pride after the fall

We’re probably all used to what we once called “Gay Pride”; the movement, the marches, the protests, and later the mardi gras and carnivals. Being called “gay pride” wasn’t helpful or representative of course, as there was more than male homosexuality (even when “gay” referred to both men and women in the early days) involved, but the way things developed, “gay” was the term that entered popular consciousness, mis-conflating sexuality and gender variance, amongst other things. But enter popular consciousness it did. You don’t get choices about things like that. It got sliced and criticised and added to, till there was often a general surrender to the term “Pride”, as if you could be counted on to fill in your own meaning. We say “Pride”, but the world at large probably still thinks “gay pride”, just as it thinks that drag queens have some kind of inherent link with homosexual men.

The days of pink triangles borrowed from (a legitimate men’s history in) the Nazi concentration camps have been superseded by bright rainbow flags, and the long campaigns to legalize sex between men (it was never illegal between women in the UK) and reform laws on both things like this and abortion, have sometimes been superseded by the mirage of rights taken by riot and rebellion. Many people remember the Gay Liberation Front and their hippie era publicity, but how many remember the Campaign for Homosexual Equality? We forget that we were a deeply disempowered minority, and minorities don’t actually get to call those kind of shots, not without support and change of conscience from the majority. Otherwise we would just have been imprisoned or worse. The new left went marching on, but we actually know that was just rousing bullshit, and we in fact owe our freedom not to the barricades, but to reasonable people working anonymously to change laws and public opinion. We could not have done it ourselves.

Given the brassy tones of identity politics, I’m not entirely surprised that you occasionally get heterosexuals proclaiming “straight pride”. If no one explained to people that it wasn’t actually about being proud but about being accepted as fully human, how the fuck were they supposed to guess? It wasn’t about big revolutionaries, it was about a change of heart and mind, that then changed laws. And that involved a lot more “straight” minds than “gay” ones, because there really weren’t enough of us to do it.

So yes, be proud of being straight, or whatever you may be, but more importantly thank you to anyone who helped or helps to change minds to extend full humanity to the morally disenfranchised. That is something to be proud of.

Oscar Wilde portrait by Napoleon Sarony [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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