This prior Sunday was the 4th (or maybe 5th) Chicago Pride Parade I have attended. Honestly, I forgot all about it until less than a week before it was scheduled to occur, and had my place of work not planned to shut down for the Big Day, I would have choose to work.
However, the weather was forecast to be beautiful and one of best girlfriends wanted to go - or rather spend a lovely afternoon in the city with yours truly. Which was great! However, you would think my boyfriend would join us...but...
ME: "What are your plans for Pride?"
HIM: "I'm not going, I'm working."
ME: "Oh, OK, do you have to or want to?"
HIM: "They offered me the day off, but I didn't take it...plus...it's so..."
And here begins the diatribe about why Pride Parades, in particular Chicago's massive one is complete and utter bullshit. Now, before I list his reasons, allow me to say that based upon my prior experiences, he's not completely wrong. There are issues, and I will address them in a moment.
But first, I'll lay down his problems/complaints/thoughts and I'll respond accordingly.
#1: Commercialization - It's certainly rampant and almost insulting how greedy multinational corporations will pander to a demographic to further their bottom line. BUT - Consider that these heartless bastards were willing to provide their employee's, their partner's and even their children with health care and other ancillary benefits before most local/state/federal governing bodies would is nothing short of progressive. If that means I have to see a bunch of Go-Go's boys dancing on the Harris Bank float, so be it. [That being said the MillerCoors float/march/debacle shall forever burn a painful hole in my psyche].
#2: Politics - Just like the corporations that will sponsor a float to make a buck, politicians will also play nice with the LGBT community to garner votes. I know, I know, it's fucking SHOCKING that someone running for office to stoop to such a level. I thought politics were so...PURE. Can we grow the fuck up and learn how to play the game? Politicians used to shun the LGBT community and now they march within it. How is this a problem? YOU HAVE A VOICE! Sure, things like terrorism or economic collapse *might* take precedence, but I still consider this progress. Not perfect, no, but at least we have access.
#3: Tourists - Just like when subcultures emerge from the shadows hey secretly thrived in, to be humped by marketing experts and political consultants, things that used to seem "edgy" or "dangerous" tend to eventually attract the masses. Case in point, 5 years ago 200,000 people were estimated to attend the Parade; this year it was 850,000+. Staggering to be sure. But why? Fuck if I know. I was going to compare how Dr. Dre used to be scary but now hawks Dr. Pepper on prime-time - but I don't know if that analogy works.
HERE'S my half-baked bottom line argument. As the LBGT community is more and more accepted by society as a whole, it loses it edge, it's uniqueness even and perhaps a loss of identity. If we are no longer the OTHER, than who are we? But isn't that the point in fighting for equal rights? FUCK separate but equal. That doesn't mean people need to shed their individuality - FAR from it. It just that who or what you fuck and/or LOVE just isn't all that controversial anymore.
And that to me is a good thing.
PS - After 3 hours of PARADE-going, I got a text from my PARADE-going-Reluctant-Boyfriend:
HIM: "Hey, how's Pride?
ME: "Really, fun, we are having a nice mellow day!"
HIM: "I just got out of work...should I ditch class and meet you both at the Parade?"
ME: "No, it's over...you missed it."
PPS - This was also the first Pride Parade I attended 100% sober.