Anthony Carter

Why We Should Cancel Pride Celebrations

Filed By Anthony Carter | February 20, 2011 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: health care reform, older gays, pride festivals, self esteem

Pride festivals for all of 2011 and beyond should be canceled.

More important than hunky guys, displays of camp, and the all consuming focus on gay marriage, our young people need all of our time and access to resources. It will not do any young person any good to go to a rally and have no place to sleep afterwards. DSCN0948Pride festivals that focus on something other than mentoring and encouraging young people will only provide a quick and imminent death to our movement.

We can not demand equal rights without consideration of what we are teaching and sharing with younger generations. Protests of all kinds are needed.

Where is the marching and demanding that young people have health care and ways to sustain themselves should their family of origin not great them respectfully when they come out ? I grew up in constant fear of being found out. I grew up with the fear that I would be at a severe loss financially if I was found out and then of course excommunicated from my family.

I understand young people's need for safety, self expression and the unrelenting fear of being "put out" and left to fend for themselves. Pride festivals with their gigantic budgets have yet to take seriously the needs of our young members.

An old school diva whipping out a bunch of hits from the 70's will not help a young boy who is bullied, isolated and lacking in basic survival skills. Theme parties and fanfare will not ensure that the young girl who is questioning and unsafe in her own home will sleep easy at night.

I have been there and I speak from experience. What I needed and suspect young folks still need is the reassurance that they are loved, more than enough, have a right to exists and are not alone.

Having spent years in abusive relationships, I understand the abuser's primary tool of isolation. Isolation and our complicity in being confused, horny, and constantly shaking our asses makes it very difficult to reach out to another person.

We, as older and hopefully wiser persons, must let our younger counterparts know that we are not easily confused and can offer more than a good time and financial resources. We are not willing to just reparent them. It is our duty to pass on knowledge, teach life skills and assist in goal planning and general self esteem building.

Personally, I am gathering a group of older established gay men to create a one-on-one mentoring program that will culminate in the creation of something that publicly declares our youth "off limits" in terms of aloneness and abuse.

Someone is watching.

Not everyone has gone asleep at the wheel. There are people who care and who want to listen.

While this entry is directed towards feelings of safety for young people, I want to publicly challenge older established gays to change the way we interact with the younger generation. I want to challenge the elder set to care for, not date, not raise, but truly care for younger persons.

I challenge us all to seek out the young folks in our immediate communities who would benefit from a kind word and a blueprint for self love and acceptance.

Yesterday, I saw a very moving film, "On these Shoulders We Stand". In this moving documentary, gay history and the subsequent movement were shown in great detail. At 42, I witnessed things via this film that I didn't know. If I was unaware of these monumental changes and our incredible history, it is safe to assume that the young person being bullied or harassed is unfamiliar with this as well.

How will any of this (canceling pride, community involvement, teaching skills) help young people and keep them alive? It will make everyone more responsible for not recreating yet again feelings of giving up and isolation that inevitable lead to depression and in extreme cases, suicide.

My mission is to assist young people in gathering the skills that lead to thriving in this world. I will offer support for our passionate and powerful young people. The support looks like and is not limited to basic budgeting, housing information, cooking and house maintenance, spiritual practices, interviewing and interpersonal relationship building skills.

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We need to be out on the streets because we have every right to be out on the streets in any manner we chose to be. I understand what you are saying but sorry - any sort of silence continutes to equal death and I for one will not support that. We as a community are large enough to fight on the streets in a march and also in a classroom teaching people not to bully. If the marches did not happen then we are silenced and the young (and older) LGBT person will wonder where we are and once again think they are the only one.

To suggest that we silence ourselves is absolutely ridiculous.

David -

Let's not. There's no reason for everyone to be miserable and avoid having fun just because some people have bad lives.

last I checked, it wasn't Teh Gheys that are creating the feelings of isolation and giving up. It was heterosexual society.

I love that you raise the point, Anthony.

I also think it's much less simplistic than you make it out to be.

For me, Pride Celebrations represent survival, community, family, public awareness, empowerment, and yes, sex.

You may be able to speak to urban persons whose sense of community is much more constant, but for us in rural America, these celebrations are sometimes as good as it gets.

