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August 01, 2006

A Question I Can Answer

Over at QandO (link below the fold may not be work friendly so you might want to go to the website directly and scroll down), I see that Dale and his wife were in Balboa Park at the time of the Gay Pride Festival.  I didn't know he lived in San Diego.  As it is my city too, I also attended.  He broaches a topic which I suspect reflects common thinking among gay-friendly straight people (note, this is after a large number of complimentary things):

The LGBTG community always complains that the American people aren't more accepting of their lifestyle. "We're people, just like anyone else!" they always claim. But are they? I mean, obviously, they're people, and deserving of the same respect that anyone else is, but there is a difference in how they comport themselves in public.

For instance, there's a large number of sexual devices available to the heterosexual community. But, when I go to an American Legion street fair, I don't see booths selling Vietnamese spin-fuck chairs. I don't see heterosexual girls wearing nipple-hiding electrician's tape as a summer top. The Vivid Girls aren't manning a booth that sells "Barely 18, Version 11". Young men aren't poncing about wearing Lycra briefs so tight that you can tell what religion they are.

The thing is, if your problem is that a large number of Americans think, rightly or wrongly, that you're a bunch of degenerates, the way to settle their minds isn't to offer child and family admission to street fairs where "The Hard Rider" is openly sold, or where "Cum Towels"—emblazoned with cute little spermaceti—are given away free as a promotional device.

Heterosexuals, as it happens, also find Cum Towels useful, but we don't make public displays of them at events where we encourage the attendance of families and children.

As a practical matter of politics, if your goal is to convince the American people that you aren't, in fact, a collection of degenerates, then public displays of what the general community would also consider to be degeneracy probably aren't helpful.

And this is coming from a libertarian who—all joking aside—supports gay rights in general, and gay marriage in particular (although through the democratic process through referendum or state legislatures, I should note, and not by fiat of the courts). You catch more flies—or bears, for that matter—with honey than you do with vinegar.

Think about it. If your primary goal is to get in the face of the breeders, and yell, "We're here! We're queer! Get used to it!"...Well...then, carry on. On the other hand, if your goal is to encourage acceptance and toleration among the electorate in general, so that they find it less onerous to vote for things like gay marriage (which, by the way, more than 60% of California voters rejected the last time they had a chance to vote on it), then you may find that a more accommodative and less aggressive approach might be useful.

This is a topic I might be able to offer some insight on.  I think he is partially right about the political effect of such things, but there are other factors to consider.

First, Gay Pride is more reflective of a social movement than a political movement.  It definitely has political roots (Stonewall) and political overtones--I don't want to downplay that at all.  But I don't think that is the essence of Gay Pride.  It reflects a desire to celebrate a community of gay people in a way that lets us support and cherish one another.  Group building often has elements of focusing on the "other", and Gay Pride definitely has that in its political aspects.  But it is also about supporting each other, and embracing each other.  So while some aspects of that may cause short-term damage to the political cause, that isn't really the focus.

Second, the thing that sets us apart from much of the rest of our communities is in fact sex.  A typical gay experience involves repressing one's sexuality until you can't take it any more.  Then, hopefully, you learn to embrace it without shame.  Some people take that further in public than I personally would, but it makes some sense as a rejection of the early damaging response to society suggesting that your attraction to the same sex is deeply wrong. 

Relatedly, on a continuum of weirdness many of the "more extreme" things aren't really all that much more shocking.  For the average homophobe, I strongly suspect that on a revulsion scale of 1-10, merely being gay gets you to 8 or 9.  Being a gay leatherman, drag queen,  or a boot-stomping lesbian might get you to 10, but that doesn't put you much further than the average guy who kisses his boyfriend in private.  So for support purposes it makes much more sense to hang together rather than hang separately.  Furthermore, if you are exposed to violence or lesser nastiness, the gay leatherman, drag queen, or hyper-butch lesbian have been through it all and usually aren't too embarassed and/or scared to help you out.  Their wealth of support is more than worth the average political loss. 

Now I know gay people who are generally embarassed by the excesses of Gay Pride and wish everyone would tone it down.  I experience twinges of that myself from time to time.  But life isn't all about politics. 

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Comments

And of course this doesn't even come close to pointing out the essential truth that rights are rights, and Cum Towel dispensing or no, you should have them.

(And I speak as somebody who firmly supports gay rights and gay marriage, and who is irritated as all hell by Pride Day, which has morphed - at least here - into a showy look-at-me party for the pretty, and gradually headed away from the sense of fellowship it originally gave. But come on, just because Pride Day annoys me doesn't even come into the equation as regards their civil rights, nor should it.)

Of course, QandO's comments say more about QandO than anything else. What is "degenerate" about sex?

Well to be fair, it could be that QandO doesn't have any real issue with the overt sexual overtones; however, QandO is making the traditional, "If you don't act up, we'll give you your rights when we're ready to" line.

To which, as always, my response is "F&%$ that noise."

Great post, Sebastian. I'd suggest that Dale is missing the point completely, too, with this:

As a practical matter of politics, if your goal is to convince the American people that you aren't, in fact, a collection of degenerates, then public displays of what the general community would also consider to be degeneracy probably aren't helpful.
The goal, Dale, is to convince the American people that you have the same rights as everyone else even if you are degenerates. Which, even within the limited scope of what he's discussing, is a premise I don't accept, but still. Rights are rights and are not predicated on whether I'm uncomfortable with fisting or whatever.

Also, what, Decided Fencesitter says above me is totally correct. Arguments of the form, "I think you should have your rights, but only if you can convince 50% + 1 of the voters that you should" are crap.

I think there was an Onion article along the same lines... yes, here we are.

Gay Pride Parade Sets Mainstream Acceptance Of Gays Back 50 Years.

The behaviour exhibited in gay parades of course should have no implications for the legal standing of gays in any way. However, I wonder at some openly gay priests who partake in those kinds of parades. One the one hand saying that homosexuality has nothing to do with promiscuity (which they still see as a sin), it's not a lifestyle choice, and then going marching on the terms of people who obviously see it as a lifestyle choice, and a radical one at that!

Cut there. What I wonder is: if gays are just like other people, only gay (and that's what I believe), shouldn't it be a great idea to advertise that? Wouldn't wild gay parades make it harder for some people to come out of the closet, rather than easier?

Just an idea, mind you. I can understand the reason for standing together, but it seems to me that people who are ... perhaps not quite representative get to decide the terms.

Heterosexuals, as it happens, also find Cum Towels useful, but we don't make public displays of them at events where we encourage the attendance of families and children.

I don't know, but I'm pretty sure we do; maybe not in San Diego, but in Rio or New Orleans and other places where we have erotic carnivals - and these carnivals are not too uncommon.

And that's what these parades are - erotic carnivals.

Here's the one in Geneva, it's called Lake Parade; it's not advertised as a special gay event or anything, but to a large extent it is. We went to watch it this year with my daughter, it was OK but too crowded and no free cum towels, unfortunately.

In Belgium the holebi federation had this gay parade ad to bring attention to the fact that many holebi's still consider suicide at least once in their life (1 in 3) and people should support them more.

In Amsterdam the gay parade is a hugh marketing event, sponsored by the city. Some people are in favor, other complain that it isn't a real protest anymore because of the limitations (no nude genitals, no sexual actions in public, rambrand theme this year). That makes it kiddy safe by our standards though - except for the people who wouldn't travel to Amsterdam city center anyway.

This I think is wrong, and significantly so:

"For the average homophobe, I strongly suspect that on a revulsion scale of 1-10, merely being gay gets you to 8 or 9. Being a gay leatherman, drag queen, or a boot-stomping lesbian might get you to 10, but that doesn't put you much further than the average guy who kisses his boyfriend in private."

Sure, there are homophobes who match that description closely.

But if by "average homophobe" you want to describe, e.g. the 60% of Californians who voted against gay marriage, then it is wrong, wrong, wrong.

I think there are lots of mild homophobes for whom "mere gayness" is not a source of revulsion, and for whom outlandish overt behavior *is* a source of revulsion. People who aren't going to run from the room because there is a gay couple in it. But who would decide not to eat in a restaurant if there were a lot of couples wearing revealing clothes and groping each other--I mean, whether the couples are gay or straight.

So don't confuse your extreme, "stomp 'em all" homophobe with the "average homophobe", who is the key to actually changing the laws in this country. Their revulsion is less easily triggered, and triggered by things that are not too different from what triggers their revulsion at deviant heterosexual behavior.

(I stay far away from New Orleans, Rio, and anything modeled on them--why I find those attitudes towards straight sex deeply repulsive we can save for a different day, but suffice it to say that my revulsion there is compatible with my being a happy and avid heterosexual, and having no interest in restricting heterosexual rights).

