By Janine Warrington
Over the past several weeks, I have been looking at misconceptions that conservative Christians often hold about the LGBTQ+ community and Scripture’s stance on homosexuality. As I begin to wrap up this series, I would like to look at a misconception held not only by Christians, but by people from all parts of society: the idea that pride parades are all about sex.
One night, while having dinner with some of my friends, who happen to be both Christian and a gay couple, they asked me if I attend Pride events. When I told them that I do, they told that they do not support such events. Not because they have anything against the LGBTQ+ community, obviously, but because they are uncomfortable with the blatantly sensual nature of these events. I understand their discomfort and support their decision not to participate – half-naked attendees and free condoms are not everybody’s cup of tea – but it is important for us all to understand that pride parades and their displays of sensuality are about much more than sex.
The Spokane Pride Parade is taking place on Saturday (June 9), nearly 49 years after the Stonewall Riots took place June 28, 1969. Ann Bausum in her book Stonewall recounts the convoluted politics that led to a police raid of the Stonewall Inn, a bar that provided refuge for LGBTQ+ individuals in New York who had to keep their sexual orientations hidden in all of the other parts of their lives. As the story goes, those who had been in the bar at the time of the raid stood outside watching as the police escorted individuals into their squad cars, until one of those arrested called out, “Why don’t you guys do something?!” (p. 43). In response, New York’s LGBTQ+ community and allies began throwing coins and bottles, protesting the raid and effectively trapping the police into the now otherwise empty bar. This event’s momentum continued into the following days and years and the establishment of global pride events every June.
So, why are these events ripe with promiscuity? It isn’t, as society is prone to believe, all about sex and partying. Suggestive dress at pride events is a political statement. In the 1960s, strict dress code laws existed. As Bausum writes, “masquerading in the attire of the opposite sex was a criminal offense, except on Halloween. Local law required individuals to wear at least three gender-appropriate articles of inner and outer clothing at all times” (p. 14). So, when planning the first pride parade, activist Craig Rodwell “emphasized that there would be no ‘dress regulations’ – a stark departure from previous gay protests and marches, which had enforced strict guidelines on who could attend and how they could dress,” as Jim Downs writes in his book Stand by Me (p. 76). No longer would anybody be told that their clothing preferences were deviant or wrong. In this post-Stonewall era, people can dress how they choose and march for what they believe in.
So, as Spokane prepares to commemorate this riot, here are a few things for us all to keep in mind: Pride parades are not vulgar gatherings all about sex. When members of the LGBTQ+ community and their allies gather together in June, it is both a way of honoring those who have fought for equal rights and a political statement that we will continue to fight. When we gather together downtown this year, the flamboyant attire that will be on display is not something to be taken for granted – people had to fight against unjust laws to be able to march with the expressive freedom we have today. Pride parades are a beautiful display of human diversity and the refusal to conform to society – a bold statement that God created each and every one of us exactly as we are and there is no reason to apologize for that. Indeed, this is something to celebrate.
The Spokane Pride Parade, hosted by Out Spokane, will take place on Saturday beginning at noon in Riverfront Park.