“I don’t really understand gay pride parades. I want to be supportive of my son, but I just keep feeling like…I don’t march in a parade because I am straight, so why does he want to go to a parade that is about being gay?”

Question Submitted Anonymously
Answered by Alyse Knorr

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Alyse Says:
Thank you for writing in with your question! Your timing couldn’t be more perfect, since Pride season will soon be upon us. Pride celebrations, including parades, usually take place in the summer–especially June–across the country. Pride parades play a pivotal role in LGBTQIA history, so it’s great that you’re taking the time to learn more about them.
The reason it might feel confusing that your son marches in gay pride parades while you do not march in straight parades is because this is an apples and oranges comparison. The reason there are no straight pride parades is because heterosexuality is still widely considered the standard or “default” sexuality in our society. Straight people have not had to fight for equal rights under the law. Straight people have not been told that, due to their sexuality, something is medically wrong with them. Straight people have always been able to love whoever they love without interference from society. They do not experience the same kinds of systemic inequality and discrimination that LGBTQIA people have historically faced and continue to face.
Like other underprivileged groups throughout history, LGBTQIA people have used parades, protests, and demonstrations to raise awareness and create community over the quest for equal rights. I encourage you to read more about issues of marriage, housing, and employment inequality, or about the thousands of LGBTQIA people killed or physically harmed in violent hate crimes every year. This will help put pride parades in context a little more!
Pride parades are also incredibly important as positive celebrations of LGBTQIA identities. Some LGBTQIA people grow up feeling ashamed or outcast due to their sexuality, so after they go through the (often difficult) journey of coming out, they may want to celebrate their joy at realizing their true identity and living a happy, healthy life. Therefore, many gay pride parades are about just that: pride! For some LGBTQIA people, the gay pride parade is the one day of the year when they can let loose and be outspoken, public, and proud of who they are. For example, I can’t hold hands with my girlfriend in certain places, and I have to be careful who I talk about her around. But at a pride parade, I can be openly and proudly myself—a privilege straight people enjoy every single day.
If you’ve never attended a pride celebration or pride parade, I would definitely encourage you to check one out this summer! You’ll find that they are exciting, colorful, and a whole lot of fun. The parade crowd you’ll meet are diverse, friendly folks there to celebrate their identities with their communities. And until then, talk with your son about why pride parades are important to him and what they mean for him personally. Let him know you’re interested in this part of himself, and good dialogue will be sure to follow!

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Alyse Knorr is the author of two books of poems, Copper Mother (Switchback Books, forthcoming 2015) and Annotated Glass (Furniture Press Books, 2013), as well as the chapbook Alternates (dancing girl press, 2014). Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Denver Quarterly, Caketrain, ZYZZYVA, Drunken Boat, and The Southern Poetry Anthology, among others. She received her MFA in creative writing from George Mason University. She is a co-founder and co-editor of Gazing Grain Press, an inclusive feminist press, and teaches English at the University of Alaska Anchorage.

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