Now--does my revulsion ever negate your rights?

No, it does not: the point of calling something a 'right' is to elevate its status above such trivial opposition as mere revulsion.

Yes, it does--as a matter of "practical politics", it is frequently mere irrational revulsion that leads one group to legally violate the rights that another group has.

No right can be negated by a revulsion on the Platonic level where perfect rights are born. But on the level of practical politics, things is different.

Dale's point, so far as I can see, was not that gay people don't have a right to look degenerate. It was not even that they don't have a right to look degenerate while campaigning for their rights. Sure, you've got a right to do both. But as a matter of "practical politics"--i.e., changing the country for yourself and your children--it is just stupid.

As a matter of rights, Martin Luther King had the right to march in Selma wearing leopard-skin bathing trunks and juggling watermelons as he went. He could have been carried on a litter by a band of moaning Nubians while driving his scantily clad harem with a whip in front. Or substitute your own favorite D. W. Griffith-inspired racist prejudices instead.

My point: sure, you have a right to confirm all of your opponents' worst prejudices, even while you are campaigning against prejudice. But as a matter "practical politics", it's counterproductive.

Much of Dale's screed rings true for me. I suspect that he and I are far from uncommon.

As Dan Savage once pointed out, Gay Pride = Mardi Gras for gay people. Want to see heterosexuals acting lewdly? That's what Mardi Gras is for. Gay Pride is often quite the same.

Of course, the one I went to in DC was remarkably tame. There were gay people in marching bands, gay people shopping for clothes and artwork, gay people eating and drinking... And not even a single Vietnamese spin-fuck chair. At least not that I saw.

Of course, QandO's comments say more about QandO than anything else. What is "degenerate" about sex?

To every thing, there is an a time & place.

My reaction is pretty much the same as QandO's -- fine thing to do, but maybe counterproductive -- although I do appreciate Sebastian's point. Not everything can be politics all the time; nor should anyone be forced to live her life weighing the politics of each next intake of breath.

Martin Luther King had the right to march in Selma wearing leopard-skin bathing trunks...

King was only one of the civil rights movement leaders. The Black Panther Party, for example, used entirely different tactics and they were effective too, arguably more effective than MLK.

Similarly, I'm sure there are gay activist who always wear business suits and would never paricipate in a gay parade, so what.

"The Black Panther Party, for example, used entirely different tactics and they were effective too, arguably more effective than MLK."

I would be very surprised to hear historians of that era confirm this. I would have said exactly the opposite, namely that the effect of the Panthers was exactly to slow down progress, strengthen the resistance of the staunch bigots, and make a lot of fence-sitters nervous enough that they came down on the wrong side of the fence. (It's not as though I was *unaware* of Huey Newton when I wrote that earlier post).

But this is a factual question about facts I am not the master of. What do historians of the era say: which set of tactics was more effective: MLK's, or the Panthers'? And were the Panthers' tactics more effective, as abb1 argues, less effective, or (as I suspect) actually counterproductive to the goal of effecting nation-wide changes in legislation?

(other possibility: their effect has to be calculated with interaction-effects, as the effect of the bad cop cannot be measured without reference to their enhancing the effect of the good cop. I don't think that's *true* in this case, but it's a possibility).

Historians of the Civil Rights era, please?

At a Pride march I went to in Glasgow one year, I was stopped by a Daily Record reporter. He wanted to know what we were all doing here - did we really think that thousands of us marching through the city was going to help the cause of equal rights for gay people? What I told him, spontaneously, I don't think I could have bettered. "This isn't a demo. Demos are about equal rights. Pride is a celebration. This is a party and every gay person in Scotland is invited."

I think it was only the second or the third march ever held in Scotland, and he was a very young reporter: I suspect he thought that perhaps thousands of openly gay people marching through Glasgow was a story, and was probably surprised when he got back to his office to discover that the policy of his newspaper (as all British newspapers at that time) was to pretend that Pride events were not happening.

(No joke, no exaggeration: I used to be a regular attender at London's Pride march and festival, in the years when it was the largest free musical festival in the world, and every year the organisers would warn London Transport that about thirty thousand people were about to cross London from one side to the other... and every year London Transport would ignore the warning, the Tube system would be "unexpectedly overloaded", and there would be traffic jams and delays. Still, it was fantastic: I was sad when they went bankrupt.

Harold: The behaviour exhibited in gay parades of course should have no implications for the legal standing of gays in any way. However, I wonder at some openly gay priests who partake in those kinds of parades. One the one hand saying that homosexuality has nothing to do with promiscuity (which they still see as a sin), it's not a lifestyle choice, and then going marching on the terms of people who obviously see it as a lifestyle choice, and a radical one at that!

I think you're missing the point, kind of. Being homosexual is not a "lifestyle choice" any more than being heterosexual is a "lifestyle choice": by the time a person is old enough to know what their sexual orientation is, there's no way to change it.

What is a choice is deciding whether or not to be ashamed of it. A priest, vowed to celibacy, has absolutely no reason in the world not to publicly acknowledge that he is gay - and that being gay is not a sin in and of itself. Whether a gay Catholic who is not a priest or a nun decides to be celibate or not is their own private personal decision - no one except their confessor has any right to judge. That is Catholic doctrine.

"This isn't a demo. Demos are about equal rights. Pride is a celebration. This is a party and every gay person in Scotland is invited."

A very good way of putting it, Jes. I suspect that not everyone who attends these events, in America anyway, is quite so clear on the distinction.

FWIW, the QandO poster is probably right about the political effects of all this public sexualizin', and I think it's unfortunate that some commenters have already been petty in their responses.

America is a Puritan (*not* a "Christian") nation. It was founded in no small part by people whose Puritanism annoyed the hell out of their neighbors, not to mention the government, so that they were encouraged to leave and go be Puritans elsewhere.

So long as the battle for equal rights for gays isn't won, it seems counterproductive to me, too, to put so much emphasis on waving your Vietnamese spin-fuck chair in public. OTOH, "in the long run we are all dead," and I understand the point that today's gays may not want to wait 20 or 50 years to be fully accepted before they rejoice openly in their sexuality.

It would be a shame to kid oneself that there's not a trade-off here, is all.

For The Straight Folks
Who Don't Mind Gays
But Wish They Weren't So BLATANT

you know some people
got a lot of nerve.
sometimes, i don't believe
the things i see and hear.

Have you met the woman
who's shocked by 2 women kissing
& in the same breath,
tells you that she's pregnant?
BUT GAYS SHOULDN'T BE BLATENT.

Or this straight couple
sits next to you in a movie
& you can't hear the dialogue
Cause of the sound effects.
BUT GAYS SHOULDN'T BE BLATANT.

And the woman in your office
Spends your entire lunch hour
talking about her new bikini drawers
& how much her husband likes them.
BUT GAYS SHOULDN'T BE BLATANT.

Or the "hip" chick in your class
rattling a mile a minute --
while you're trying to get stoned
in the john
about the camping trip she took
with her musician boyfriend.
BUT GAYS SHOULDN'T BE BLATANT.

You go in a public bathroom
And all over the walls
there's John loves Mary,
Janice digs Richard,
Pepe loves Delores, etc. etc.
BUT GAYS SHOULDN'T BE BLATANT.

Or you go to an amusement park
& there's a tunnel of love
& pictures of straights
painted on the front
& grinning couples
coming in and out.
BUT GAYS SHOULDN'T BE BLATANT.

Fact is, blatant heterosexuals
are all over the place.
Supermarkets, movies on your job,
in church, in books, on television
every day and night, every place --
even in gay bars.
& they want gay men & women
to go hide in the closets --

So to you straight folks
i say -- Sure, i'll go
if you go too,
but i'm polite --
so -- after you.

Jes now makes me want to sit down & pen a Sex Pistols parody, "Pretty Blatant."

Alas, work deadlines loom ...

I probably shouldn't comment, since I have no relevant experience in lots of ways, but I would have thought that the people who talk like this are conflating two different questions. (1) Suppose that the gay population of a given city has one big collective mind and asks itself, what sort of face should we present to the world? and (2) )the one for the real world): Suppose that on a day that's devoted to celebrating one's gayness, some people choose to celebrate their gayness in ways you would not choose for yourself, and might even find counterproductive: is this the time to be going all censorious, or the time to celebrate and accept it all? Suppose, that is, that there is no one big mind that makes decisions, and that some of the decisions are not ones you would make: what should your response to that be?

Mine would not be to worry about the poster at QandO.

Jes and I had a huge row over this, with Jes taking, mirabile dictu, the side that Seb is taking, with me taking the side of QandO/von. (and I see on preview, Jes has weighed in, refreshed after her break *waves*) I suppose for me, part of it is that being a foreigner, I feel very cognizant of the fact that my rights are granted to me at the state's discretion. So while I see the point that Phil and DFS raise (and agree with it wholeheartedly), I wonder what is needed to change people's minds and hearts.

