Pride Is Not a Gay Zoo. It’s a Giant-Ass Celebration of a Protest.
With Pride coming, there is a lot of discussion about who belongs at the occasion. Rather than the normal gatekeeping against people not usually included in the LGBTQ+ spectrum, it has more this time to do with kink and overt sexuality at the event. There are people calling for a family-friendly Pride event. Which makes me feel shockingly angry.
The Stonewall Inn, the origin of the reason we all celebrate Pride, was the site of the Stonewall riots, a place that was frequented by the most marginalized among the gay community in that time: butch lesbians, effeminate young men, drag queens, male prostitutes, transgender people, and homeless youth—people who, even now, still end up being in the margins of what is supposed to be an inclusive community.
People viewed as deviant and not fitting in with the “family-friendly” ideology, even among other LG folks who saw them as emblematic of everything wrong with gay culture. Stonewall didn’t begin gay rights or gay activism, but it was an important focal point that, as a Black bisexual woman, reminds me of the intersectional history that exists within the queer community.
Kink is a part of that history regardless of whether it makes people “uncomfortable,” a sentiment that has been shared by many, including popular YouTuber Vaush, who said on Twitter, “Kink at Pride makes people uncomfortable and makes the event less accessible, when accessibility should be a priority. Keep less family-friendly stuff to the many, many afterparties and adjacent, private venues every Pride has. The fact that this is controversial is insane to me.”
Skylar Baker-Jordan from the Independent wrote:
“Overtly sexualized displays — or in more extreme instances, public sex and nudity — breech the boundaries of good taste and decency even as Pride stretches what is and is not acceptable. It alienates members of our community who are modest, who have ethical or philosophical objections (as many feminists do), who have children, or who simply do not want to participate in your sex life as unwilling voyeurs. BDSM and kink displays deter many of us from attending, including LGBT friends of mine with small kids. Pride should be for everyone in the LGBT community. In order for that to be possible, boundaries must be set and respected.”
Baker-Jordan concludes that “Pride should keep its focus on LGBT folks and our rights, equality, and liberation — not on a fetish that can include straight people and ostracizes some members of our own community. Every member of our community and all of our allies, from children to pensioners, should be able to celebrate their sexual orientation or gender identity without being forced to participate in someone else’s sex life.”
I respectfully disagree.
The legacy of that rights, equality, and liberation includes kink. It includes people wanting to celebrate their sexuality openly, to not be kept in closets. Straight people may practice elements of kink, too, but let us not pretend that gay kink isn’t treated differently and has its own stigmatizing history that people should be able to openly reclaim at Pride.
Straight people and allies and corporations have taken priority time and time again at Pride. There will be TERFS at Pride who exclude the realities of important marginalized folks in our community. Homeless LGBTQ youth will not be helped via Pride. It will be an event that corporations will exploit, along with the rest of June to say they are allies to our community while spending their dollars on their own interests.
Gay children have a lot more avenues for self-discovery than ever before, and that is a wonderful thing. But that doesn’t make Pride the Thanksgiving Day Parade. They can go when they are old enough to be able to have informed conversations with an adult they trust about sex, where you as a parent or guardian can explain what consent is. That is the parent’s responsibility.
Not to mention most people who participate in kink are going to be celebrating that by dress in leather, carrying whips, and maybe showing off their butts. I’ve not gone one year at Pride without seeing countless topless folks with pasty-covered nipples. The event is not a petting zoo; it is not a place to observe gay folks in the wild. It is a celebration of a riot that is still ongoing.
If people are having public sex, something that is illegal, then yes, that should be stopped, but to pretend that censoring the celebration of kink at Pride should be a priority when Tennesee has moved forward with anti-trans bill is just a waste of time. This discourse happens every year and has only become more toxic.
And for the record, it is fine for us to disagree about this, but maybe we can at least refrain from calling people who want leather daddies at Pride pedophiles, because that is an easy way to shut down a discussion.
(image: Jessica Kourkounis/Getty)
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