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The Pride Issue

Just Happens to be LGBT: Does Pride Month have anything to do with politics?

Photo: Mary Tuma, License: N/A

Mary Tuma

Local and state LGBT activists in front of City Hall during the NDO debates last year

Pride Month. What exactly does this month mean for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people? Is it primarily a time for a community and cultural celebration, or is it a political action of sorts? A reminder to take it to the streets? San Antonio’s own Pride “Bigger than Texas” takes place this weekend on July 5 at Crockett Park.

Last week marked the 45th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots (or Stonewall Rebellion, as GLAAD and some other organizations call it—perhaps not inaccurately), in which many LGBT people fought back against being targeted unfairly by police at New York’s Stonewall Inn. Even though the average circuit kid may not know it, Pride celebrations were created as unofficial ways to commemorate this political spark of the modern LGBT rights movement. In fact, countries all over the world have adopted June as the de facto opportunity to celebrate queer culture.

But is that what Pride celebrations are these days? Are they political in the same way as the event that sparked their very existence? Or have they morphed in more cultural and community events that showcase LGBT culture? James Poindexter, president of Pride San Antonio, which puts on the parade, acknowledges that political apathy is an issue, but says, “I don’t know if engaging people during Pride is the answer to the problem. It is definitely a place where many are all together, so it at least creates an opportunity to have discussion.”

In political activism, people sometimes trade stories about what “activated” them—the defining moment when they realized they would take a stand and work diligently towards the cause they support. Much has happened since last year’s Pride with the September 2013 passage of San Antonio’s LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination ordinance, and I witnessed many people get activated—visiting city council chambers or even learning for the first time who represented them on council.

I’ve been politically inclined for as long as I can remember. A lot of that came from my parents, who would often discuss elected officials or ballot measures at the dinner table simply as a standard topic of conversation. But even though politics was fair game for our family, I didn’t get activated until many years later when I came out and wanted to do something to support my local LGBT community.

However, politics can be draining. It’s a process that is often compared to the wonderfully nasty culinary task of “sausage-making” because, well, it ain’t pretty. As Chad Reumann, the area representative for the Human Rights Campaign, says, “People get apathetic about politics because it’s such a long-term investment. You don’t see what you want to happen right away, so most people quit before the job is done or they get bored because they keep having to work on the same issue cycle after cycle before it ever gets voted on or considered.”

He’s not wrong. Most people (gay or straight) would rather do something social and—at most—talk lightly about politics over dinner or drinks than actually go to a place where policy is made to speak truth to power. Frankly, I’ve often wondered if many of the “rebels” at Stonewall would have taken the fight to the NYC government if the fight hadn’t come to them at the bar. This isn’t to disparage the memory of Stonewall or those who were there—it’s simply to acknowledge that most people are reactive rather than proactive, opting not to take part in the process unless they feel personally pushed or threatened.

The Pride Issue 2014
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