Washington City Paper’s arts editor, Christina Cauterucci, wrote a 4,000-word history of Pride that turned into a diatribe against Pride titled, “Swallow Your Pride: How a homegrown show of solidarity became a commercialized, one-size-fits-all party weekend.”
Yes, Pride has become more commercialized but that was established in the title of the article. One sentence in particular sums up the writer’s view of being gay in D.C. and of Pride: “But in a city that has some of the most comprehensive queer and trans rights and protections in the country, where white gay men are a hypervisible demographic and you’re nearly as likely to find queers hanging out at Dacha or Red Derby as you are at Town or Phase 1, it can seem that while we’re here and queer, everyone’s already used to it.”
There are many reasons for the change in Pride in the District of Columbia. Surely one of the biggest is being out is acceptable in most communities. Clearly there are still areas of the city and parts of the population that don’t accept us, but those are becoming fewer and fewer. So while Pride was once an activist statement, today in D.C. it’s more of a celebration.
Because the LGBT community is so integrated into the community, the parade and festival have become bigger and more expensive to stage and, yes, we go to corporate America to help defray the costs. In turn, they get to display their commitment to the community with a float in the parade, a logo on materials or a booth at the festival. We should be celebrating that so many in corporate America want to participate. Just recently, corporate America helped to beat back discriminatory legislation in Indiana. Twenty years ago few companies would have willingly shown solidarity with the LGBT community.
The article talks about the lack of diversity represented in the parade and leadership of the LGBT community. As a community, we must work to change that. Yes, many of our civil rights organizations were/are funded by wealthy white men. That is slowly changing but not fast enough. We don’t want wealthy white men to stop giving their money but need them to recognize that wealth shouldn’t be the only criteria when it comes to the leadership of the groups. For years the Human Rights Campaign was called the Human Rights Champagne Fund. In its latest internal review, which they commissioned, there is still a long way to go to ensure diversity and equal opportunity in the organization.
Today, Black Pride, Latino Pride, Youth Pride and Transgender Pride celebrate groups within the LGBT community and there are many reasons to continue these celebrations. Earl Fowlkes says in the City Paper, “If I had a dollar for everyone who came to D.C. Black Pride and told me they weren’t out when they went back home, I’d be a rich man. You’ve got to have baby steps. D.C. Black Pride is a good entryway to being around other people who are openly gay.” So our community needs to focus on the diversity within it and recognize gay and lesbian people of color and transgender individuals often still face more discrimination than others in the community.
As we continue the fight, we shouldn’t demean and attack those who have worked hard to accomplish the successes we’re celebrating. Instead, we need to educate everyone on what remains to be done. We must recognize a real effort must be made to diversify the participation and leadership in our community if we are to win the battles that remain to be fought.
Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBT and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.