Also, I am always struck by the way history is mythologized. There are plenty of folks who were around during the early 60's as 25-30 year olds, and they would probably tell you that well, they were for civil rights, but it was just the actions of a rabid minority. Yet it really wasn't, and it took an activist court and some rather radical legislation to change things. And you still have Georgia trying to pass voter id laws in 2006. So the challenge is creating some way where the majority of the people can convince themselves that they were on the right side, even when they weren't.

Also, as a side note, erotic carnivals seem in many cases to be an outgrowth of Catholicism (though that might not be the case for Geneva)

Kid, I think the 'bad cop/good cop' explanation you suggested is a good one. Or another way to look at it would be: a peaceful mass movement with militant resistance on top of it. That's the most effective way to achieve something.

Same appears to be true for Ghandi - he wouldn't have achieved much without Indian army starting to turn against the Brits.

abb1: before Gary appears, I should warn you that he has a thing about spelling Gandhi correctly. -- One way to remember it is to note that the h is not basically silent, as it would be in English. G and Gh are two quite different letters, and the latter is pronounced sort of like a french R, which makes Gandhi's name completely different -- more like "The Amazing Ghandi!"

The fight's been won already if we're looking at my age range - 20-30. Civil unions/same-sex marriage, I believe, have a better than 50% approval rating. So really at the moment, in my mind, the fight is to get the courts are on the protection of rights for minorities.

Went to my friend and massage therapist last night, and discussing our political system, his statement was "Isn't our system designed to protect us against the tyranny of the majority?" And my statement was, "Yes, but only if you can get 41 people on your side, or at least not have 61 against you." But thinking back on it, there is the court. The unelected, the PITA to get impeached court, which is why minority opinions always go to the courts, because the hurdle to get listened to, to matter, is just so high.

So in my mind, before I took a hard left at Tangent Street, 1) the fight is to not lose ground in the debate so that when my generation comes to power we will not have to overturn laws, and 2)utilize the courts to gain the rights that should be duly granted to the minority pro forma, but are being withheld.

The behaviour exhibited in gay parades of course should have no implications for the legal standing of gays in any way.

Of course it shouldn't. But, unfortunately, it does. It's easy enough to poke fun at Dale and those like him (and I'll confess that I wouldn't feel comfortable at such an event, whether homosexual or heterosexual), but if your interest is in changing minds rather than simply promoting your own enlightment above the masses, then perhaps you should take Dale's comments a bit more seriously.

I am not for a minute suggesting that gay pride events shouldn't take place. But I do think that those of us who believe that rights should not be restricted to those who share our sexual predilictions ought to consider how best to address the concerns of people like Dale, who see that kind of event and think it's inappropriate and reflects poorly on the gay community. And I'd suggest that snide commentary on the motivations of those who are on the fence is unlikely to move them in the desired direction.

Bottom line: gays have their festivals and do whatever they want, but those of us who believe in equal rights regardless of orientation need to find ways to address complaints like Dale's, rather than dismissing them. (Which I think Sebastian has done a good job of, I should note.)

This part of Sebastian's post is key for me:

For the average homophobe, I strongly suspect that on a revulsion scale of 1-10, merely being gay gets you to 8 or 9.

A lot of rhetoric about things that I (you, whoever) find distasteful is framed in ways that suggest there are more acceptable alternatives. Sometimes it's true. But sometimes it's not. For some people, no public demonstration of the fact that this man is in romantic and sexual love with that man is really ever going to acceptable. I would have said 7 or 8, but that's quibbling. As I sometimes ask others (and myself, when I remember to), can you really imagine yourself changing your view on X because of a shift in rhetoric? And if not, why are you wasting others' time with fussing about that, when what you really mean to say is "I object to the whole principle here?" I'm trying to teach myself more self-awareness about it for just that reason. If I can't be plausibly appeased, then there's no point in trying to appease me.

Sebastian, your point about the practical experience in survival on the part of the old veterans is one that I heard just a couple days ago from a queer friend. She says that each time she's taken part in a gay pride demonstration or gathering lately, the busiest times have been before and after the scheduled events, wtih a lot of scared kids (and some scared older people!) looking for the really practical advice on gettting through it all. It made sense to me once she explained it, but I will guess that a lot of us who don't take part had never thought of it.

The Gandhi counterweight was a rather interesting person named Subhash Chandra Bose. However (and this is where it gets interesting) Bose probably had more to do with the British giving up India than Gandhi did. However, our image is of Gandhi forcing the British to grant independence and Bose is a mere footnote.

Hilzoy: probably shouldn't comment, since I have no relevant experience in lots of ways

You do, you know. Supposing that there exist heterosexuals who are blatant about their sexual orientation in ways which would embarrass you were you to be standing next to them in a public space. (Not knowing your criteria for embarassment, I can't be more specific than that.)

Would you feel that those heterosexuals who are behaving like that are providing a public reason why heterosexuals should be treated unequally under the law?

It's a truism among those of us who actually do attend Pride, as opposed to those who only peer from a distance, that the peerers-from-a-distance seem to see only what offends them most: whether that's glistening young men wearing only a jockstrap and body paint, or topless middle-aged lesbians hugging each other, or SMers wearing full leather and leading each other around on choke-chains. These p-f-a-d are, it appears, determined to be offended: and it is pointless trying to behave in a way that will get them not to be offended.

The idea that lesbians and gays ought to behave better than straights do in order to "prove" to straights that we "deserve" equal rights is the same kind of reasoning that led some homophobes to argue that a recent horrible case of two gay fosterfathers abusing boys in their care "proved" gays aren't fit to have children - while equally horrible cases of straight couples abusing children in their care doesn't, in their eyes, prove that straights aren't fit to have children.

abb1,

The thing about the Panthers is that they were operating in a part of the country where blacks already had more de jure (if not de facto) rights than in the American south. Most of the civil rights legislation was, IIRC, aimed at those parts of the U.S. where blacks were legally second-class citizens.

I am not a historian of America, so I welcome correction, but as I understand it, it was less of a Sinn Fein/IRA thing than it was a movement with somewhat different goals and a different geographical base.

The problem with attempting to put a straightjacket on the wilder fringe of the gay community is that by so doing, you are defining the kind of gay community for whom these political rights may be won, and permanently hobbling the mainstream gay community with a self-defined "shameful" fringe element.

Once the "polo-shirt and slacks, condo-in-the-city, just want to hold hands in the park without getting creepy looks from the straights" community buys into this argument, the opponents of all gay rights have won a critical victory, and gay rights will receive a dangerous and self-inflicted wound. If "gay pride" parades are to be policed of their sexual flavor, it will be mainstreaming gays themselves who will do it. And given that this policing breaks on explicitly moral lines (think of the children!), then you will have gay Americans explicitly acknowledging that the gay community is, in at least some ways, immoral. Presto!

And hey, lets face it. Taking pride in homosexuality is taking pride in sexual preference. If you take your kids to a gay pride parade, you better be ready for questions like "Daddy, what does gay mean?" And your answer can't be "Oh, that just means they are from Gayland, just like the St. Patrick's day paraders were from Ireland and the Columbus day paraders were from Italy." If you are not ready to answer that question, and instead, when the sexual message of the parade (the point of which is to express unashamed pride in that sexual preference) becomes clear, you blush, and say "well, I never" and clap your hands over your kids' ears, well, all I can say is, you're an idiot and you shouldn't have brought them.

Just because I never thought I'd get to post this in an ObWi thread, I figured I should mention that the uber-heterosexual Tenacious D sell a fantastic cum towel.

However (and this is where it gets interesting) Bose probably had more to do with the British giving up India than Gandhi did.

Perhaps, but his speakers are to audio fidelity what Muzak was to actual music.

The idea that [group X] ought to behave better than [group y]

But, after you remove the truly odious part of discrimination, this is what remains, and I am not sure how you get rid of it. It seems to me that the only way to get rid of it is to have group x be assimilated into group y. This plugs in, I think, to a comment of mine in a previous thread, that it is too often not the case where a discriminated against minority understands how pernicious majority power is and takes steps to avoid abusing it when they become the majority. It seems that the usual way is only to start off as a member of the majority and renounce that, a la Buddha.

st's point is very interesting, but every group has its fringe elements, and it seemed that the most powerful blows for gay rights were when you had people looking at everyday sort of folks and realizing not that they were different than you, but that they were basically the same.

DFS's point about how the younger demographic is already comfortable could be taken as an argument for not rushing things, as demographics is going to solve the problem anyway. However, I don't think this is true, or we would have had some sort of drug legalization now based on the opinions of the demographic moving though the body politic, but I don't think that there has been any movement on that topic.

