Paige Schilt

Don't Make Pride "Benign" on Behalf of My Family

Filed By Paige Schilt | June 28, 2008 1:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: Austin, Pride, Soulforce

I live in Austin, Texas, where Pride tends to be a little more laid back than other cities. Let's face it, when it's 97 degrees outside with 30% humidity, your eye shadow will melt, your leather pants will feel like a personal sauna, and any outdoor festival is going to feel like an endurance test.

Nevertheless, as a dutifully proud mama, I've been bringing my son to Austin Gay Pride since he was six weeks old. It's where he coined his signature Pride chant, "Rock on, gays!"

This year, the organizers of Austin Gay Pride successfully advocated with the city to move the fest to a prime downtown location. National acts MeShell Ndegeocello and Pansy Division were set to headline. It seemed like Austin's Pride was really coming into its own. And then, in an Austin Chronicle article that still has local queers buzzing, one of the organizers characterized the new and improved Pride as a "benign, family-friendly" event.

Here's a longer excerpt from the Austin Chronicle article, which quotes Ceci Gratias of the Austin Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce:

Our biggest issue is [that we have] minors watching the parade," said Gratias. "We don't really need to express ourselves so outrageously. And it's not out of acceptability but rather out of respect for the families watching."

Although I wasn't able to attend Austin's Pride this year (too busy gettin' hitched in California), I'm sure it was a lovely event in many ways. But as a queer parent, I feel the need to speak to the assumed dichotomy between "family friendly" and "sex positive." I believe that queer cultural values are among the most important things that I can bequeath to my son. At its best, queer culture can offer the rest of our society a lesson or two about valuing pleasure and eschewing shame.

While it hasn't happened yet, it is true that my son might someday see a thing or two at Pride that we need to talk about and contextualize. But the same is true of mainstream pop culture that he's exposed to every day.

Right now, Paramount and Lego are aggressively marketing the entire Indiana Jones saga--which is chock full of adult sexuality (it's pretty clear that that whip has multiple uses)--to preschool age kids. And I haven't heard a single straight parent at my son's school complaining. So I don't think we need to hold queer culture to a different, desexualized standard on their account.

I certainly hope that no one is making Pride more "tasteful" (another adjective from the organizers) on my son's account. After all, we're talking about a kid who thinks "Fart Mama fart in your face farty fart fart" is witty repartee. Assless chaps would probably make him laugh himself silly.

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Good points, Paige. Thanks for saying this.

As a ten-year veteran of Pride organizing, thank you for this. I wish more parents like you would express themselves in their communities. If my experience is typical, most Pride organizers spend far too much of their time defending the event against people (within and without the community) who think it's a tacky spectacle, aggressive in-your-face flaunting of sexuality, and full of inappropriate expressions of gender identity and fetishism.

If I had a nickel for every time a gay man said something along the lines of "I don't want to be represented by drag queens or guys in leather thongs" to me...

Thank you so much for this. I have been writing about parents standing up for a sex positive pride for years. My kids are now almost grown up and I took them to Pride for years, as well as to Ptown. Let's not let conservative views in our community ruin what's unique and wonderful about us. Cindy Rizzo

Thank you so much for this. I have been writing about parents standing up for a sex positive pride for years. My kids are now almost grown up and I took them to Pride for years, as well as to Ptown. Let's not let conservative views in our community ruin what's unique and wonderful about us. Cindy Rizzo

I have to say though, there's a difference between an Indiana Jones Lego toyset and a gyrating man in a leather thong...

Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | June 29, 2008 8:48 AM

"If I had a nickel for every time a gay man said something along the lines of "I don't want to be represented by drag queens or guys in leather thongs" to me..."

Some 30 years ago, just after my own coming out, and likely still harboring a significant residual amount of internalized homophobia, I, an attorney, attended a GLBT meeting at which the issue of "gay flamboyance" became a topic, and I made a comment very much like the one Jere makes above. One of the other participants, a pretty "in your face" person at the time, looked at me and said: "Well, Mr. Pin-striped-suit, I dodn't see YOU out there in your fancy duds leading the parade." That hit home, and I thought about it not too long ago when (garbed in another bit of pin-striped tailoring) I testified before a state legislative committee against a "marriage amendment".

