The city of Boston tentatively approved both a parade route and the permit. Its goal is to denigrate the entire LGBTQ civil rights movement.
My gaydar started to flash “warning!” when I first heard that a band of straight guys, known as Super Happy Fun America, are planning what they call a “straight pride” parade in Boston this summer. The group’s slogan — “It’s great to be straight” — is certainly catchy, in the same kind of way “Make America Great Again” is.
Indeed, it’s great to be straight — some of my best friends, even my brother — are. And if LGBTQ people can celebrate June as Pride Month with a parade (and parties!) in their honor, why shouldn’t straight people have pride, too?
Organizers are touting the new parade as a celebration of “the diverse history, culture, and contributions of the straight community.” Amen, my brothers! You wrote the history books, the laws and the religious canons, and you are lionized month in and month out — that doesn’t mean you don’t deserve a parade as well.
Super, Happy Fun
Straight pride initially seemed like a bad idea going nowhere fast, but it is now on surer footing. Last month, Boston tentatively approved both a parade route and the permit, although the police department and city licensing board must still give their OK.
Despite promises to be “super happy fun,”I’m remembering the roots of straight pride, a movement launched about 30 years ago by conservative social groups to mock and ridicule gay pride — and people. Its goal has been laser-targeted: to denigrate the entire LGBTQ civil rights movement, which has always focused on equal rights and protections, like being able to keep your job, get married or be allowed into the hospital room when your beloved is dying. How fun is all that?
Even more “fun,” in the weeks since straight pride was first announced, The Guardian has reported on the ties between its organizers and the far-right group Resist Marxism, leading to worries that straight pride might descend into violence. One of the organizers of straight pride, Mark Sahady, participated in an event last year in Portland, Oregon, that was declared a “riot” (and not in the funny, laugh-riot way) by city police. Sahady has also organized similar events for Resist Marxism in Boston. Suddenly, that super fun parade is starting to sound super dangerous, which is probably why Boston’s mayor will wisely be a no show.
John Hugo, who is president of Super Happy Fun America and a Republican who lost a congressional race last year (not that this is a political event) has argued that straight people are an oppressed minority. Reasonable people might disagree on two counts — the oppressed part and the minority part — but that won’t cut into Hugo’s propaganda, oops, I mean fun, catchy slogans.
Comedian Eva Victor nailed all this on Twitter with a satirical video to her boyfriend that details why she’s so excited to go to straight pride. “We have 364 days a year where we have unbelievable, unspoken privilege and then we have one day here — one day — where we get to celebrate having that privilege all year long,” she quips. “What’s not to understand?” she explains to the boyfriend, adding that they can wear swimsuits, ride atop a float and kiss in public. “Kiss me!” she demands, “that’s what (straight pride) is all about.”
Victor’s message is scalpel-sharp to those of us who have lived with the fear of any public displays of affection, sometimesbeing arrested for holding hands or kissing in public,sometimesbeing assaulted or killed. Yes, kissing as a metaphor is central to LGBTQ pride, and when you see jubilant gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender kisses on a Pride float, know that those were hard-earned indeed.
Perhaps the most super happy part of the parade is its grand marshal, Milo Yiannopoulos. The disgraced right-wing pundit lost his job at Breitbart News in 2017 after making light of pedophilia, and was permanently banned from Twitter a year earlier after instigating racist abuse campaigns against an African-American comedian. In May, he was also barred from Facebook for “dangerous” speech. Sure, Yiannopoulos is on top of my invite list for a good time — and a grand marshal.
In New York on June 30, 2019. (Photo: Porter Binks/epa/EFE)
We’re Here, Not Queer
“I’ve spent my entire career advocating for the rights of America’s most brutally repressed identity — straight people,” Yiannopoulos, who identifies as gay, said in a statement. The parade, he continued, will “celebrate the wonder and the majesty of God’s own heterosexuality.” Although it’s not clear who the “we” are in his statement, he concluded that “it’s great to be straight, and we’re not apologizing for it anymore. We’re Here, Not Queer.”
A backlash movement that claims to promote or defend the rights of majorities when oppressed minorities rise up is nothing new. Take Black History Month, created to counter the systematic elimination of African Americans from American history. In recent years, efforts have been made to create a White History Month (which a recent survey showed is supported by a small plurality of Trump partisans), ignoring the fact that American history pretty much is white history. History books are filled with tales of our (white) Founding Fathers, and 44 of 45 U.S. presidents have been white men. This does not look like persecution to me; rather it’s animus cloaked in a false argument of equality.
None of this is to say that Super Fun Happy America should be denied its parade in the sun next month. Our dearest freedoms are of free speech and association, so we cannot tamp down expression we find egregious. At the same time, let’s not get distracted by faux festivities that mask an agenda of exclusion, if not hate. I may have turned off my gaydar alarm for now, but I’m not going back to sleep. We all need to be wide awake for this.
Steven Petrow, a Washington Post columnist and a regular contributor to the The New York Times, is the host of “The Civilist,” a new podcast produced by PRI and WUNC that discusses today’s toughest political and social issues. Follow him on Twitter: @stevenpetrow
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