And for those of us who have survived tragedies some of you can't even imagine, these events are nothing short of a miracle.

The other night I got home from the bar--a straight bar that's frequented by quite a few queer folks here in town--and did a little math in my head. I am generally quite frugal at the bar as there's not much left in my budget after bills are paid the day after pay day, but between the group of people I was with about 8 of us dropped a good $500 there over the course of 4 hours.

My point: its not Pride in a vacuum. On the contrary, Pride is actually a great opportunity to reach people who would not otherwise be thinking about poor and homeless youth. Captive audience with checkbooks and a few shots in the gullet--if dealt with well one day of promotion at Pride could fund the community center for a year.

I should know. The community center I helped found here in Champaign--whose mission is overwhelmingly youth-focused--PUT ON Champaign's first Pride Festival (full disclosure: I founded the committee), and by being frugal in preparing for it, we were able to blow all of our predictions out of the water. We raised an outrageous amount of money that day to help fund our youth programs for the rest of the year.

Too often in this community, we get excited when we think we have "the answer." The right way to be queer. The priority. The right strategy. It may be a great idea, but it becomes poisoned when we become focused on it and frustrated when everyone doesn't jump on our side and line up behind us.

The truth is this is the most diverse community of all communities. Geographically, racially, economically, in gender, in age, in means. It is a small nation. It is a tribe to itself. Its a fallacy to believe that there is any one main priority, that there is any one focus, that there is any one way to be queer, any prescription for everyone. Believing so ignores the tremendous color and character of our big queer tribe.

We can have Pride AND better fund our youth outreach and support programs. In fact, I think the two may go hand-in-hand if we think outside of all of our respective boxes.

Let me share another story. I came out very young, but kept the community at a distance for some time. I identified as queer, but didn't want to identify with the queer community, for fear that if I associated with anything but the heteronormative culture I was raised in I would be fully divested and abandoned. Of course, because I was between two communities, I wasn't really a part of either, which made me feel quite isolated and alone.

It was Michigan Pride that helped me really embrace the queer community as my new family and forge a healther sense of what it means to be queer, and therefore a healthier sense of self. I feel your jump in logic that "canceling pride... will make everyone more responsible for not recreating yet again feelings of giving up and isolation that inevitable lead to depression and in extreme cases, suicide" comes from your box, from your limited perspective, and really dismisses and ignores a great many of other challenging perspectives, histories and experiences out there, including my own. If I was less sympathetic to your ultimate goals, and understanding of the frustration sometimes felt by those of us who work on special projects like centers and youth programs; it may even border on the offensive.

I hope you'll take a step back and become open to the idea that there are other perspectives, views, and ideas out there besides striking down and erasing a tradition that is quite integral to the history of our community and to the queer experience. I hope you'll open up to the opportunities afforded in approaching and trying to learn from folks in the community who come from someplace different, and trying to find common ground to get them to see the VALUE of contributing to and supporting programs that support our youth; rather than attack those people from the outside for not believing certain things, behaving certain ways, and getting in line behind a specific prescription for 'how to be queer.'

We get more flies with honey than with vinegar.

Like Greg said, in rural America, knowing events like Pride cant be a mere miracle. Knowing there's a place, somewhere, that we can, indeed, but out trueselves, and not apologize or be ashamed of it.

Ummmm ... you're joking right ?

Thanks for giving me my Monday posting for Focus On The Rainbow.

I love your points about what we should be doing, but I question how it directly relates to what you say we shouldn't. Pride doesn't help homeless youth and canceling it would free up a lot of money that could. However, the same could be said for marriage equality, having gay bars (unless they let queer youth in at risk of being fined and shut down), and so on. Or even of government funding not going to support populations in need, such as military spending.

But rather than cancel pride, why not shape it more in it's traditional image. I take pride as an opportunity to reflect on Stonewall and it's heroes. Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera's work included STAR (look it up on wiki if you don't know it), which did amazing things for homeless youth. And if you're looking for protest, just look beyond the gay. Dyke March and Trans March are huge protests, not commercial, and do a lot of what you're asking for.

Also, speaking of trans populations, without national organizational support or funding we've managed to create a large network of online and offline groups and communities for support, asking questions, and all the typical figuring things out stuff. We may not have hotlines or advertising, but there are definitely spaces where we try to take care of our own, including young folks, newly transitioned older folks, and long transitioned folks who still struggle with the impacts of transphobia, including homelessness and chronic joblessness.

