Sunday, June 22, 2008

Thoughts on Cleveland Pride

Families planning to sail on the Goodtime III pleasure cruiser that is docked at Voinovich park might have initially had some apprehension after they boarded upon seeing that their principal view was of the 20th Annual Pride celebration. If they did look closer, they would have seen a crowd only a little more remarkable than those at any of the festivals in Ohio. Children, couples, friends, lovers, parents, pets and churches were interspersed with the odd drag queen or leather person, and even Foucault might have felt uncharitable in deconstructing the notion of an LGBT community of Cleveland. A very poignant image for me was of my friend Matt’s friend Michael carrying a child–an image of love and an empowering metaphor for the role of LGBT people in nurturing the future of our wider society.

Predictably the Parade was the (bloodless) battleground of a theological battle between the many Cleveland churches that embrace LGBT people and a small number of placard-bearing protesters. The ripostes were humorous and dignified; the marching band drowned out the microphone. How best to deal with them nonetheless provoked some debate: my friend Brandon was of the opinion that these people were attempting to provoke a fight and were best ignored. Perhaps there is some merit to the repudiation of homosexuality as a no-man’s land in the the internal politics of the church, but perhaps we are better if we welcome the protesters as humans, showing them the love they fail to reciprocate. The rights of freedom of speech and association that they enjoy are shared guarantees, even if we have had to fight to claim them and they have not, that allow us to be there in the first place.

Inside the festival, there were many interesting booths of the usual local and national organizations. Sadly absent was a Case Western Reserve booth (the LGBT Provost’s group did march in the parade), but for those who are interested, there’s plenty of groups to get involved with. Sexual health campaigners were encouragingly omnipresent although I wish the organizers had been more sensitive that to place Flex, a bathhouse, next to the AIDS campaign of Greater Cleveland.

Other people I talked to: I’ll now be going to the ACLU brown bag lunches on Wednesdays on Chester. I spoke with a representative from the Human Rights Campaign and offered to volunteer. I took a leaflet for my mom from PFLAG. I also offered to volunteer at the LGBT Center, who never got back to me last year. I’ve actually been looking for a while to volunteer somewhere but haven’t really found the right outlet yet. Perhaps these groups could do more to encourage volunteers. There were many other worthwhile groups, including musical, outdoors and athletic groups (softball and volleyball but alas, not rugby or snowboarding).

A minor peeve: I regret that groups like the HRC in trying to attract support for legislation like ENDA (which would prevent LGB but not T people from discrimination in employment on the basis of their orientation) lack the ambition for something more intellectually consistent. Such a bill would prevent discrimination against anyone–straight people too–for any reason irrelevant to their employment. The lady we spoke to unconvincingly reiterated Politics Is The Art of The Possible, but it is hard to see how this could not enjoy more widespread support than the more limited ENDA. It would moreover resist the distasteful and essentially discriminatory exercise of compartmentalizing subgroups of the community and then arguing separately on the rights that they ought, or ought not, enjoy.

It would have been churlish of me to have attempted to have argued this extensively at Pride even if I wish they might have more rigour in their sales pitch, so I did not, and signed up. I got a stylish bracelet with the Equals sign for my trouble. Matt got an equally stylish bag.

For one day a year we get to see that LGBT people cover the entire cross section of society and not merely those we see in bars. I heard the sharing of stories yesterday of discomfort within people’s families (I’m not immune to this either) about their orientation; I saw an evanescent vision yesterday of less conformist society. With the weight of Kant and Rousseau, Pride challenges us: Dare to know; Dare to be free.

1 comment:

Sean said...

Democracy is a beautiful thing! I share your concerns with how to deal with the anti-Pride protesters. I actually may oscillate more extremely than you do, since on one hand I want to actively censor them (not just ignore them), and on the other I want to go to church with them and remain in fellowship with them, since there are some such people in my own church as well. I'm really not at all sure what to do.