However, our image is of Gandhi forcing the British to grant independence and Bose is a mere footnote.

Well, of course, and for obvious reasons: the establishment wants to dissuade you from any active resistance.

If you are pissed off at the authority - just come out and demonstrate in that specially designated area between warehouses and the train depot, and everything will be fine.

And MLK is a saint and national celebrity for this very reason too.

It's only when they want something - then violence is the first order of business, of course.

Just to be clear, I'm pretty sure Dale's point is nothing like "gay rights ought to be contingent on not being silly in public". He isn't one of the homophobes. His point is something more like "Given that you already have a tough fight, aren't you making it tougher."

My answer is: maybe, but probably not very much tougher, and Gay Pride isn't really about politics.

lj: But, after you remove the truly odious part of discrimination, this is what remains, and I am not sure how you get rid of it.

By cheerfully mocking (or politely ignoring) the odious people who believe that in order to receive the same rights, black people ought to behave better than white people, gay people ought to behave better than straight people, women ought to behave better than men, &c, &c, &c.

It is odious, lj, because it presumes that anyone who isn't [straight][white][male] doesn't intrinsically deserve the rights of a human being, but must prove by individual and collective "good behavior" that we should be treated as if we were almost the equals of those who do (by this judgement) intrinsically deserve the rights of a human being.

I'm beginning to think that the public excess will fade a bit once being gay is not something one would take pride in, anymore than being straight is something I take pride in. It just is. One might as well place blame on those who are reactivated by it.

So you might gather that I'm of two minds about the whole thing, which is not exactly a new experience for me.

abb1: If you are pissed off at the authority - just come out and demonstrate in that specially designated area between warehouses and the train depot, and everything will be fine.

This really doesn't correspond to the historical reality of either Gandhi or Martin Luther King.

Neither of them were cuddly saints. But both are dead, so can be safely admired by even the right-wing mainstream who would have - who did - detest them when they were alive and a bloody nuisance.

I'm beginning to think that the public excess will fade a bit once being gay is not something one would take pride in, anymore than being straight is something I take pride in.

THis seems unlikely, Slarti: I've not noticed any sign that the public excesses of straight people are fading, even though the pride straight people feel is something they are so accustomed to that they don't even recognize it as pride any more. It's privilege: your privilege not to think of it.

abb1, sure, there's that, but clearly, if we don't have that myth of being peacefully convinced, we are left with the sole option of consecutive revolutions that merely substitute one group of power hungry people for another. A younger me would demand the truth, but the older me would be happier if everyone thought that they got along, but really didn't...

And jes, I don't believe that civil rights were obtained through cheerful mocking and polite ignoring, but through a growing realization that 'they' were no different than 'us'. How that realization comes about is the question.

Yes, we're excessive all right. You can barely keep us off each other. Sometimes, hoses must be turned on us to keep us from the mating frenzy.

I don't believe that civil rights were obtained through cheerful mocking and polite ignoring

Of course not. But you asked how we should deal with the odious people who calmly believe that gays are intrinsically inferior to straights. And yes, one way of dealing with those polite little bigots who are certain of their superiority is to cheerfully mock them or politely ignore them.

but through a growing realization that 'they' were no different than 'us'.

No. That's not how civil rights come about. That's the result of civil rights.

How that realization comes about is the question.

By GLBT people being as blatant as straight people are.

This is why - strategically - marriage is a political issue, as well as a straightforward civil rights issue. Obviously, same-sex couples should have the same right to get married as mixed-sex couples: that's basic civil rights. Politically/strategically, being married is a public, blatant, declaration of sexual orientation - and one that is traditionally approved of and sentimentalised about. You can hate "those damn dykes" - but it's a lot harder to hate Carol and Alice who live two houses down who are getting married after fifteen years together, and who both look so happy standing together making their public pledge of love and committment.

We just need to be more blatant.

Yes, we're excessive all right. You can barely keep us off each other. Sometimes, hoses must be turned on us to keep us from the mating frenzy.

Sometimes you actually mention - blatantly - that you have daughters. That you have a female partner. I know more about your sex life than I do about Sebastian's, Slarti, because like most straight men, you're far more confidently blatant about it than any gay man.

...we are left with the sole option of consecutive revolutions that merely substitute one group of power hungry people for another...

Why, we are left with nonviolent saints, with bloody revolutions and with everything in between. There must be something in the middle that works better than either extreme.

So African Americans obtained civil rights by exercising power in the same way as white Americans? It seems that your argument becomes a cover for giving gays the opportunity to offend people.

I do agree that because the majority is straight, comments like 'my wife and I' or 'my children' become reminders of how gays are not given the same range of responses, and this is the problem with any majority/minority situation. But what should be done? Should Slarti stop mentioning his daughters and wife because that is flauting his straight status? I don't think that solves the problem. Should straights just shut up and rip into anyone who says they feel some discomfort. Well, I was taught that you try not to lie about things and if I feel some twinge of discomfort (as Sebastian has said he does), I would be hypocritical if I raked someone over the coals about voicing their discomfort. It seems to me that more blatancy is just a recipe for creating the sort of divide that is a standard feature in almost all discourse.

I think the analogy to Mardi Gras is apt. I have always found Mardi Gras to be mildly ick-inducing. But that doesn't (and shouldn't) have anything to do with basic rights.

And once again I don't think Dale is suggesting that it ought to.

those of us who believe that rights should not be restricted to those who share our sexual predilictions ought to consider how best to address the concerns of people like Dale, who see that kind of event and think it's inappropriate and reflects poorly on the gay community.

Honestly, I'm not sure what this even means. Since Dale's concerns are largely concerns about another community's decorum, or taste, or aesthetics, I'm not sure how we can address them--except in the fashion Sebastian has--or who should address them, or to whom they should be addressed. Should the Human Rights Campaign take a stand against Drag Queens, Leather Daddies, and Dykes on Bikes?

As a straight man who is personally a bit uncomfortable about displays of sexuality in public, I think raucous Pride Marches are a great idea. Rub it in our faces, so to speak, until we get used to it.

"...Gay Pride isn't really about politics."

Nonsense. You might as well say that Orange Day Parades were (are?) a celebration of tight-assed Protestantism.

Americans are very picky about when one should wear a clearly marked uniform.

Sometimes they demand that you wear a clearly marked uniform and that you not hide, and then they shoot at you. And then sometimes you put on a clearly marked uniform and they react with outrage and tell you the markings are too clear, that you have communicated too much information, please hide, covering their eyes. They say "take off that clearly marked uniform, at once, or someone's going to shoot at you!"

Where can I get some moaning Nubians?

;) See, it's just me in my motley.

liberal japonicus: It seems that your argument becomes a cover for giving gays the opportunity to offend people.

Oh, we're back to that again.

People who are offended by GLBT people behaving as if we are not ashamed of our sexual orientation will take the opportunity to be offended anyway. It doesn't matter how ashamed GLBT people act: ultimately, it is the existence of GLBT people that offends, and the more ashamed we act, the more ashamed we will be expected to act.

Should Slarti stop mentioning his daughters and wife because that is flauting his straight status?

No, of course not. But neither should you expect a gay man to shut up about his daughters and his husband because that's offensive to some people. That some people are offended is their problem - but one of the ways of trying to make it our problem is by claiming that those people wouldn't be offended if only we just shut up and acted properly ashamed.

Should straights just shut up and rip into anyone who says they feel some discomfort.

Yes, if you want to be supportive. Not necessarily "rip into" - but prejudice is prejudice, however politely expressed. If a person "feels discomfort" at seeing a gay person be as blatant as a straight person, the polite thing for them to do with their discomfort is to shut up about it. If they try to make their private prejudice about gays the problem of the people they are prejudiced against, well, yes: do what Hilzoy did in a like situation, and make clear you won't listen to that crap.

Or, be sympathetic and supportive, because you share their discomfort and think you have a right to feel that way. Your choice.

"...Gay Pride isn't really about politics."

Note also the assumption that the Pride participant gets to decide what's about politics and what isn't. For god's sake, people, Derrida's been dead how long, and already we're back to this?

I know more about your sex life than I do about Sebastian's, Slarti, because like most straight men, you're far more confidently blatant about it than any gay man.

Actually, J, you know nothing at all about my sex life. You know about my sexual preference, but not about my sex life.

There is, I submit, some nontrivial distinction between the two.

Yes, we're excessive all right. You can barely keep us off each other. Sometimes, hoses must be turned on us to keep us from the mating frenzy.

I see that you too have been in a big college town on any given weekend...