Having celebrations and parties are very important to preventing burnout. Again, I've got my criticisms of pride as well and would love to re-imagine it. However, telling people to cancel their fun time and get rid of sexual expression wouldn't create more people ready to do support work, and it might create more people in need of support.

There's a space for Pride - but it's not the space that it occupies now. We need to take back Pride from the corporate sponsors and the "A-Gays" and give it back to the COMMUNITY.

I myself have never had any use for pride parades and I doubt that will change as I prefer other means of recreation and entertainment. Yet that's a personal decision, not something I expect everyone else to emulate. You cannot have everyone slogging away at work, work, work without having something they consider to be fun where they can let their proverbial hair down at. Some folks enjoy these parades and I see no reason why they shouldn't go an enjoy themselves. I can guarantee you that not having them will do nothing towards advancing LGBT rights. Besides, despite some annoying setbacks we've had a lot of successes lately so why not? Celebrate!

I strongly feel that in the past few years, Pride events have stopped being about the LGBTI community standing up and asserting that we have the same right to be proud of who we are as any other human being. Instead, they've become blatantly commercialized and sensationalized media spectacles which focus almost entirely on allowing privileged middle and upper class gays to "let it all hang out" and have a good time. Frankly, many of these events seem to have become little more than a real-life version of "trolling" behavior on the Internet: intentionally outrageous and offensive behavior which serves no purpose other than provoking a heated emotional response from bystanders for the petty amusement of the trolls.

I am especially critical of the fact that most of these events appear to be held without the slightest concern for cost-effective use of shared community resources, much less any consideration of the way in which the conservative backlash they provoke often totally screws over lower-class gays and trans people. The idea that they have a moral responsibility to at least mitigate the negative effects of their actions on others appears to be completely lost on the current generation of Pride organizers.

Anthony: May I observe, that your overall point has generated solid discussion, and for that, you're to be thanked.

But we need Pride celebrations precisely because of the second word--celebrate.

My personal wish is that fewer of them were funded by tobacco and alcohol to the hilt--our community has disproportionate health issues with each. But into every life a little rain must fall, and we need these celebrations.

I'd be less-than-honest if I failed to note, that I paid attention to your post because you're too cute for words. what else is on your mind?

(Did I type that?)

Rick, I completely agree with everything you just wrote! LOL

anthony carter | February 21, 2011 12:03 AM

thanks for the compliment. I have much on my mind . Keep reading and watch for my posts form my new book and my take on Glee..

Regan DuCasse | February 20, 2011 7:35 PM

I have been turned off of going to Pride in Los Angeles, ever since they made people like Paris Hilton the Grand Marshall.

Our local organizers ARE more concerned with empty celebrities, rather than celebrating the REAL heroes of the movement, like soldiers and the young students who came out at their schools and were punished for it. Or the attorneys who did such great work in the courts in this state.

I'm all for celebrating survival, and bringing together the community. It's also good for the local businesses and supply stores to have the Pride weekend.

But priorities are slipping in some areas and we all know that the adult displays of sexuality when people have brought their children, IS enough for organizers to keep a lid at least on that aspect of it. It's also fodder for the anti gay to use to show that gay adults don't know when or how to restrain themselves around the young.
I say keep the festivities of Pride intact, but remember the seriousness of the mission ahead too. There ARE ways of refocusing and getting back on track to make Pride have more depth and meaning than it's had in the last several years in LA.

While I completely appreciate the energy, activism and passion in your work, goals and perspective... canceling Pride isn't the answer.

#1 - Having worked w/teens, these young adults look forward to this event all year LONG. It's FUN for them. They get involved, they march, they feel visible in a very large atmosphere, where in their smaller, outside of the main city population... have very little access to LGBT events/visibility.

Do I agree that spending on these events need to be checked and re-organized? ABSOLUTELY.

But in the theme of
Christlike "WWJD... What Would Jesus Do?"

Even Christ went to a few parties, provided the wine, rode in a few parades on a burro w/decorated palms and song. Christ even enjoyed fine ointments for his feet and hair.

