Pride is a yearly event that is celebrated all over the world when LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bi-, trans- and inter) sexual orientations are honored and celebrated. It is important to understand the history behind this walk of activism. In the late 1960’s, gay men and women used to be terrorized by the police, often beat, jailed, raped and victimized in every possibly way. Gay people congregated in “safe” places to socialized, but these places were often raided and police brutality was in the order of the day. In 1969, after yet one such incident of police brutality, the LGBTI community responded with the Stonewall riots, which in turn led to a yearly protest march against the discrimination towards LGBTI people. It also became a walk of pride, thus being proud (and not ashamed) of their sexual orientation. And yes, sometimes gay people do flaunt their sexuality in these marches in order to say to the world :THERE, SEE MY SEXUALITY, RAW, EXPLICIT AND IN YOUR FACE, DEAL WITH IT, I WILL NO LONGER HIDE! Sadly, It is often only these images that are portrayed in the media in order to create sensationalism, which in turn perpetuate many of the negative stereotypes regarding gay sexuality. However, it is my experience that the vast majority of participants are average men and women who walk with joy and tolerance without being “over the top” or extremist. (http://gaylife.about.com/od/stonewall/a/stonewallhistory.htm)
The second question you might have, is possibly: Why do I, as a heterosexual person, participate in this walk? Well, for me personally there are many reasons. However, I will only share one of these with you, namely that I choose to celebrate the wonderful sexual diversity with which we are created and I stand and walk in solidarity with like-minded people.
In South Africa the gay “issue” has always been a highly contentious, especially within our faith communities, but also within the secular community. Gay people have been demonized and vilified and were (and still are) often labelled / judged as sinful, unnatural, perverse and even abnormal.
As Kinsley (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinsey_scale), I too believe that sexual orientation is found on a scale, thus on the one end we have heterosexuality and the other end homosexuality. In between these two positions we have millions of variations of sexual orientation. Too illustrate: I know very effeminate heterosexual men and I know very masculine gay men. This speaks of the enormous variety and diversity with which we were created and how we express our sexuality. Interestingly, this variety is also found within the animal world and the higher in development (closer to humans) the species are, the higher the incidence of homosexuality.
After all, sexology is one of the youngest sciences and was only founded en developed in the 1960’s. It is also only recently, since MRI brain scan technology, that we get a glimpse of how our brain work. Sexuality is seated within our brain and not in our pants as was previously believed.
Our sexuality is part of our being – it is not something that we can separate out of the rest of our psyche. I therefore find it extremely offensive when some churches prescribe: “you may be gay, but just not be a “practicing” gay, thus you have to live celibate”. It is as good as saying you may be a human, but just not a practicing human. In other words, you may be alive, but please do not live as a human (In Afrikaans: jy mag lewe, maar jy mag nie menswees nie). Part of being human is to make social connections, to love, to express our feelings, to seek intimacy and to engage in relationships. To expect of people to live without such connection and intimacy, is inhumane!
I believe that many people find have an issue with gay people because they sexualize the person. In other words, they do not see being gay as the essence of a person, but rather equate being gay to having sex with a person of the same sex. Being gay become for them just about same-sex sex and the person is dehumanized in the process. Sexual orientation is not just about sex, it is about each and every fibre of a person’s being and consciousnesses.
I celebrate our sexual diversity and urge each and every person to be very careful with judgments, intolerance and condemnation of those people who are not heterosexual. Let us be mindful of the complexity with which we are created and let us respect diversity instead of judging that which we do not understand or that which we fear.
For my Afrikaans speaking readers, please listen to Dr Dave Pepler’s talk on Homoseksualiteit in die diereryk: http://www.rsg.co.za/images/upload/sound/klanke/20120307_TJAILA_Dink_Groen.mp3