Gay Pride Drifts — But to Where?

After winning on marriage, it faces an identity crisis.


Justin Trudeau made history  by marching with tens of thousands of people in Toronto’s Gay Pride parade, becoming the country’s first sitting prime minister to participate.


In post-Christian America, support for gay rights is barely about gays anymore; rather, it functions as an identifier, a reverse mark of Cain. The wearer is on the right side of history.


Giving way to the recognizable but always confusing coalition of left-wing activists, corporate sponsors, and opportunistic politicians, this year’s Pride parade in New York City was marked primarily by denunciations of President Trump. For large stretches of it, gay pride was shelved, subordinated to the exigencies of the political moment. 


This was the year when Pride lost its identity and allowed itself to be used as a mere platform for progressivism. In New York, “the Resistance” swallowed Pride whole. In Toronto, Pride rolled over to the demands of the local chapter of Black Lives Matter and banned police from its march. In Chicago, Pride banned Jews, falling for the socialism of fools.


Having won its chief goal, gay marriage, the Pride movement is now oddly vulnerable. For what will it campaign? Will it regain its radical heritage and assail Zionism and the police? Or will stay within the Democratic-party mainstream and focus on guns and health care? Early returns suggest that Pride does not itself know the answer. 


In New York, more signs mentioned “Trumpcare” than any single gay-rights issue. And by the way: Those gay-rights issues need all the attention they can get. The incessant bullying of gay children in schools should be an outrage. According to the Trevor Project, gay and lesbian American youth attempt to commit suicide at four times the rate of straight kids. 


Pride activists could also extend their gaze beyond America’s shores. Turkish police had promised to break up any Pride rally in Istanbul, as they did last year. On Sunday, brave Turkish gay activists took the streets anyway, only to be shot with rubber bullets by police. In Russia, Chechen security forces seem to be trying to “exterminate” gay people. In Gaza, Hamas executes civilians and even its own commanders upon rumors of homosexuality. 


I saw only one sign about the purge in Chechnya. A small group protested the treatment of gay people in Venezuela. But these examples were easily outnumbered by the “Healthcare Is a Right” and “DeVos Is a Liar” crowd. 


As at other Resistance events, some marchers in New York were deeply confused. A good number seemed to think Rex Tillerson and Jared Kushner are “Queer-Bashers,” holding signs that said as much. In reality, Tillerson played a leading role in the Boy Scouts’ decision to admit gay troopers, and Kushner was reported to have helped sink religious-liberty protections that he felt would curb gay rights. A single sign in that crowd read: “Vladimir Putin: Gay-Basher.” This is almost literally true — but one gets the sense that it was mentioned only because of scandals surrounding the Trump campaign.


Other marchers declared that “Clean Water Is an LGBT Issue.” I don’t think that’s right, actually. “Anti-Semitism Is an LGBT Issue,” said another. Well, maybe — the organizers of Chicago’s “Dyke March” kicked out multiple Jewish attendees with Pride flags that included Jewish stars. Apparently, the flags were “triggering” and “made people feel unsafe.” Let’s be charitable here: Perhaps some tender souls were upset with the occupation as enforced by King David. 


But between these sorts and the “Gays against Guns” people, one wonders whether the parade has been subordinated to the broader progressive agenda. Even religious-liberty laws, routinely denounced as sanctioning bigotry against gays, scarcely merited a mention. It turns out that a dissenting florist or two is not at the forefront of most people’s concerns, despite the protestations of politicians and corporations to the contrary. 


Unsurprisingly, the politicians were the worst part of the parade. (For that distinction, they beat even the “No Cops! No Banks!” marchers, who were much more popular, by the way.) For a long stretch, group after group of campaign staffers simply bored the crowd with chants of “Bo for Mayor!” and so forth. Blowing his whistle and clapping frantically, Chuck Schumer had to practically beg the crowd for some light applause. Is that what Pride is really about? 


The corporations were almost as grating. Every concern from Amtrak to Amazon showed up, each with its own T-shirts and no doubt its own public-relations campaign. Wells Fargo is one of the main sponsors of the D.C. march. For the past week, Uber has been bombarding me with e-mails about how much it loves the gay community. As Kevin Williamson explains in a recent cover story in National Review, all this is in the interest of corporations. In post-Christian America, support for gay rights is barely about gays anymore; rather, it functions as an identifier, a reverse mark of Cain. The wearer is on the right side of history. 


Accordingly, corporations purchase indulgences on the cheap. It’s simple, really: Put a few rainbows in your advertisements, sponsor the Pride parade, and hopefully you can treat your workers like dirt. Who knows if this strategy will work, but the tech companies that now swarm San Francisco’s Pride parade are eager to find out.


However, the big companies have their work cut out for them. They are only one of the many interest-group sectors vying for a piece of the gay-rights pie — and they may have joined in too late, after it became clear which side would win. Just before them came the Democratic-party mainstream, which decided that it was safe to support gay marriage right around 2012 and 2013, and before them was the party’s progressive wing. The radical Left, on the other hand, has been supporting the gay-rights movement from the start. 


But can the movement posture with the radical Left and remain a big tent? Or will the inevitable infighting end up damaging and devaluing Pride? Winners of the debate on marriage, the gay-rights movement has begun to drift.