June is Pride Month, and during this time of celebration and unity, many would be quick to remind us that LGBT people have made great strides in the past decade, with growing public acceptance and legal victories like the legalization of gay marriage nationwide in 2015. But gay people still face threats, from discrimination, stereotypes, and yes, even physical attacks.
Last week made this abundantly clear, when London woman Melania Geymonat posted on Facebook about her and her same-sex partner being beaten on a bus. According to Geymonat’s account, a group of men began harassing the couple, acting like “hooligans” and demanding the couple kiss and act lewdly. Melania’s partner tried to defuse the situation, but instead, both were brutally beaten. This attack reveals not just homophobia, but also a perception of LGBT people (lesbians in particular) as sexual objects. The attitudes displayed by these men was a textbook example of dehumanizing LGBT people, characterizing them only by their sexuality and sexual behavior. Gay people are humans too.
Sadly, these kinds of attacks aren’t isolated incidents. Data from the British government shows a 27% rise in hate crimes based on sexual orientation in 2017-2018, with a total of 11,638 incidents. The United States also struggles with such issues, with the FBI reporting 1,303 hate crime offenses based on sexual orientation in 2017, plus an additional 131 incidents based on gender identity.
Speaking of the United States, for a moment it appeared the U.S. would experience another such incident against LGBT people. During the D.C. Pride parade on Saturday, attendees reported hearing gunshots, causing panic and stampedes that injured several people. Authorities later reported that there were no gunshots or active shooters, and the police are still investigating what those sounds actually were. However, the fact that people even considered there could be an attack on an LGBT Pride parade, and that the thought could trigger such intense and immediate fear, shows that LGBT people consider the threat very real.
Another less-violent but still offensive incident came up earlier this week: Boston’s ‘Straight Pride’ parade. According to the parade’s organizers, the event is a response to the “identity politics” of the American left, and that the group is “committed to creating spaces for people of all identities to embrace the vibrancy of the straight community.”
Putting aside the fact that regular Pride events are already inclusive and accepting of everyone regardless of their identity or orientation, this ‘Straight Pride’ event and the sentiments behind it seek to minimize the struggles of LGBT people while redirecting the attention to straight people. As mentioned before, LGBT people still face threats in both the United States and abroad, up to and including physical attacks. LGBT Pride events are a way of rebuking these threats, showing that LGBT people will not be silent, and that they are willing to join together and stand up for their rights and unite against anyone who tries to suppress those rights.
What, then, is the purpose of ‘Straight Pride’ parades? Are there any places where straight people fear for their lives because heterosexuality is against the law? No. Do straight people need to stand up against homosexual-dominated governments to defend their inalienable rights? No. The fact of the matter is that heterosexuality isn’t under attack in any part of the world, so Straight Pride parades serve no valid purpose, other than to distract from LGBT people and their ongoing struggles at a time when we should all be paying attention.
So this Pride Month, let’s not give into hate or distraction. Though Straight Pride parades have the legal right to go on, as they should, we should pay them no mind. Don’t bother going to Straight Pride parades, not even to protest, so they’ll be starved of the media attention the organizers most likely desperately crave. Instead, focus on LGBT people and actual Pride. Focus on addressing injustices that gay people still face. Focus on advocacy on behalf of the LGBT community. And above all, be kind to everyone, regardless of their sexuality or gender identity. Individually they may be small steps, but together we can make a huge difference!
Jason Zappulla is a UF history senior. His column appears on Tuesdays.