Pride is a vital celebration of sexual diversity and self-affirmation – so the festival must save itself before it loses itself. A stifling combination of “woke capitalism” and Pride’s over-extension to a month-long event means the effect of it is being diluted.
Lasting 30 days, it risks outstaying its welcome, like anything that goes on too long. Hijacked by banks and multinationals keen to advertise their rainbow credentials – and politicians who want a round of applause for being inclusive in 2021 – many in the gay community feel it has sold out.
Disneyfication is commercialising of something until it is simplified, controlled and safe. With Disney itself now jumping on board the Pride train, its Disneyfication is officially complete.
I believe Pride should be better celebrated, for a shorter time, which would make it more impactful. Insisting that the entire month of June every year must be devoted to it risks overkill, and a backfiring of progress. Nothing is bettered by being pushed past its natural shelf-life.
It needs to get back its fun, freedom and wildness, which has been incrementally chipped away at with each passing year, dragging gay culture into domesticity. A full calendar month of scheduled events only contributes to this sanitisation.
Where’s the sense of subversive power? It’s a great loss to the world if it has been sacrificed for conformity and conservatism.
The brilliant gay activist and human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell knows this, and has called for a Reclaim Pride movement, saying gay people and their allies need to own it back with a new, grassroots march, free of corporate sponsors.
Mr Tatchell believes “commercialisation and depoliticisation has gone too far” and urges the community: “Innovate, don’t assimilate.” He knows the silent trade-off: we will accept you as long as you follow our rules.
Such Disneyfication also holds this festival – established to commemorate a hard-won human rights victory – up to ridicule, playing into cheap stereotypes and corporate gimmicks.
The political commentator Douglas Murray said: “As Pride Day turned into Pride Week and then Pride Month, there has emerged a sense of over-reach. I got that instinct I know other gay people feel: ‘Enough already’.”
He criticised banks draping branches in rainbow flags with slogans like ‘Love Happens Here’, and supermarkets offering LGBT sandwiches.
“I don’t need love to happen at my bank. I don’t need my love life to invade other people’s sandwich selection.”
American Psycho author Bret Easton Ellis identified a new, politically-correct archetype that has sprung out of this sanitised gay culture. It is the “gay man as a magical elf”, which he defines as “some kind of saintly, adorable ET, whose sole purpose is to remind us of our tolerance and prejudice and transform everyone into noble, gay-loving protectors”. That’s a new form of bondage.
I don’t particularly identify with my own sex and I am attracted to people regardless of gender. I’ve never put a name on it, although I’m always aware of it, as it results in life choices that are seen as strange, indulgent or self-sabotaging and can be frustrating for others to understand.
In this era of labels, that makes me both gender non-conformist and pansexual, although I don’t identify with anything. Whether I do or not is beside the point: they are both umbrellas of LGBT. Which, in fairness, has become so vast at this stage that it is only leaving out one letter to reach full inclusivity – S for straight.
But it’s in this personal context that I’ve always felt buoyed by the spirit of Pride – what a way to flip societal attitudes of shame and stigma on their head. It’s a state of mind best exemplified in Tom Robinson’s Glad To Be Gay, the anthem he released back in 1978.
To me, Pride is about a defiance to live life on your own terms, and never victimhood. Yet, it must be acknowledged, that even in a modern western world, where rights are vindicated in a culture of equality, society rewards those who choose marriage and/or monogamy, and that’s more likely to be straight people. Anyone who deviates from the 2.4 kids and a picket fence model makes significant sacrifices and faces a degree of unspoken judgment for doing so.
That judgment is far different for, say, me – a woman who would be seen as a free spirit – and for my gay friends. I asked them all what they think about Pride and the general consensus was it may be more impactful if it was shorter; a week-long event, as it gets swamped in a month. One friend hates the new, corporate Pride, which he says makes him feel “chemically castrated. It’s all activism, zero action”. Another believes it remains a vital awareness calendar date, considering human rights abuses of gay people globally.
Pride has brought a visibility and acceptance to gay life that has been key in changing hearts and minds about the right to love whoever you want to love, without judgment or sanction.
But at this stage – with most people already on board – those whose prejudices endure are unlikely to be won over by what they’d view as a month-long imposition of will.