I remain ambivalent on this issue, as I agree with Bil's inference above that there are degrees involved here. But on the other hand, we need not go to extreme lengths to hide our sexuality.

But on the other other hand, I am not all that sure that my testimony would have been as effective had I appeared in a leather thong before the legislators and TV cameras. I know, I know, that wasn't a Pride Parade. But on the other other other hand, I envision a scenario where, after taking their own kid to a Gay Pride Parade just a tad "over the line" , a single otherwise friendly legislature might cast the deciding vote against a hate crime measure, or a bit of employment civil rights legislation. I guess the answer is that the right to express our sexuality must triumph everything else, and so what if we lose a few close ones.

"In all things.....spicy moderation."

For me, this issue is not just about freedom of expression, it's about the ways that the right has deployed a monolithic narrative of family (one that tries to locate family completely outside the forces of history, race, class, sexuality, etc.) in order to delegitimize all kinds of "messy" but democratic public spheres. I am thinking of Lauren Berlant's The Queen of America Goes to Washington City, a book that outlines how the valorization of a particular kind of family was deployed in tandem with the demonization of non-familial sexualities in order to redefine what it meant to be a citizen in the Reagan era and beyond.

I think as more queers are having families, we have to be thoughtful about the politics of family and how we ourselves deploy that cluster of ideas.


I'm not implying there isn't a happy balance to be found, but when television ads are getting pulled because a man-on-man kiss is too controversial and offensive to "families," I'd say that we probably shouldn't look to ambivalent politicians as our source of guidance.

When I was running the Utah Pride Celebration, I was told on a number of occasions that it was the one day out of the year when some people came out of their house appearing as their true gender, or feeling unashamed and not alone in their particular sexual urges. While we, as Pride organizers, stressed the importance of following local ordinances on legal levels nudity and behavior, I'd hate to take away the freedom of expression for those people who are desperately unhappy in the pinstriped suits just because some hypothetical politician might be offended by the idea of two muscular guys in short-shorts sharing a passionate kiss. That seems counter to the idea of Pride and the Stonewall Riots it is meant to commemorate. The riots, the "birth" of the modern queer rights movement, weren't lead by sensible gay and lesbian advocates in pinstriped suits*.

* No offense to the pinstripe-suit community. Truth be told, I'm mostly a "straight-acting," business casual, white, upper-middle-class, sensible gay activist in my day-to-day life.

It's the day of gay pride with all the potential momentum and raw beauty of our culture. In Dallas town it is a wide open no ticket needed days of freedom. We have a steady stream of kinda naked peeps strolling. Not a problem. If it seems to much, then exit. I would rate it a R+. Good stuff! Hey Paige, great post. One of our TACT members told us about it.

sl_roberts | June 5, 2010 12:57 AM

Damn it! Just one more thing that has to be made "politically correct."

I'm a heterosexual honorary lesbian, so dubbed at one of my many appearances at gay pride events. I even have a t-shirt to prove it! ;-)

Anyway, the meaning of the event is in the name - PRIDE! Yes, it ~is~ the one time each year that queers can feel prideful in celebrating who they are; be it a pin-stripper or a Drag Queen or a Dyke on a bike or whatever! It's about celebrating the community as your family.

So, just because queers are having babies Pride should tone it down? Give me a break.

I have a 7 yo daughter who has been exposed to the Texas Renaissance Festival almost every year of her life, but she doesn't appear to have been damaged by all the butt cheeks on display there; and the belly dancers and the wench cleavage and the extremely bawdy humor.

Our closest friends are gay parents who are very demonstrative in their love for one another (thank goodness!) and my daughter has had no reaction to it at all moreover been harmed in anyway. This is her family and it's what she knows and understands.

And, I know what a Pride parade is like. If I feel my daughter can handle it, I'll make the decision as to whether I'll take her... or not. Don't spoil everyone's fun just because some parents make the decision to take their children and then regret it. Next year they can hire a babysitter, throw on their buttless chaps, and join in the fun!

Paige, you're the greatest!