Race, Class, Boredom Cited As Cause of Slow Death

NY Gay Pride Going Down

New York gay pride’s dying a slow death. Millions of ‘mos used to march down Fifth Avenue onto Christopher Street.

The numbers, however, are starting to dwindle. Such a statement begs the question: “Where have all the homos gone?”

As New York Observer‘s John Koblin notes, there are more reasons than one.

Perhaps queer indifference stems from simple lack of knowledge. Koblin stopped by New York’s Phoenix to interview a few card carrying queers about Gay Pride. The response is less than uplifting – or intelligent. One subject, a 22-year old “poet” from that hell pit, Williamsburg, tells Koplin:

Maybe in the 60’s, it was fun when you’re like, ‘Fuck you! Fuck you, I’m gay and you’re an asshole,’ you know? Then you fast-forward from 19-whenever–whenever the gay revolution was, I don’t know, I’m not a scholar–things go on and get kind of boring.

Yikes, we’ve never feared more for a member of our young gay generation.

Still, we agree with this ill-informed hipster: pride can be a bit boring. And tiresome. It’s two miles of screaming and cheering and generally fagging out. But for what? Has New York pride’s ever-present commercialization costing the march its message? Koblin writes:

In its beginnings, the parade was an explicitly political affair, largely the work of affluent, white left-leaners consciously grabbing the Stonewall events as a rallying point for New York’s largely closeted gay and lesbian population.

One of its great messages was that closeted gays and lesbians were working alongside New Yorkers at white-shoe law firms, big accounting firms, in entertainment, the arts, publishing, journalism, politics.

After all, the message “out of the closet and into the streets!” could hardly have been aimed at people who were living out their gay lives there already.

Four years later, an article in The New York Times described the paraders–“most of whom were white and most of whom were young”–marching “past smiling policemen, wide-eyed tourists and blasé New Yorkers who passed it off with a live-and-let-live shrug.”

But over the last three decades, as that demographic has largely come out of the closet, and gotten a little more than a “live and let live” shrug when they emerged, there doesn’t seem to be much for them to march for.

Sounds to us like the gay shamers are on to something – without an explicit message, Gay Pride becomes nothing more than a walking, talking explosion of rainbow. And with very little taste.

While the younger set, such as that buffoon at Phoenix, are simply bored of the parade, older generations may simply be too rich. Empire State Pride Agenda’s Alan Van Capelle remarks:

If you start at the top of the parade on Fifth Avenue, you see the well-heeled tourists and straight allies. In Chelsea, you see folks who own apartments and who can afford those rents and who are sitting out on their balconies with mixed cocktails that are in really beautiful colors and in terrifically shaped glasses. Then you work through the parade and get to the Village and you see more people of color.

Christopher Street, once the epicenter of the American gay rights movement, has found itself largely abandoned by the post-Stonewallers. As gays gained more dough, the racial and class divides effectively demolished the movement’s universal foundations. Former Village Voice editor Richard Goldstein echoes Van Capelle’s musings:

White people say they experience the parade as being tired and corny. They’ll say it’s unattractive to them. The reason it’s unattractive to them is because there are all these faces of people of color from all over the world. What happens is the parade gets blacker and blacker.Fewer white people feel drawn to it. The result is, to be seen at the parade is a little déclassé.

Gays may say they celebrate difference, but only in terms of sexuality. Race and class need not apply.

Another factor in New York Pride’s seemingly slow death may also stems from New York’s gay-friendly atmosphere. Simon & Shuster associate publisher Matt Davie remarks,

I live in New York, and it’s sort of like every day is Gay Pride Parade. It’s not this special day that I can suddenly throw on my rainbow flag, or whatever. That’s every day. I don’t need this special day where I’m out of the closet.

Davie and his equally upwardly mobile New Yorkers may have turned their backs on the parade, but it still serves a purpose.

A New Jersey-based lesbian tells Koblin:

When you come here, you can really just be yourself. There’s no hiding, no pretenses, no nothing. It’s just you and there’s no better feeling in the world than being able to let go. That’s priceless.

“Actually, I met a couple people today who are from Jersey City and Elizabeth, and it’s like, ‘Are you serious? You live in Jersey?” … So we’re all excited that we might be able to start a community in Jersey. So that’s just worth it all.

The revolutionary message of pride may be long dead, but much of the message remains the same: queers need to come together. Even if native New Yorkers don’t participate, it’s nice to know some people are getting something from the gay day. And, really, even the most bitter queen can begrudge them that.