Ahh, back to jes the manichian. You actually don't know what I've said to people when they've expressed 'odious' thoughts (note that your definition of 'odious' is rather broad and could include people who disagree with your taste in anything) but I'm not trying to understand what I do but to understand how society changes. But you think the answer is more blatancy. What precisely is the mechanism by which more and more blantancy changes minds?

In Slarti's defense, it's an assumption, not a reflection of his brazen openness, to think that his having daughters has anything at all to do with his sex life. Unless I'm mistaken, further brazenness on his part would reveal that this assumption is mistaken.

"But neither should you expect a gay man to shut up about his daughters and his husband because that's offensive to some people. That some people are offended is their problem - but one of the ways of trying to make it our problem is by claiming that those people wouldn't be offended if only we just shut up and acted properly ashamed."

But you have transformed the analogy. It isn't talking about his daughters and his husband that we were talking about. We are talking about various goings-on at Pride. I think gay people should be able to have their own Mardi Gras. I went to the parade. But trying to make people feel bad for being uncomfortable (not mean, not vicious, just uncomfortable) is counterproductive.

further brazenness on his part would reveal that this assumption is mistaken

Heh...indeed.

Apologies for the above brazen-ness.

Liberal Japonicus: You actually don't know what I've said to people when they've expressed 'odious' thoughts

No, I don't. But your suggestion has always been that it is the fault of GLBT people for being "offensive". So for all I know, when a man tells you he finds the sight of two men kissing a source of discomfort, you think that the two men kissing are odious, and sympathize in a supportive kind of way with the man who's just expressed his polite bigotry. Perhaps it's exactly the reverse: perhaps you'd tell the man who just expressed his bigotry (I presume, as politely as he told you about it) that he needs to get over it. But all I know about you is what you say here, and here you say - frequently and repeatedly - that for gays to be as blatant as straights are is offensive.

But trying to make people feel bad for being uncomfortable (not mean, not vicious, just uncomfortable) is counterproductive.

Quite. A person who says that s/he finds the sight of men kissing a source of discomfort is being - in a small kind of way - mean and vicious: that person is trying to make people feel bad and uncomfortable. That's counterproductive, and should be opposed. Do you oppose it?

It would be interesting to do a comparison of lewd exposures per year summed across the country and see how the straight community fares when Las Vegas and Atlantic City are included. Certainly "what happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas" has an advertising budget no non-straight group does.

America is a Puritan (*not* a "Christian") nation. It was founded in no small part by people whose Puritanism annoyed the hell out of their neighbors, not to mention the government, so that they were encouraged to leave and go be Puritans elsewhere.

Posted by: Anderson | August 01, 2006 at 09:05 AM

So what the hell are all these Anabaptists and Papists doing here?

But your suggestion has always been that it is the fault of GLBT people for being "offensive".

No, your reading of my discussions has always been that. For all you know, I may have taken some lumps trying to defend a gay friend and I am now wondering if discretion is the better part of valor. But bringing up anecdotes in this context has a 'well I have gay friends' flavor to this, so I'll just leave the floor to you and your arid self righteousness. Your repeated accusations and assumptions of what I think when I flat out tell you what I am interested in talking about is rather tiresome. I don't think that more blatancy is the answer, you do. You clearly aren't interested in explaining to me why you think more blantancy is the solution and it looks like you are trying to pick a fight with Sebastian, so I'll just pick up my beer and head to the parking lot.

No, your reading of my discussions has always been that.

As I recall, last time we didn't get anywhere. You persistently claimed you didn't mean that being openly gay is intrinsically offensive, yet as persistently claimed that being openly gay is offensive.

I don't think that more blatancy is the answer, you do. You clearly aren't interested in explaining to me why you think more blantancy is the solution

How can I? You don't understand that telling GLBT people to behave as if we are ashamed of our sexual orientation is offensive - at least, I do you the credit of assuming that when you say "Don't be blatant" you don't realise you're saying "Act as if you're ashamed".

"I do you the credit of assuming that when you say 'Don't be blatant' you don't realise you're saying 'Act as if you're ashamed'."

It depends on what you mean by 'blatant'. From a friendly person I would interpret it as don't do things that would tend to gross people out if they were done by straight people. Personally I find certain levels of groping to be a bit gross when done in public (fun in private) no matter the orientation of the people doing it.

Should basic civil rights be contingent on avoiding that? Clearly no.

Is it wrong or homophobic of people to react that way? Not if they want to hold gay people to the same standard as they want to hold straight people.

If you find "Girls Gone Wild" a little distasteful, I'm not going to complain if you find some activities at Pride similarly distasteful.

If you are going to try to ban either, I have a problem.

If you are just annoyed, I don't have a problem.

I do you the credit of assuming that when you say "Don't be blatant" you don't realise you're saying "Act as if you're ashamed".

Jes, what does 'blatant' mean to you? From this thread, I assume it would be Slarti mentioning that he has daughters. I don't define that as blatant, so any discussion we have is not going anywhere. But you seem determined to be offended no matter what I say, so ttfn.

Determined? Committed, I'd say.

And, given that there's some nonzero (but unknown) probability that both of my daughters are the product of Chinese lesbians armed with turkey basters, the blatancy quotient is not peggable. I suppose I could find out something for you, if you really have to know just how offended you ought to be.

Me, I don't see how this can lead anywhere useful.

I think holding to the same standard is the key word. If I talk about my sons I'm more at ease discussing them with my lesbian team mate with kids, than with my childless heterosexual team mate. I prefer not to watch groping and extensive kissing - no matter who does it. AFAIK that is Liberal Japonicus' standard too.

Having gay rolemodels is important, not holding gays to another standard is important. But that is day-to-day acceptance, the fight for equal rights.

Gaypride is, as I understand it, finally celebrating your gayness. It is a hindrance and obstacle most of your life when you are gay, and you have to adept and in most societies hide your sexual preferences. When you have a party to celebrate the difference (and indeed, sex is the only difference between heterosexuals en homosexuals) it seems normal that you go to extremes.

Jes: the problem with your examples is that homosexuals and hetereosexuals don't behave different. Gay people also discuss their kids, and their partner, and the items they think their partner will like. Extensive public kissing is more a youth thing than a sexual orientation thing, asf.

I'm kind of confused about how this turned into an argument. Surely different events can have different purposes. Jess said that the events she goes to are parties, not intended to influence the people who aren't there (except maybe the gay ones who aren't there who might dcide to join the next year). If the event isn't intended to influence the people who aren't there, if it isn't designed to be watched by nongays to change their thinking, then the effects on the nongays not there are irrelevent.
On the other hand if the event IS intended to influence the straight people who watch it, them Qand O is right. So it depends on the purpose.
I watched the Seattle Gay Pride parade on TV earlier this spring and I got all teary eyed and sentimental about it. I actually started crying when the Seattle school buses showed up. It seemed like such a beautiful display of community solidarity. Now, having read this conversation, I can see that the parade was intended to give a completely differnt message to a completely different audience than the events Seb and Jess attended. For ony thing, many of the participants weren't gay. It was a city's public demonstration of support for the city's gay citizns, not a gay celebration of gayness.
It was coloful and cheerful and fun but there wasn't much that was any more overtly sexual than a Las Vegas show.

As a gay man who disagrees with Sebastian on just about everything else, I feel compelled to offer thanks and kudos for an excellent post.

For the average homophobe, I strongly suspect that on a revulsion scale of 1-10, merely being gay gets you to 8 or 9. Being a gay leatherman, drag queen, or a boot-stomping lesbian might get you to 10, but that doesn't put you much further than the average guy who kisses his boyfriend in private. So for support purposes it makes much more sense to hang together rather than hang separately.

I've seen this point made many times by many people, but rarely so succinctly. Nicely done.

It wasn't nice upper-middle-class professionals in chinos and polo shirts who got the ball rolling in June 1969: it was a bunch of drag queens, hustlers, and freaks. The dregs of the earth, from the standpoint of mainstream society. We forget this at our peril.

For myself, I'm neither a drag queen nor a leatherman, and I sit pretty squarely in the middle of the butch/femme continuum, but the whole "tone it down and stop scaring the straight people" line really bugs me. And I think one major reason for this is that when I first started hearing the words "gay" and "faggot" hurled in my general direction as a kid, it wasn't because of my "sexual orientation," it wasn't because I wanted to sleep with men (I didn't particularly want to sleep with anybody at age 9)--it was because I violated the rules of what a boy is supposed to act like, in all the usual ways. (Hated sports and stank at them, would rather help Mom get dinner ready than help Dad fix the furnace--you know the drill.) And given that experience, the idea that I would turn around and start policing my fellow queers' self-presentation in the interest of short-term political gain is just unthinkable.

