First of all, while I understand the semantics of calling the whole gay empowerment movement "pride," I don't actually like that word for it. "Pride" is not the same thing as "self-respect" or "dignity." Further, if (as our side so often argues) being homosexual is innate, then it is no more a cause for pride than one's height or hair color. We hold forth (correctly) that it is not a choice, and by that some token neither is it an accomplishment. I understand "Gay Self-respect" just doesn't scan, and am not about to start attacking event posters with a red pen, but I find the word problematic.
One could argue that what we're proud of is the community we've built, and I could be on board with that in theory. It's the practice where that description breaks down. Andrew Sullivan quotes a reader who likens the "new atheists" to gay pride marchers:
Like a gay pride parade the New Atheists overreach.Oh, yes. "Breaks of decorum" is a nice way of putting it. And cringe I do, indeed.I cringe when I hear them make blanket dismissals of people with any religious convictions as ignorant, bigoted, or just plain stupid-- just as many of my gay friends cringe when they see... lets say 'breaks of decorum' at gay pride parades that many of us find unacceptable in anyone, gay or straight.
At their inception, gay pride parades served a purpose (as Sullivan's writer says) by confronting mainstream society with our presence and our refusal to be kept quiet and second-class. Over time, they've evolved into more of a celebration than a protest, though there are still plenty of political agendas on display (particularly in areas that lack marriage equality). There are elements that are of a more "supportive" nature (eg. the various religious groups that show up) and others that are more "expressive."
Into the latter category falls a lot that is outlandish. The more mainstream the viewer, the more outlandish the display will seem. From my perspective, the majority is benign, even if it's not to the taste of many. For example, drag queens have been part of gay culture for time out of mind, and it wouldn't be a gay pride parade if they weren't marching along in platform heels of improbable height. Same goes for Dykes on Bikes, etc.
The various go-go boys draped on the floats push the boundaries a bit, and contribute toward the (not entirely undeserved) over-sexed reputation of the gay community. But they're here to stay, I suspect. I wouldn't mind if maybe they reigned in the licentiousness just a titch, but that ship has pretty much sailed.
On the other hand, however, there are some people who show up clearly determined to let their freakiest flags fly. And let's just be clear that, no matter how non-mainstream homosexuality may be, some of these people are waaaaaaay out of our mainstream. To those people of a more... let's say "Mapplethorpian" persuasion, I say this -- I don't judge what you do in private, but none of us need to see you acting that way on the street. You're making the rest of us look bad, and I'd rather you put on more appropriate clothing.
I don't know who's in charge of deciding who's in and who's out (if you will) as far as Pride is concerned. As a community, we're chary of casting judgment, having faced plenty of judgment ourselves. This leads to the occasional epically bad decision, like allowing groups that champion pederasty to march. (For the record, the day NAMBLA shows up in Boston Pride is the day the local gay rights movement loses its moral authority [such as it is], and the day I stop showing up, much less marching along.) Nothing brings out my etiolated inner social conservative quite like some of the characters who gallivant around at these events, and if it freaks me out, then God only knows how it will play in Peoria.
I am all for telling the world that it can stuff its condemnation, and that people who don't like us can go hang. I've been there myself. But neither do we need to be providing the Family Research Council with raw footage for their campaign materials. Is it too much to expect that the parade organizing committee showed a little common sense?