Gay Pride 2012: Same-Sex Marriage and Queer Justice Take Center Stage at New York LGBT Parade


Will it sound too Tom Friedmanesque if I say that I left Pride New York City this past weekend feeling satisfactorily stewed by the hot sun in my own ideological juices? For a contradictory bourgeois gay preferring the focal points of queer progressive politics (specifically, economic issues and justice for people of color and transgender people) over a narrow agenda of marriage for Adam and Steve, yet simultaneously skeptical of the moral absolutism of so many radicalisms, there was hardly anything better than that parade, a succession of messages and images that could scarcely pause long on any single stance.

One after another, the parade provided examples sure to disappoint any who would believe that a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender identity should work as a gauntlet thrown down before the prevailing system of consumer capitalism: Within the span of a few minutes, both a pile of leathery Macy’s balloons and a Time-Warner truck passed with the adequate attachments of little rainbow flags and skinny men, and at regular intervals some demonstration of middle-of-the-road (or is it vanguard?) LGBTQ politics would pass by - New York Marriage Equality! So-and-so, Democrat for Equality! In short: All the symbols of assimilation into the prevailing systems of economics and politics, or, even co-optation, as might perhaps be charged by the “straw queer” of the left summoned for the sake of this article. Gay capitalism!

But the parade was not without very real systemic critics as well. In the interval between one iteration of gay Democrats and the next passed a group of marchers for Queers for Economic Justice, a non-profit organization with initiatives such as “Beyond Marriage,” a push to make access to governmental services such as health care available to all regardless of marital status, and “Queer Survival Economies,” an effort devoted to, in the words of the Queers for Economic Justice website, “connecting economic justice and the impacts of the recession on LGBTQ bodies and lives.”

Would the fun of Pride truly be complete without questioning what it’s all for? To make use of only the laziest clichés those famous muscle men playing tease in thongs: brave pushback against the de-sexualization of queers that, in the views of queer theorists such as Michael Warner, is one cost of mainstreaming gays via a politics of marriage, or flashy corporate mascots for some new alcoholic beverage? Why not both?

For me, one of its greatest promises of the event is its nature as a parade, the succession of views and a June heat that, together with the bright spirit of the day, might loosen some of those strictures of ideology and make one imagine that it could all make sense together, somehow, because - FUN! And then some. This is no argument for abandoning sober consideration of divisions among queers; rather for the potential for intellectual ferment presented by the parade, an ever-moving display of realities that a single worldview might consider contradictory, all under the heat of the sun.