Here's one thing that I think would be really productive: it really puts members of any group that's trying to win acceptance in an untenable position if one expects them to do all the heavy lifting themselves, while simultaneously trying to make their every gesture non-threatening or whatever, while simultaneously not going insane.

That being the case, it has always seemed to me that people who are not in the group in question should proactively work to make their situation better. It's a lot to ask of, say, Uncle Kvetch that he should start policing either his own or other people's self-presentation. It's not a lot to ask of, say, me that I should try to help, and do whatever tactical thinking I need to do in order to figure out how to do that most effectively.

I'm thinking, as I write this, of my first job, where I was the first woman they had ever hired for a tenure-track job. As it happens, I'm good at being the first woman, etc. However, my life was made immeasurably easier by the fact that one of my colleagues went out of his way to spot and then bring up at department meetings issues involving women, without my having to ask, so that I wouldn't always be the one who brought them up. It was generous and courteous, and in this regard I want to be like him.

I'm with DM on the idea that public sexuality is more about maturity than orientation.

On the parades, I have to say that I'm really struck by the fundamental disconnect between the contentions that (a) the rights of gay people aren't (objectively speaking) or shouldn't be (as a practical matter) affected by the fact that a large number of straights are offended by the goings on at these parades and (b) the key civil rights of gays in issue do not inhere in them (where they might be vindicated by a court) but remain to be granted, by the majority of society, at that majority's pleasure.

Just because many participants in such parades are not doing so with explicit political motive (I accept for argument), it does not follow that the parades are not deeply significant, politically, to non-participants.

I'm sure that there are hard core homophobes who think about gay people all the time. Just as there are advocates, on both sides, who think about abortion all the time. For most straight people, though, it seems to me much more likely that when they think about gay people at all, they think about a child, cousin, or close friend -- someone whose rights they would not like to curtail at all. Just as most people deal with abortion as a private matter -- and I would guess are overwhelmingly pro-choice in the context.

What Pride parades do is change the focus from my thoughtful and decent gay friend George to Those Wild Gays. Of course a substantial political price is going to be paid. The questions are (a) is it worth paying that price to have the fun and fellowship; and (b) are the rights of gays really dependent, as a legal matter, on the goodwill of the non-gay majority.

These p-f-a-d are, it appears, determined to be offended: and it is pointless trying to behave in a way that will get them not to be offended.

What about us p-f-a-d who aren't offended in the least, but tend to think that some things are private and it's good that they remain so? I'm obviously not suggesting that gays go in the closet, being a proponent of gay marriage and all. (But let's do it legislatively, OK?) Nor am I terribly concerned about reasonable PDAs -- gay or straight. Kiss your girlfriend on the street, hold hands, dance a jig; more power to you. But certainly I'm allowed to draw the line and say, y'know, I'm perfectly OK with my son (when he's five or six) seeing two men kiss, or taking him to a gay marriage rally. But I'd rather he not be exposed to lots of overt sex -- gay or straight -- until he's a bit older, and can process and understand what's going on. I'd really not have someone else rush his childhood or dictate when and what discussions I, as his parent, need to have with him. Among other things, it's rude.

IOW, the laws of civility are suspended when it comes to sex, gay or straight.

(Granted, my kid is 6 mos. so, at present, all this stuff is future tense.)

Erm:

"IOW, the laws of civility are not suspended when it comes to sex, gay or straight."

Back in the old hippie days I used to go to music events (the Dead being my favorite) and of course they were clebrations with lots of behavior that upset the people who weren't there. The behavior wasn't intended to upset them and no one planned to quit to avoid upsetting them. The events weren't for the people who weren't there.
On the other hand I also went to countless anti-war martches and I thought at the time and still think that the hair, clothes, slogans, pot, rudeness to cops etc. was counterproductive and self-indulgent and should have been saved (except for the rudeness which is never OK) for the concerts. The purpose of a demonstration is to communicate with the people who aren't there. Communication means you try to understand who you are talking to and try to express your thoughts in a way that the other person can understand. If you want to change minds,you refrain from offending the other people.
MLK was successful because he understood this. The marches he led were intended to influence the people who saw them through the media. He wanted white people to see dignified, civilized African Americans being mistreated by uncivilized bigots. By sticking to nonviolence that's exactly what the events he organized communicated.
His events would not have been anywhere near as successful in terms of influencing opinion if they had been organized to be displays of Southern black cultural pride. Not that there is anything offensive about Southern black culture, just that would have been unclear, unfocused and confusing to an audience of pepple not part of the culture.
I'm old enough to remember this stuff. I remember the pictures of people being blasted with firehoses. It was unbelievably shocking. I lived in Iowa and didn't know any black people but I could (even at seven or eight or however old I was) react very viscerally to injustice. Displays of black culture would have been healing and stregnthening to
African Americans but would not have inspired white northerners to support the Civil Rights movement.
So about Gay Pride events: it all depends on what the event is for.

FYI -- bein' pretty libertarian in such things -- I'm obviously not against consenting adults doin' whatever they want to do at a private function, or even a public function that's suitably shielded. Indeed, I wouldn't even try to stop Gay Pride events as currently done. But I do suggest that (1) my objection is a valid one and (2) trying to meet the objection in good faith would tend to respond to CharlyCarp's point.

For most straight people, though, it seems to me much more likely that when they think about gay people at all, they think about a child, cousin, or close friend -- someone whose rights they would not like to curtail at all. [...] What Pride parades do is change the focus from my thoughtful and decent gay friend George to Those Wild Gays.

The first thing I thought when I read this is "But what happens when said child/cousin/close friend is one of Those Wild Gays?"

The second thing I thought--and this may just be my triple-digit-temperature-addled brain finally overheating once and for all--was that one of the most radical and refreshing depictions of queerfolk on TV at the moment is none other than...ready?...Family Guy. Brian (the dog) has a gay cousin, Jasper, who is, to put it delicately, a flaming, screaming, ditzy, silly (and unapologetically promiscuous) queen; imagine Will & Grace's Jack on steroids. And there has never been a suggestion that Brian has anything other than total affection for Jasper, or that he's uncomfortable with Jasper's flamingness, or that he wishes Jasper would just tone it down a little when he comes to visit. Jasper is what he is, and he's loved for it, not in spite of it.

It's downright revolutionary.

Von: What about us p-f-a-d who aren't offended in the least, but tend to think that some things are private and it's good that they remain so?

If you take your son to a Gay Pride event, odds are he will see lots of people dressed as is ordinary for a hot day in June or July and a proportion of people in whacky costumes which he will not associate with sex unless you tell him to do so (by, for example, complaining in his hearing about people wearing all those offensive getups, thus cluing him in). He will likely see people holding hands, kissing, cuddling, and so forth. He may see more skin exposed than he's used to see except at a swimming pool, but odds are he won't pay any attention to that unless you tell him to (by, for example, complaining in his hearing about all those people indecently exposed).

Judging by the reactions of the kids I have taken to Pride - ages 2 upwards - he'll register it as a loud cheerful outdoor party with costumes and music - unless you react badly to any part of it and thus let him know that there's things going on here that make you uncomfortable that should therefore make him uncomfortable.

I've never seen anyone waving any sexual appliances about. (They're expensive, you know.) If anyone is waving any sexual appliances about, your six-year-old son won't know what they are unless you tell him. He probably won't even be interested unless you make it clear he should be by your own discomfort.

People will likely be handing out safe-sex kits, especially men and women dressed as nuns, but they're unlikely to make a point of handing one to a six-year-old, and if they do, well, they usually contain condoms and lube: nothing to offend anyone.

CharleyCarp: What Pride parades do is change the focus from my thoughtful and decent gay friend George to Those Wild Gays.

But perhaps your thoughtful and decent gay friend George is one of Those Wild Gays, and he tones it down around you because he's used to toning it down around straight folks - most of us over a certain age are and do, because not toning it down around straight folks can have lethal - or at least extremely unpleasant - consequences.

Undoubtedly, unless your decent and thoughtful gay friend George has only straight friends, some of his gay friends are Those Wild Gays - and he never mentions them to you because he's used to the idea that there are large parts of his life he can't talk about to his straight friends.

I'm making it up about your gay friend George, of course. I don't know him personally. But I do know many people whom their straight friends would describe as "decent and thoughtful" (because they are) who behave exactly as I've described when around their straight friends - and, depending on their age, mostly don't even think twice about it: it's just what you do.

To chime in with Jes, here anyone who's hobbies are not in the mainstream does that. I don't generally discuss my alternative cultured life, my gaming, my involvement with the SCA err...excuse me, Medieval Reenactment, or several of my other hobbies.

That's just what you do to not make waves. Walk quietly, live for the weekends and evenings with the friends that you can be open around.

