Are Pride Festivals Still Relevant?

Remember when LGBT activists used the phrase “it’s a movement, not a market” to describe what they viewed as the commercialization of Pride festivals?
This June, there has been a whole lot of marketing going around as cities celebrate Pride. As a publisher, I’ve been receiving emails almost daily with press releases about offers ranging from panties, to dental care, to cable television and more. And they all use the words Pride or Equality to promote their products and services.
We don’t publish free publicity for companies like these. What they are promoting isn’t news. Their message is an ad. (And even if we did promote these kinds of companies for free, we couldn’t because they had already missed our June print deadline.)
My good friend Charles Ferruzza called me recently about a story he was writing in The Pitch on Pride festivals in Kansas City. He asked me whether I thought that Pride festivals are still relevant. I had to think for a minute before answering, but then I said yes.
I hesitated because I was considering how much of Pride festivals today may be less about LGBT equality and perhaps more of a party for everyone, LGBT or straight. But I still think that Pride festivals are relevant because it’s the one opportunity every year for members of the LGBT community to come together, have fun, and hopefully get a dose of energy to continue fighting for equality.

Personally, one of the things I’ve always enjoyed about going to Pride festivals — and AIDS Walk, too, each April — is visiting the vendor booths to learn about the many groups that work with the LGBT community and to meet the people involved.
I also mentioned to Ferruzza that the parades have always been one of my favorite components of Pride festivals. I’ve had good experiences watching the parades in Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., when I lived there in years past. And I always enjoyed the Pride parades we used to have in Kansas City, although it has been several years since we’ve had one. Many Kansas Citians travel to other cities’ Pride festivals for their parades and entertainment.
We are publishing this July issue of Camp one week before Kansas City Pride on June 20-22 and St. Joseph Pride on June 20-21. I’ll be going to both events to visit with people, take photos and see what the festivals have to offer. St. Joe will be having a parade (see Brad Osborn’s story on page four), and that should be fun to see people marching and celebrating.
Last year, St. Joe’s LGBT community scheduled its first-ever Pride festival for the third weekend in June, specifically to avoid conflicting with Kansas City Pride, which has historically been celebrated the first weekend of June. For next year, I hope that Kansas City Pride will move its festival back to the first weekend of June, because holding two regional Prides the same weekend is difficult for the attendees as well as the exhibitors who have to find people to staff two different vendor tables in two cities on the same weekend.
Wherever you may be celebrating Pride this summer, whether regionally or farther away, I hope you enjoy your festival and remember how it all began with the Stonewall riots and the fight for LGBT equality.
And yes, buy some rainbow beads from the marketers who want to show their support during Pride month. We can use our gay dollars to help companies that not only want our business, but support our organizations. But we can’t forget why we celebrate — and why Pride festivals are still relevant.
What are your thoughts about Pride? Share them with us at jlong@campkc.com in about 250 words or less for our next issue.

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