Why Can't We Have a Straight Pride Parade?
Occasionally, when talking about sexual orientation in my Sociology courses, a student will ask “Why can’t we have a straight pride parade?”
It hasn’t happened a lot, but enough students have asked the question to make me want to offer a response. I want to point out that the question tends to come out of nowhere. It’s not as if I lecture on the history of gay pride parades, or offer a sociological analysis of gay pride parades, which might open the door to such a question. Rather, the question gets asked during general discussions of sexual behavior. The question tends to surprise me, so I haven’t yet offered a consistent response in class.
I do tend to begin by answering the question with some questions: Why? Why would you want to have a straight pride parade? What kind of parade would it be? What purpose would it serve? I ask those kinds of questions as a way of pointing out that a parade doesn’t seem necessary for a group that enjoys a privileged way of life.
Here’s a blunt way of saying it: Life is a straight pride parade. Walk through a mall holding the hand of someone of the opposite sex. Will that generate a dirty look? Bring home someone of the opposite sex to meet your family. Will there be disapproval? Do you have to “come out of the closet” to announce you’re straight? My point is that heterosexual relationships are encouraged and accepted in society. And while there is more approval for LGBT relationships than in past decades, there is still not full tolerance and acceptance for those relationships in society.
One function of a gay pride parade is to seek acceptance and understanding from society. Another purpose, it seems, is to spend a day with a group of supportive people. A man like me doesn’t need to march in a straight pride parade because I can walk in any public space with my wife and not be harassed, judged, mocked, or harmed in any way because of our sexuality. The question “Why can’t we have a straight pride parade?” suggests that straight people are being deprived of something in some way. I just don’t see how that’s the case. Heterosexuality is embraced by our society. It is not a basis for discrimination. So my answer, in sum, is that no parade is needed.
A follow-up question I sometimes receive when handling this topic is: “But why do they have to flaunt their sexuality?” The question assumes that anyone who is LGBT goes out of their way to call attention to their sexuality. Such an assumption strikes me as entirely inaccurate. I won’t pretend that some of my best friends are gay. Actually, all of my best friends are straight (as far as I know).
But I do have friends, neighbors, and co-workers who are gay. None of them flaunt their sexuality. What, by the way, does “flaunting it” mean? How does a person flaunt their sexuality? Am I flaunting heterosexuality by wearing a wedding band? By having pictures of my wife and kids in my office? By making references to my wife?
Students will sometimes claim that what really offends them is public displays of affection—it doesn’t matter who is kissing or hugging in public, they say, they just wish there was less of it. I don’t buy it. Simply put, I think a lot of people aren’t comfortable seeing gays and lesbians as couples. And I can think of some reasons why: it could be how someone was raised (a family belief system), it could be based on religious beliefs, or because of homophobia.
Beyond parades and expressions of sexuality, there is a bigger picture to consider. Lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and transgender people deserve to live and work in communities that are “safe, healthy, and satisfying.” I think everyone wants this for themselves and their families. Everyone wants respect. Everyone wants to be treated equally. Sexuality remains a major factor in how people are treated in society. Curiosity about parades and displays of affection are understandable, but the larger issue is the existence of inequality based on sexual orientation. In conclusion, I believe the following questions should concern us: Why aren’t people treated the same in society? What can we do to promote equality? Finally, how can we work to achieve equality?