Chicago LGBTQ Pride Parade 2016: Subdued but Controversial

 

The lowdown from the Chicago Gay Pride Parade this year was “subdued” but “still colorful” or “festive” but “respectful.” 

The subdued and respectful adjectives fit, because the LGBTQ community is in mourning because of the horrific events at Orlando, and in tandem with many pride parades around the globe, the victims were honored. In Chicago, the first entry was a memorial to the victims, with participants holding photos of them. A woman standing next to me wept. 
 

Orlando tribute at Chicago Pride Parade


After this profoundly moving start, the action began to pick up a bit, but I noticed less people standing by the beginning of the parade (where my friend and I were hanging about). It seemed at times the people marching and on floats had to do more to get the crowds cheering. As usual, PFLAG and the schools elicited enthusiastic cheers. 

I did find it rather unfortunate that the Chicago PrimeTimers (a gay male senior citizens club), which entry consisted of three elders holding a banner, was followed immediately by a bevy of young hot gay hockey players. At least the PrimeTimers got a mention on the special ABC local news coverage! 

This juxtaposition of older and younger might be interpreted as a show of unity in diversity, and several parade organizers claimed that the mood this year, rather than jubilation over marriage equality for all, was respect and unity. Everyone was showing unity based on a broader definition of love in the face of hate. 

Yet here's the rub. Something controversial happened in Chicago that shows we have a long way to go to remedy serious structural social and economic inequalities in the LGBTQ community, in many ways a microcosm of our society as a whole. An event called Pride at Montrose was abruptly cancelled by the police. The reason was ostensibly the height of a security fence. 
 

Pride at Montrose


Note that this event is sponsored by the Chicago Gay Black Men's Caucus, which in the past had used this event to perform valuable health services, (now in danger because of the state budget problems in Illinois), such as HIV testing, and this year, an emphasis on Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). 

Last year #BlackLivesMatter performed a die-in at the parade. 

See the connection here? It's pretty much a stereotype that many of the advances in the gay rights movement were often orchestrated by white men with power and money (and still are). The thrust to be able to join the army and get married could be interpreted as even conservative, as the army and marriage are traditional structures. In other words, was the goal really assimilation, thus marginalizing groups the large society also marginalizes? 
 

Wealthy gay married couple with a baby


The victims of Orlando were mostly young Latinx persons, many struggling to make ends meet in low-paying service jobs. Some were still going to school, mostly community colleges. I doubt any of them would be considered “upper middle class” or even “middle class.” They wouldn't be living in expensive condos (built because greedy developers force out the working class families in those area), walking designer dogs, or attending fancy benefits in beaded gowns (like many of the gay men in the area I live in, I must say). 

Marriage equality is beautiful, but how many persons on the lower end of the income scale can even afford to reap the economic benefits of marriage? And let's not forget that many lesbians, because women still make less money to the dollar than men, are struggling to maintain lives of dignity and peace because their earning power is reduced. And, shamefully, the poverty rate among transgender individuals is quite high as well. 
 

Housing is a Queer Issue - facts about housing in the LGBT community


If we are to really show unity, I think we need to start seriously addressing the fundamental inequities in the LGBTQ community that reflect those present in the society as a whole. We ask others not to judge us because of who we are; let's stop judging others based on income, appearance, age, or even personality. I'm hoping the younger members of our community, many of whom stand the most to lose in an dismal economic future (perhaps why many of them voted for Bernie Sanders), can prove to be an example of unity in diversity for their elders. 
 

Bernie with young people supporters

 

 
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