From Jesus Christ Superstar...
Surely you're not saying we have the resources to save the poor from their lot? There will be poor always, pathetically struggling, look at the good things you've got!

I say we as a community can all become more involved w/our LGBT youth... but perspective and responsibility starts individually.


I understand your passion and frustration. We still need pride events however. What I think needs to change is how we enact them.

If we are going to have an event that seeks to establish pride and help our community we should do exactly that help our community.

A good start would be having places set up so we can answer questions, offer and direct people to help, even find out what people need most so we can direct advocacy. Lets not forget fundraising from such events should help those very needs not just the event.

Yes entertainment is necessary. We must feed the mind, soul, and body however. I'm not and advocate of stepping back. We should however evolve to meet our community's needs.

I think what is more important than pride events is simply helping everyone. It is a daunting task but sooner or later we have to begin the process else we leave large numbers behind.

In the past we have created enclaves where we could congregate and thrive. It still left countless numbers alone and outside. If we are to begin change it has to begin everywhere.

We have to empower the local levels and support them. Everyone needs someplace nearby. And from there that place needs to offer education, support, and advocacy.

I am tired of our community mired in petty bickering of this group and that. We are one community and should speak with unity. In the end we hurt ourselves.

What is most important is us, all of us. Yes all of our grand projects are nice thing to strive for but if no one get the message or can not access it whats the point?

I know I have strayed quite a bit here but my message is simple. No retreat, just evolve and help all those in need, no matter where.


Jake Gellar-Goad | February 20, 2011 8:33 PM

I’ve never been to a pride that didn’t have openly gay elected officials speaking out, many lgbt and progressive issue advocacy non-profits sharing their message and networking, petitions being signed to promote equal rights under the law, post cards being passed around to be sent to legislators, affirming churches taking part, community leaders gay and straight standing up for equality, and the local news media and bloggers reminding people that we’re here, that we’re a part of the community, even in a southern state. And there are usually some animal rescue pet adoption groups there too.

Plus it’s good fun listening to speeches, grabbing a bite, shopping at the booths for rainbow swag, listening to the music, and marching in the parade. It is one of the few times that many of the lgbt student groups (some recently formed), from colleges across the state and nearby high school GSAs, all seem be together in one place, and I have to believe seeing how not alone you are helps.

Granted my experience is limited to my home state's annual pride event, NC Pride. I think more mentoring sounds great, but please don’t cancel my pride celebration!

Jake Gellar-Goad | February 20, 2011 8:42 PM

I'd also just add that I think your heart is in the right place. I feel however that shaping prides to be more supportive of youth and advocacy is the way to go rather than abandoning prides.

On a similar note, I wonder what people think of a National Equality March 2012? Being an Equality March in the capital seems to make it necessarily more issue advocacy based than some prides.

Anytime any organization goes for the "It is for the children" scam it is on the road to failure.

What Anthony is saying is "I do not like to see flaming gays but rather than come out and say this I'll use the it is for the children scam to stop it."

EVERYONE uses this scam to fall back on to get their way. A conservative who is against transsexuals can use it to block ENDA. You know, it would allow TS teachers! What about the children? A liberal who wants gay marriage can point to how it will help the children. Etc.

Children are, of course, important. However, we spend most of our lives as adults. IMO our children will do just fine if we make a world that is friendly to adults.

Oh ... sometimes it is actually about the children.

That's why most of these responses are not PISSED off ramblings w/off topic "agendas", that go on, on, and on... loooooooong ass "politico" ramblings, between two parties that take up more room and importance than Dolly Partons cleavage... but gave some perspective and a polite different opinion.

It's not as negative as you want it to be and want to keep it.

It's actually, sometimes... believe or not, just because it's not about your politico agenda and over the age of 21... about the kids.

no, not cancel...but maybe use 'the kids are not alright' as a theme. Make sure that those who come to party, realize that there is a greater need here (I'm sure that is not just Memphis.) Make sure that those who have the funds, have the opportunity to use them to help put a roof over the kid's head who's crazy family has dumped him, or the kid who slept on the deck at the center, or the kid who hasn't eaten in 3 days. Have a party with a purpose.
I think anytime you can get the community together for an purpose...go for it. But don't pretend that things are ok for the youth we serve (in Memphis it's Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center)...

