06.15.17 Editor’s Desk

By : Billy Manes
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Billy Manes

“Shame! Shame! Shame!”

So went the missive in unison as thousands marched by the White House on Sunday morning, many having traveled from all over the nation and the world to participate in the Equality March for Unity and Pride.

It was an effective palate cleanser, some might say, from the more corporate, more typical Capital Pride parade just the day before, though, through the looking glass, it was two sides of the same coined message.

For a long time, the LGBTQ community has been battling against the fissure of progressive notions and corporate sponsorship; for a long time, we’ve been studying how to work within the system to better the greater good. But on this particular weekend in 2017, the cracks in the pavement became more obvious to the casual viewer.

At Saturday’s Capital Pride, a “disruption,” as the Washington Post reported, forced a pause in the parade and ended with a rerouting of the celebration. The group No Justice No Pride was on hand to stand ground and block participants from moving forward, namely because the group was protesting the fact that gay rights had become everyone’s rights, at least in the sense that any corporation or military-industrial complex signee could adopt a rainbow flag and blend in with the otherness of other.

“We anticipated this. We knew there would be counterprotests,” D.C. police chief Peter Newsham told the Washington Post. “We had planned for an alternative route, and that’s what we used.”

“Shame! Shame! Shame!” the counterprotesters shouted at those engaged in the parade. “Shame! Shame! Shame!” the parade-goers shouted back.

But isn’t inclusiveness what the queer community has been after for so long amid a flurry of legislation and tragedy? Didn’t the timing at least clue some people in to what was appropriate and what wasn’t? This was June 10, the weekend memorializing the one-year mark of Orlando’s tragedy, and a rift from within the LGBTQ world wasn’t exactly what the doctor ordered. Sure, we can all stand on sanctimony when it comes to corporatization and “rich gay white men” and the devil that brought them, but shouldn’t there have been a better way to express that frustration in advance of one of the most popular Pride celebrations in the world?

On the following day, at the Equality March, there were no floats and no corporate logos and the movement seemed far more comfortable with itself. The issues were clear – Pulse signs were everywhere as were placarded indications of political engagement from the Human Rights Campaign and the American Civil Liberties Union – and the solemn walk, one reflecting back to that of 1993, carried on without obstruction.

But this is a battle the entire LGBTQ community is dealing with as it celebrates Pride month in June and National Coming Out Day later this fall. We stand on the shoulders of giants, specifically those who joined the ranks of ACT UP and other protest groups as the AIDS scourge wrapped our nation – our world – in a cloak of doubt. We admire their tenacity, even their disruptions at federal buildings that must have been similarly frowned upon in a different time. We get it. Under the current administration, carte blanche is likely to be handed to any company or industry that does the president’s bidding. The man could hardly even address Pride month on his own – his daughter was programmed for that – and any cries of “shame” in his direction are completely admissible. It’s just the throwing-stones-toward-your-own part that was disturbing in D.C.

Still, it was a testament to the importance of Pride parades, and that’s what we’re celebrating in this issue featuring St. Pete Pride. Whether we have differences – and there are with St. Pete Pride and those surrounding it, so much that it’s bifurcating – or whether we’re marching in lockstep, it’s all for the same mission: equality. If we get too lost in the things that separate us, we’ll forget what we do to make change, make life better for everyone.

Coming home from D.C. to the memorials for Pulse was jarring in its own way, to be honest. I dreaded the tears that I knew would come when I stepped off that airplane. But I also knew that, at least now, at least in Orlando, we realize how fragile our dynamic actually is, how important community is in carrying us through. On Monday night, I watched people cry as they lit candles at Pulse, watched a drag queen story time at the library, saw some beautiful artwork and listened as our local leaders spoke words into action. I hope this becomes the norm, if there is such a thing.

If we don’t take care of each other – even as corporate employees under banners we do not like – that would be a shame.

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