Today marks the 41st anniversary of the Stonewall Riots and I’m beginning to wonder, What happened? I’ve attended a few Prides this June (and this weekend I will, of course, be at Cincinnati Pride), and I don’t see a celebration of the night drag queens and a myriad of other queers took the streets in response to raids on gay bars and police brutality.
What was originally a march to mark the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots has become a parade and festival with little to no semblance of it’s original purpose. I’m sure the first Pride organizers didn’t envision beer tents, nearly naked men dancing on top of Hummer limos or corporate sponsors in their plans. Why has Pride evolved into this?
Pride has moved far away from being a commemoration of the Stonewall Riots. At seems as if the anniversary of the birth of our liberation movement is now just another excuse to party. Many people treat Prides like a weekend getaway, and many Prides, like New York and San Francisco, are seen as vacation destinations. Pride has become more about business, corporations and the potential money to be made than remembering Stonewall — the reason we’re even able to celebrate so openly.
Cincinnati is, of course, no exception to this. While there has been corporate sponsorship of Cincinnati Pride for years, it makes sense with the Gay Chamber of Commerce planning this year’s festivities for it to focus on the potential financial boon Pride can be. I think the planners are trying to make Cincinnati a destination Pride. They’ve gone to several other area Prides to promote Cincinnati’s events. They’ve even reserved group rate hotel blocks that have been filled. What else would we expect the Gay Chamber of Commerce to do?
And I’d even bet a fair amount of Pride-goers, especially the younger ones, have never even heard of the Stonewall Riots. I hadn’t heard of them until I took LGBT studies in college, but I was certainly familiar with the tradition of Pride celebrations. Pride is meeting the same fate as Christmas: People kind of know why they celebrate it, but no one really cares because there’s free stuff and parties.
Not that Pride isn’t fun or shouldn’t be enjoyable, but can’t we find some sort of happy medium between the debauchery and it’s original purpose? There’s got to be a way.