Banks, Churches, and Marriage Equality: Thoughts on Chicago's 44th Annual Gay Pride Parade

Banks, Churches, and Marriage Equality:  Thoughts on Chicago's 44th Annual Gay Pride Parade

I attended Chicago's forty-fourth annual Gay Pride Parade, mostly to wait for the Leather Pride float sponsored by Touché (it was practically at the end of the line-up; I wonder why?) Standing with a friend in an area away from the crowds at the barricades where we could both smoke, I noticed less gay bar floats (the older, at this point, community fixtures like Baton and Sidetracks showed up; more welcoming religious organizations (they pretty much marched together en masse, a stunning effect which should silence the holy haters like the Westboro Baptist Church); more schools including Nettlehorst, a local primary school; less politicians (though the really key figures like the Governor and the Mayor showed up, pretty much a given these days); but, overall, many groups, even nonpolitical ones, emphasized marriage equality given the recent decision on DOMA by the Supreme Court. 



Chicago Pride Parade, 2013

And, I noticed, most significantly, many more corporations such as Wells Fargo, Chase Bank, Commonwealth Edison appeared (it's heartening that the purveyor of electricity supports gay rights, though in some cases, like back rooms, less or no light is desirable). I'm being sarcastic, obviously, but I find it hard to get excited about a float for a bank, regardless of scantily clad dancing boys (there weren't any with Chase Bank that I could tell). Noticeably absent was the giant shopping cart representing Jewel/Osco (at least that float always had some camp value). 

Given the larger historical context, thinking specifically of times where one could be fired for being gay (or, for that matter, any form of what a company considered moral turpitude, which include smoking and drinking), this development showing that companies support gay employees is significant, but the edgy emotional pull that one can experience when seeing PFLAG or gay/lesbian veterans isn't there when one sees a float for a plumbing company. And, to be honest, it seems both pragmatic and mercenary. The large companies obviously can easily finance the floats and probably even assign (and pay) certain employees to ride on them. But one can't fault them totally: it all boils down to a totally “fabulous” advertising/marketing opportunity in a fast-paced, brutally competitive yet also politically-charged marketplace that reflects the culture wars currently going on.  


Little David, Vol. 1 No. 1, 1974

If one compares the line-up for Chicago's fifth annual gay pride parade in 1974, according to the report in Vol. 1, No. 5 of Little David, the differences are telling. Here are a few of the bars and community organizations that were represented in that parade: M's Lounge (a lesbian bar); Broadway Sams; Dugan's Bistro; Gay Broadway; The Snake Pit; Club Baths; Man's Country; Beckman House; G.P.U.; Gay Horizons Unity; Mattachine; and Good Shepherd Parish. 


1970s Chicago Gay Day

What does this line-up reflect about gay life during that time period? Most gays at that time socialized in bars, gay discotheques, bookstores, porn theaters and bathhouses in gay "ghetto" sections of large cities, and one notes a plethora of drag contests (perhaps throwbacks to the days in the closet?), cabaret acts, buffets, tea dances, as well as, on a smaller scale, meetings by what were then new gay activist groups.


One of the overall impressions that era presented was a very open, let it all hang out (literally, you couldn't keep a good cock down, many were hanging out or bulging out of one's short shorts or tight Levis), but also, you couldn't really leave a very small, ghettoized culture without experiencing serious social repercussions. In 1974, a gay or lesbian person could still get fired or evicted for coming out of the closet. Life choices for LGBT persons were still limited. 


I don't want to end with the cliché that the 2013 Chicago Gay Pride shows how LGBT persons have become assimilated or mainstream, even “heteronormative” in their life choices, especially since 1974, and how the event is just as much a fun party time for straights as well as gays.

That's a given, but I used the word choices purposely. There's so much (too much!) choice (and the Internet, especially social media confronts one with an array of choices not minute by minute, but second by second), that one can get confused or overwhelmed about any form of core value and retreat into delusional narcissism or rampant consumerism. One doesn't need a physical place anymore to actually exist or interact with others; one can actually create an identity online. Frightening … 


Yet I do hope that what I perceive to be political lobbying or blatant consumerism in recent parades don't necessarily reflect this dangerous trend, but rather gay pride parades as a whole can show, in a moment of physically coming together, a diverse array of people can still keep searching for values of respect, dignity, and love for one's neighbor. I saw that in the floats and marchers who proclaimed marriage equality and the importance of education.


Rate this blog entry:
Famous Porn Stars of the Past: Focus on Jon King
Thoughts on Campy Moments in Advertising

Related Posts



No comments made yet. Be the first to submit a comment

Contact Us | 800-932-7111 | Join our email list

Go to top