Gay pride parades are generally celebratory affairs, but they've also almost always had a political side too. "I'm here and want to have fun!" had an inherent political edge to it when the right to be openly gay or transgender was still being litigated in courts of both law and public opinion.
The right to be gay is all but settled as a legal matter these days, and transgender acceptance has been dramatically increasing. One might expect, then, that the pride parades of summer might start to grow less political and more like other cultural celebrations.
Apparently not. LGBT leaders' opposition to President Donald Trump has made the parades more political. In at least one case, parade organizers have rejected a float. Even though Brian Talbert is gay, the organizers of Charlotte, North Carolina's pride event have told him he can't participate with a float touting his support for Trump.
Talbert's story is picking up national attention. From The Washington Post:
Reached by email, Charlotte Pride released a statement saying the organization "reserves the right to decline participation" at events to groups that do not reflect the mission and values of the organization.
The statement said that policy is acknowledged in its parade rules and regulations, and noted that in the past, organizers have made "similar decisions" to decline participation from "other organizations espousing anti-LGBTQ religious or public policy stances."
"Charlotte Pride envisions a world in which LGBTQ people are affirmed, respected, and included in the full social and civic life of their local communities, free from fear of any discrimination, rejection, and prejudice," the statement added.
But Trump has notably not espoused antigay policy stances and has, in fact, resisted efforts to do so within his administration. So far, Trump is probably the most LGBT-friendly Republican president we've had.
That doesn't mean that Trump supports the same policies that progressive LGBT leaders would like. That's really the crux of the problem: Trump's administration doesn't want to use the federal government to advance anti-discrimination policies that cover LGBT people. His Department of Justice has withdrawn federal guidance ordering public schools to accommodate transgender students' gender choices for bathrooms and other facilities.
Put in historical context, that's a relatively mild decision, though it must feel awful for transgender students who are affected (and ultimately it may be decided by the courts, not Trump's administration, anyway). Despite LGBT activists' fears, the administration is not scaling back executive orders forbidding government contractors from engaging in LGBT discrimination. Life is still improving for LGBT people.
The Los Angeles pride parade and festival is this weekend, but apparently it's no longer the same pride parade people are used to. It's been transformed into an anti-Trump "resistance" march, under the odd and incorrect assumption that being part of the LGBT community inherently requires you to embrace of a host of political positions. New York, Austin, Seattle, and D.C. are joining them. L.A. Weekly quotes one of the march organizers:
"#ResistMarch was built around the concept of standing in solidarity for all human rights," explains Brian Pendleton, a CSW board member. "The march is meant to be a celebration of humanity that is all part and parcel of the LGBTQ community. We are immigrants, we are women, we are seniors, we are communities of color, and on and on. Very few communities encompass so many different types of Americans."
That's true. But it also means the community encompasses Trump voters and other types of conservatives. Even here in the extremely liberal city of Los Angeles, I know at least one gay Trump supporter. What Pendleton is promoting isn't a celebration of humanity. It's a policing of political values. It's remarkable that parades that have revolved around an insistence that LGBT people should be allowed to participate in society and be public about who they are wants to excluding participant for their political affiliations.
This isn't ultimately about Trump himself; it's about the inability or unwillingness of people with highly different political interests to engage with each other. It's easier to cast gay Trump voters out of the movement than to engage with them over the fundamental philosophical differences that divide them. (My Trump-supporting gay acquaintance moved to L.A. from a Rust Belt state, and that no doubt influenced his vote.) There's nothing about being gay or transgender that requires support of unrelated policy positions on everything from immigration to abortion, and I say this as somebody who identifies more frequently with the left on those two issues. Making the parades into anti-Trump rallies tells tens of thousands of LGBT people that this festival that's supposed to be about them is actually deliberately excluding and opposing them.
Talbert has said he's going to sue Charlotte Pride for discrimination, which is also a terrible response. Charlotte Pride should be allowed to include or exclude any participants it wants. It's their parade. And there's already a Supreme Court decision that affirms that parade organizers have the right to exclude participants with messages they do not support.
But Charlotte Pride's organizers should remember something. That Supreme Court case was about a very long fight by LGBT groups to be included in St. Patrick's Day parades. And they're only just now, in this decade, convincing the Catholic organizers of those events to allow them in. To turn around and treat another group of gay people the same way is pretty terrible. Let them into the parade. Let the audience boo them, support them, or ignore them, and then move on. It shouldn't be a big deal.