosoynuts at Flickr.com
In 1969, Stonewall Inn, as well as the majority of the city's gay bars, was owned and operated by the New York Mafia. Establishments that sold alcohol to gay customers could have their liquor licenses revoked, so mobsters paid-off police to turn a blind-eye, thereby gaining a lucrative niche market. For more information about the Mafia's ties to Stonewall, see this PBS report . Photo adapted via Dr. Who at Flickr.com
Stonewall's mafioso owners reportedly engaged in extortion. Employees singled out wealthy patrons who were not public about their sexuality, and blackmailed them for large sums of money with the threat of being 'outed.' For more information about the Mafia's ties to Stonewall, see this PBS report . Photo via Images_of_Money at Flickr.com and TaxBrackets.org
Two years before to the Stonewall riots, The Black Cat Tavern, a gay bar in LA, was raided by police, and much like what occurred at Stonewall, the patrons fought back and eventually began a protest against the police. Two of the patrons were so enraged, they began a publication for the gay population of Los Angeles, which eventually became one of the largest LGBT magazines, The Advocate.
Although the Pride Movement did not galvanize until after the Stonewall Riots, there were a handful of gay rights demonstrations prior to 1969. The most direct link to the early parades were Annual Reminders. Every fourth of July, beginning in 1965, homophilic groups would picket Independence Hall in Philadelphia to inform and remind the American people that LGBT people did not enjoy basic civil rights protections. After Stonewall, picketing seemed too pacifistic, and Reminder organizers instead helped plan the first Gay Liberation parades. Photo via ericbeato at Flickr.com
The Greek Lambda symbol was another commonly used Gay Rights symbol prior to the Rainbow Flag, and was the sign of the Gay Activist Aliance. Photo via Wikimedia Commons
The first rainbow flag made its debut at the San Francisco Pride Parade in 1978. Designed by San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker, the original flag was hand-dyed and consisted of eight symbolic colors: Hot Pink (sexuality), Red (life), Orange (healing), Yellow (sunlight), Green (nature), Turqoise (magic/art), Blue (serenity/harmony) and violet (spirit). Photo via Wikimedia Commons
To meet increasing demand for the flag, Baker approached Paramount Flag Company for mass production. There was an unavailability of hot pink baric, so Baker dropped the hot pink stripe from the design. To keep an even number of stripes, turquoise was also dropped, resulting in the six-stripe flag that is widely used today. Photo via torbakhopper at Flickr.com
New York's first Dyke March was held in June of 1993 and is still held every year on the eve of the annual Pride March.
The first gay rights group to use the word 'gay' in their name was the Gay Liberation Front, which was formed In the immediate wake of the Stonewall Riots. Whereas previous organizations, such as the Mattachine Society and the Daughters of Bilitis, had deliberately chosen obscure names, the GLF believed directedness was necessary, as exemplified by a slogan on one of their fliers: "Do You Think Homosexuals Are Revolting? You Bet Your Sweet Ass We Are!" For more information on the GLF, check out this site. Photo via Elvert Barnes at Flickr.com
In June 2012 the Pentagon held their first Gay Pride event since "Don't Ask Don't Tell" was repealed in 2010. While the event lacked wigs and floats, and instead included a panel discussion entitled "The Value of Open Service and Diversity," it still went down in history as the first gay pride event held at the Pentagon!
The oldest surviving LGBT organization in the world is Netherland's Center for Culture and Leisure (COC), which was founded in 1946, and used a 'cover name' to mask its taboo purpose. For more information on the COC, check out their site. Photo via Tambako the Jaguar at Flickr.com.
In 1976, San Francisco's Civic Center was undergoing renovation, and couldn't host the post-Pride parade celebrations. Instead, the festival site was moved to the Golden Gate Park. Confronted with uncharacteristically intense heat, many attendees shed most, or all, of their clothing. When the sound system failed, scantily-clad celebrators took to the woods for shade and entertainment, and the festival became one of the craziest San Francisco has ever seen. A year later, the 'Save Our Children' campaign cited the wild wood celebrations as evidence of homosexual godlessness and immorality. For a firsthand account of this, and other, Pride festivals in San Francisco, click here. Photo via jdnx at Flickr.com CORRECTION: A previous version of this slide misidentified the "San Francisco's Civic Center" as the "San Francisco's Getty Center."
Early marches commonly used 'Gay Liberation,' and 'Freedom,' in their names. Then, with cultural changes and decreased militancy in the 1980s and 1990s, these words became less frequent, and the term 'Gay Pride,' became commonly used. Photo via illuminator999 at Flickr.com
In 1994, Baker led the creation of a mile-long Rainbow Flag, to honor the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. The Guinness Book of World Records recognized it as the world's largest flag. Photo via Thelmadatter at Wikimedia Commons
The longest Rainbow Flag used in a Pride celebration was unfurled in Key West, Florida, for the flag's 25th anniversary in 2003. Dubbed "25 Rainbow Sea to Sea," the 1.25 mile long flag stretched across the entire island, traveling from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. Following the celebration, the flag was cut-up and sent to Pride celebrations around the world. Photo via torbakhopper at Flickr.com CLARIFICATION: A previous version of this slide misidentified the "Gulf of Mexico" as the "Gulf Coast Sea."
With an estimated 3.5 million attendees in 2011, Sao Paulo, Brazil, hosts the world's largest Pride parade. For more information about Sao Paulo Pride, check out their site.
Europe has a pan-European international Pride event, called, appropriately, Europride. The event is hosted by a different European city each year. For information on upcoming events, check out Europride's site. Photo via Daquellamanera at Flickr.com
Amsterdam hosts the only Pride parade whose floats literally float on water, as 100 decorated boats travel through the city's famed canals. For information on Amsterdam Pride, check out their site. Photo via cgeorgatou at Flickr.com
South Africa is home to the only Pride celebrations on the African continent. Two of the most notable are in Johannesburg and Cape Town. The inaugural Joburg Pride parade was held in 1990 with fewer than one thousand participants but has grown considerably throughout the years, with over 20,000 participants in 2009. Photo via Wikimedia Commons
Each year before the Sydney LGBT Mardis Gras is held, Fred Nile, a member of the New South Wales Legislative Council and a former minister of the Uniting Church in Australia, leads a prayer for rain on the event. Although it has rained some years, the Australian event has sustained as one of best LGBT festivals in the world. Photo via Jon Shave at Flickr.com
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