My experiences coming out and going to Pride fesivals was very positive. It gave me access to all kinds of GLBT groups of all ages that I had no idea existed. It allowed me to meet folk in a place outside of a bar or online. I ended up volunteering at several of the those groups and it really helped my growth as a person and gay man.

Its a social event, and gay kids need these sorts of events to network with other people and develop a support system. Don't take that away from them.

I think your primary problem is that you don't like seeing leathermen and drag queens on floats as examples of the gay community. (sigh, here we go again)...Well guess what, they ARE examples of the gay community and for some of us, very good examples. The leather community and drag courts provide some of the best examples of altruism you can find on the planet, gay or straight. They provide good examples in volunterism and community participation.

You don't like them because they have an element of sex and camp. What makes you think that young gay men and women aren't interested in these things? Where is their safe space to explore their curiosity? What are you afraid of, that some of them might grow up to want to be leathermen and drag queens? Whats wrong with that? (Other than offending your prudish sensiblities.)

Gay people come in all flavors. Its only at Pride events that young people have a place to see all the varieties that exist, and make their own decisions as to what they like or don't like. You would take away that choice to enforce your own particular view of what a "good" gay is. You sound like those parents who send their kids to anti-gay reprogramming groups because they don't like the way their kids think.

Your argument seems to be based on the assumption that all the money that goes into the parades would somehow find it's way to youth programs - that's a big assumption. You even point out that there are a number of competing priorities at work here.

Wouldn't it be better to piggyback on the parades. Youth leaders in every city should make sure they're actively involved in the organization committees and represent the youth voice. Even as dire as things can be for struggling youth, we all, esp. youth, need to be inspired, celebrate our community and given some hope. Engaged Youth Leaders can guarantee a youth focus within the parades, come up with programs and participation opportunities for youth, and perhaps most importantly serve as an important education tool for the rest of the community to open their eyes to the needs of this group and how they can help.

"Your argument seems to be based on the assumption that all the money that goes into the parades would somehow find it's way to youth programs - that's a big assumption."


It is sad that the first reaction of so many is to attack a person with an idea rather than to stop, think and see if there is something positive to be found in a respectful suggestion. Suggesting the author has "hidden motives" that he is too cowardly to reveal seems especially shallow and petty.

I have been around Pride "celebrations" for over 35 years and not much has changed except the numbers . . . number of cities with events and the number of people attending. That growth in numbers is god news. However, the contents of the goings-on are horribly stale. That lack of evolution is not much to celebrate.

For those who require an annual one-day external validation that it is "okay to be gay" so you can survive the other 364 days a year, please feel free to continue your parades complete with aging tipsy drag queens propped up on floats, topless dykes on bikes, leather males (many with questionable physiques) in ass-less chaps, marching bands led by baton-twirling boys in sparkly short-shorts and predictably playing 1983's big gay hit, "I am what I am", and whatever other assemblage of elements you feel asserts your right to be whomever you damn well please. Personally, I've never needed that to reassure me that I was okay the way I was born or to live as an openly unapologetically gay man every day of the year.

That having been said, I must ask . . . Why is it so threatening to so many to think that Pride could be and should be updated to make it more productive and useful in our present day society?

I applaud Anthony for having the brains and the courage to make his suggestions. I think that Pride events should have a constructive purpose perhaps clarified by an annual theme and community service activities to reinforce it. Why shouldn't Pride also have a series of seminars and town hall meetings to help people find ways to get more out of life. As for older gays reaching out to younger ones, I agree that could be a mutually beneficial bridge. However, when older gays reach out (and I don't mean to grope, it would be nice if the younger ones reached back instead of running away laughing and screaming. LOL!

There are ways that Pride events could be brought into the modern era. I urge people to think about that and take action in their own communities.

Karla Rothan | March 21, 2011 5:15 PM

Stonewall Columbus Pride celebrates its 30th anniversary this year with a festival and march that will have approximately 195,000 participants. Donations collected and money generated from the event funds the Center on High, central Ohio's only LGBTQA community center. The center serves low to middle income families who would not have access to resources in the community if it were not for their community center. The center is home to over 50 organizations or groups. The center offers free counseling, forums and classes, coming out support, transgender support, health programs, AA classes, HIV testing and information.