It doesn't matter what I think of George, or any other gay person. I'm personally not staying awake at night worrying that someone somewhere is having more fun than I, whether at a gay or a straight Mardi Gras. If people agreed with me about the nature of the US Constitution, it wouldn't matter what anyone else not attending such events thinks either. Here's the problem though: there are people who think that civil rights of gay people are not granted by their creator, nor inhere based on the Constitution, but must come as an act of grace by the majority of society. For such people -- or anyone in a society where such people are in control -- it matters a whole lot what people not involved in the parade think of the people who are involved.

It's not up to me to decide what political prices other folks think are worth paying. It's not up to me to decide whether it's fair that a price must be paid. I can say, though, that a price is being paid, and that to deny this is wishful thinking.

Thank you, Jes, for finally pointing out that Dale is conflating Pride demonstrations with the various gay/leather-themed shopping events that take place around them and at other times. Sure, there are some vendors with porn and sex toys and whatnot; that stuff isn't in the damn parade, unless San Diego is a lot wilder than San Francisco. If there are a lot of them there (which is certainly not the case everywhere) it's because there's a sizable (heh) community in the area that's into that stuff, which, at least around here, is not exactly a secret. Since the vendor booths also feature a bunch of gay travel agencies and jewelry and books and lots of health services, it sounds like what Dale wants is not so much to make Pride be about more than raunch, but to keep the raunch entirely out of the public eye. In California.

Sure, most Pride events have more skin showing than, say, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, but otherwise I can't help wondering whether Dale went to the Folsom St. Fair by mistake.

Jasper is what he is, and he's loved for it, not in spite of it.

Yeah, but what I meant was that the consciousness moves from the single individual, with whom one can form empathy, to the anonymous and scary collective. That's why I was taking about abortion in the same breath: I suspect that people feel differently talking to their sister-in-law about her pregnant teenager than watching one of those big rallies on the TV.


I don't have any gay friends who are flamboyantly out to me. Nor any straight friends who are all 'girls gone wild' around me. I don't think it's because they think I might be judgmental, but just because it's so far out of context. I don't think anyone regrets this . . .

Oh, christ, I don't know if anyone's going to read this far down in the thread, but I'll post it anyway:

1. This is above all a median voter problem. You may not like the icky reality of having to convince 50%+1 of your policy, but if the goal is legislative change, that is the only way to do it. If the goal is to be able to exercise hypersexual behavior in a limited public space, then you can already do that at Gay Pride, Mardi Gras, whatver.

2. The median voter is not driven by repulsion, they are driven by propriety. The median voter is my best friend's dad, who's a backwoods Democrat who supported the FMA because he thinks that marriage is between a man and a woman. He has many gay friends (we grew up in a SF-level liberal community), and he's not homophobic. Once I explained was the FMA was really about (esp. the bit about cohabitation rights), he was livid. This is a guy who hunts for dinner and runs a construction-equipment company. He was genuinely pissed about how Bush had represented the issue. (Showing you the value of framing, no?)

3. That guy does care about gay pride parades. And it's not because he thinks that it's morally degenerate, he thinks that it's tacky and inappropriate. He sees it much as most straights would see it if a Mardi Gras were to go marching down their Anywhereville, USA street. It's just stuff they don't want their kids to see.

And keep in mind: they don't see it as a celebration. To most people, if a political group organizes for a 'march,' it's a demonstration of politics, and in this case it looks like advocacy of public lewdness.

4. Holy shit, y'all are missing a huge opportunity. The fact is that gays are in all respects except sexual preference identical to straights.

I can assure you that there would be NOTHING more shocking to my friend's dad's worldview than to see a street full of gay men and women in regular attire, in suits, dresses, and t-shirts, advocating for gay rights.

5. You are making Karl Rove's point. The Republican talking point is that gay marriage and gay rights would lead to moral degeneracy. What they're playing on is regular Americans' desire to keep sex in the bedroom, and planting the idea that gays would be having sex in the streets. Look, most adults know that they do kinky shit in the bedroom. And they know that their friends and neighbors probably do, too. But there's a tacit agreement that you don't talk about it in public.

The genius of the GOP's move here is tying the public advocacy of gay rights into making people think that the goal of gay rights is to violate that social compact. When they talk about the 'breakdown of traditional values,' that is what they're talking about, not the fact that two people of the same sex can do what they want in the bedroom or hold hands in public.

This isn't about making a grand moral statement. This is about getting the right legislation passed despite dirty Republican framing, and not giving in to their dirty tricks.

"This is above all a median voter problem."

But it isn't. The political issue is a median voter problem.

First, it isn't all about politics.

Second, when you are being actively threatened it is nice to be able to go to the drag queens and leathermen and hard-as-nails lesbians to ask for advice and/or protection. They know what to do because they haven't been hiding under a rock.

That isn't a political problem either. That is a dealing with the homophobes who may be in a numerical minority, but have enough local power to mess with your life problem.

I fully agree that there may be problems with how Pride events are received by the marginal voter. But I strongly suspect they aren't outweighed by the communitarian advantages of hanging together.

And I say this as someone who on the continuum of things is much closer to the "kisses only in private" person than a drag queen.

If you take your son to a Gay Pride event, odds are he will see lots of people dressed as is ordinary for a hot day in June or July and a proportion of people in whacky costumes which he will not associate with sex unless you tell him to do so (by, for example, complaining in his hearing about people wearing all those offensive getups, thus cluing him in).

Yup and nope. It depends on time of day and the random meanderings of fate; there's a very good chance that it'd would be exactly as you describe. There's a not-small chance, however, that someone will be feeling particularly expressive. Without the kid, it'd be: more power to them. With the kid, it's "do I want to risk that?"

Ideally, there'd be family-friendly gay pride event -- one that the more radical elements of the community would undoubtably deride and sneer at -- and one that's a bit more blue.

I fully agree that there may be problems with how Pride events are received by the marginal voter. But I strongly suspect they aren't outweighed by the communitarian advantages of hanging together.

Exactly. It's fine if Adam (and CharleyCarp) want to talk about this in terms of costs & benefits; I just think the benefits hugely outweigh the costs.

Yes, there are undoubtedly a few people who would otherwise be more sympathetic to gay rights, but who are put off by the brazenness of Pride celebrations. But I firmly believe, and Sebastian seems to agree, that there are far, far more people who use this as a convenient excuse, when the reality is that there's nothing gay people could do to win their support.

Remember all the hoo-hah about "Brokeback Mountain"? Just how "brazen" was that movie, anyway? The answer: not very. Did that stop even-the-liberal Mickey Kaus from devoting paragraph upon paragraph to why no straight man (and HE IS A STRAIGHT MAN, OK?) could ever be interested in a gay love story, and how that doesn't mean they're homophobic? Not on your life. To my mind, Kaus' pathetic mewlings about BBM -- "I have no problems with gay people as long as I can live in a world where I can pretend they don't exist" -- are very much of a piece with the "If you people would just tone it down a little..." rhetoric. And they're equally disingenuous.

To Sebastian's observations about "hanging together" I would add the fact that Pride celebrations can be critically important for people who are just coming out. Many of them are coming from long years of experience of seeing their sexuality as something shameful, dirty, and clandestine. The very openness of Pride celebrations is huge in this respect. Sunlight is the best disinfectant, after all. My first Pride celebration (20 years ago this summer) was a very big deal for me in coming to grips with my sexuality. If the cost is a few disgruntled straight people, I think it's more than worth it.

I can assure you that there would be NOTHING more shocking to my friend's dad's worldview than to see a street full of gay men and women in regular attire, in suits, dresses, and t-shirts, advocating for gay rights.

Well, if your friend's dad actually went to a pride parade, rather than relying on media coverage (which inevitably focuses on the most sensational parts), he would see lots and lots of people in "regular attire" (maybe not suits or dresses...it's usually a hot summer day, after all). Along with the Dykes on Bikes and the Radical Faeries (God bless 'em) and the leather contingent, he'd see gay cops and firefighters and college professors and ambulance drivers and employees of Citibank and Verizon. He'd see skinny 19-year-old Latino boys in thongs and body paint, shaking their groove thangs on the club floats--and he'd also see big beefy dudes from the volleyball and rugby leagues. And if, after all that, all he took away from the experience was shock and disgust at the most outlandish parts of the parade, then I would have to say that he's not somebody we should be investing any effort into persuading, no matter how "median" a voter he might be.

"And I say this as someone who on the continuum of things is much closer to the "kisses only in private" person than a drag queen."

-- Jeez, Sebastian, can't you keep these facts about your sexual persona to yourself? Must you be forever tossing these unwanted personal revelations around like confetti?

Hmmmph.

So what the hell are all these Anabaptists and Papists doing here?

I keep asking myself that! ;)

As for the post's issues, the expression "get a room!" comes to mind.

And I am having a harder & harder time seeing how identifying "gay rights" and "right to public displays of sexual conduct" isn't both political and pernicious.

N.b. that I don't mean gays holding hands, kissing, etc. as "sexual conduct," even though it is in one sense. I agree there shouldn't be a double standard.

Heh, you haven't seen unwanted personal revelations until I reveal that I haven't been kissing enough, even in private. But I won't subject you to that.

If people don’t want to se the explicitly sexual stuff, then stop acting like voyeurs!

Really.

It is hard to take some of this criticism concerning the conduct at Gay Pride events seriously, when the offended are staring so hard.

I think the more graphic public displays of sexuality should be restricted to exceptionally beautiful people and conducted in a stylish manner, everything else is icky - so there.

I do care about human rights and common fairness. I don't care where you stick your dick. I'd say this to any straight friend who goes on and on about their sexual prowess. I'm just not a people person. People who draw attention to private insecurites, fishing for sympathy. I...Don't....Care. I'm against persecution of any stripe. I'll step in and have when the odds are uneven. But please don't ask me to care about your affairs or salacious indescretions.

Von: It depends on time of day and the random meanderings of fate; there's a very good chance that it'd would be exactly as you describe. There's a not-small chance, however, that someone will be feeling particularly expressive.

There's an excellent chance that lots of people will be feeling "particularly expressive" - this is Pride, after all. Your son may witness adults doing things like reciting poetry in public, dancing, kissing, and yodelling. If you react badly to any of this, so may your son...

Without the kid, it'd be: more power to them. With the kid, it's "do I want to risk that?"

Well, if your reaction really would be, to these people kissing, dancing, reciting poetry, or hurling the discus "more power to them", then yes, you can risk it. It's your reaction your son will be picking up on.

Ideally, there'd be family-friendly gay pride event -- one that the more radical elements of the community would undoubtably deride and sneer at -- and one that's a bit more blue.

No, Von: There already are "family-friendly gay pride" events. I've literally never been to a Pride event that wasn't family-friendly. And I'm not talking in the abstract: I mean, that I've never been to a Pride event that didn't include parents and their children. Really, literally, never. Of course parents bring their children to Pride if they get half a chance: where else will the children of a same-sex couple get to be in a world where their parents' sexual orientation is celebrated rather than decried?

When you say "family-friendly", I think you don't actually mean welcoming to parents and children, which every Pride I've ever been to certainly has been: you mean... something else. I'm not sure what.

Actually, I think what Von may mean by "particularly expressive" is: people will be having sex.

Uh, no.

Negative evidence: I've been to *counts* er, about 20 Pride events in my life. Some on hot days, some on cold days, some got rained out, some got a sun tan. I never saw anyone having sex. (People may have been finding somewhere quiet and out of the way to have sex, for all I know, but certainly, no one was having sex in the middle of a crowd in broad daylight: I have not only never witnessed anyone having sex at Pride (and I admit I'm not the most observant of people) but I've never heard any juicy gossip about someone who had sex at Pride (and I am an inveterate listener to juicy gossip).

Positive evidence: I don't know about US Prides, but UK Prides are quite embarrassingly well-policed. Sex in public is illegal, and I've never heard of anyone being arrested at Pride for having sex in public.

It might be worth pointing out at this point that the annual NYC St. Patrick's Day parade typically entails numerous drunken brawls, assaults, acts of public lewdness, and, in quite a few years, deaths. Pride, on the other hand, has been virtually incident-free for as long as I can remember. Something to think about when comparing the "family-friendliness" of various events.

Well, but, Uncle Kvetch: it's long been traditional that graphic violence is perfectly acceptable for children to witness: graphic sex is not. It's perfectly okay for a children's comic to show one man killing another: not okay at all to show one man kissing another. Naked guns, good: naked bodies, ick.

I've been going to Gay Pride Events in Los Angeles and Long Beach for years, and the most sexually explicit thing I saw was one dude licking another dude's nipple.

If you guys are seeing actual intercourse, then you may not be at a Gay Pride event.

I would not hesitate one moment to take my three sons (3, 6 & 7) to a gay pride parade. The worst 'visual' in the last one was people (M/F) wearing trousers with fake male genitals on them. They would love the show and they would laugh like crazy about the fake dicks. Part of the fun of their age group is showing their tiny dicks at each other - or farting, or burping, or saying naughty words.

They would mainly love the show though - as would we. Gay pride parade in its current form is much more fun to look at than if they would all were jeans and suits.

Kids are fairly easy in accepting the world and the rules in it. My kids all know that most people fall for the other gender but that there are plenty who fall in love with someone of the same gender. They want to know the difference between falling in love (they all have girlfriends *and* boyfriends) and being best friends. They cuddle because they want to show affection and mine still want to kiss their schoolfriends of both genders because it is how we show affection at home.

You have to teach kids the rules of society (when to kiss, whom to cuddle, and what NOT to do in public) but they understand joking to find a way around it pretty well. For both farting cushions and fake dicks.

My eldest knows how reproduction works in all details, including the practical means of the sperm to reach the eggs. He was curious enough at 4 to ask everything in detail and we tend to answer questions. We also explained to him that his body will get ready for it when he is older, with all the fysical changes. If he, or any of his brothers (who are less curious at the moment and thus less completely informed) would be homosexual, I want them to be as at ease with it as is possible for any human being hitting puberty.

Uncle K, I'm more offended, personally, by the writings of Mr. Kaus than by any Pride parades, and am happiest when ignorant of them.

Jes, 'family friendly' has a specific meaning in the US, and it's not 'friendly to families.' It means 'even the prickliest person could find nothing at which to be offended.'

But charleyC, that is a difficult border. Before you know it they forbid banana's :)

I only now realized that I should have said tinkywinky... or spongebob.....

OK, Jes, you're making fair points.

Uncle K, I'm more offended, personally, by the writings of Mr. Kaus than by any Pride parades, and am happiest when ignorant of them.

Brother. Friend. Comrade.

CharleyCarp: Jes, 'family friendly' has a specific meaning in the US, and it's not 'friendly to families.' It means 'even the prickliest person could find nothing at which to be offended.'

Are there any 'family friendly' events in the US, then? Because if an event only qualifies as 'family friendly' if no one could be offended, that would seem to rule out practically any event I can think of.

Kvetch,

You may not be aware of this, but St. Patrick's day activities started as a pride event back in a time when Irish people were despised and not always as obviously Irish as black people are obviously black. Remember when we used to say "If gays would all just turn purple...". Well, on StP's Day all the Irish turned green for all the world to see. And it was very definitely a political gesture while Ireland was under foreign control, at the same time as it was about a personal and communal gesture of personal pride and dignity.

I notice a confusion around "offensiveness". "Offend" is a verb, and verbs have argument structures. "Offend" is a transitive verb in English. That means it implies two arguments, both an actor or agent, and an experiencer. In other words "offensiveness" is not some free-floating independent entity out there; it doesn't exist unless someone does something and someone else is offended by it. There two questions: how much responsibility does the person who becomes offended bear? and so what if they are?

This is the so what if they are - people taking offense have the political power to make impose their will on us. That doesn't amke it right, that just means we have to live with it.

I am not saying that they are right. I find most Evangelical worship silly and sometimes heretical. It is offensive to me. Protestants in general are offensive to me. So what? Even if this were 1700 in France, and I had the power, would I have the right to round them up and do my Christian duty? A lot of good that would be to a Protestant at the chopping block.

Kvetch, You may not be aware of this, but St. Patrick's day activities started as a pride event back in a time when Irish people were despised and not always as obviously Irish as black people are obviously black.

I'm fully aware of that, Jim. I'm not quite sure how it's relevant to the topic at hand, though. My point was merely that if people are concerned about their children being exposed to nasty things, the argument could be made that the St. Patrick's Parade (as it exists today in NYC, not at its origins) is far "nastier" than Gay Pride.

Posted by: Jim | August 01, 2006 at 05:53 PM

Mackerel Snapper!

I don't mind the gays, as long as they ain't Papist!!

"But, when I go to an American Legion street fair, I don't see heterosexual girls wearing nipple-hiding electrician's tape as a summer top. The Vivid Girls aren't manning a booth that sells "Barely 18, Version 11"."

I guess you've never been to Mardi Gras in pre-Katrina New Orleans, then.

Bacchanialians ain't specific to either different- or same- gender orientation.

Besides, as a breeder in a city with a very, very prominent gay population, I want the weird shit at the Pride Parades so I have somthing to gawp at.

"I would not hesitate one moment to take my three sons (3, 6 & 7) to a gay pride parade."

Took my two-year old to a pride fair. He *loved* it. And everyone was *so* nice to us.

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