Ramon Reyes is gay. He is proud. And he fears for his community.
Reyes, 36, a software trainer for a tech services company, has been out for 20 years. He has experienced pride celebrations across this country and others, but you will not find him at St. Pete Pride this week.
“Gay Pride was not born out of a need to celebrate not being straight, but our right to exist without prosecution,” writes CNN’s LZ Granderson. It is a sentiment Reyes agrees with, but feels the gay community has drifted from.
Pride parades began in 1970 to commemorate the anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York that occurred in 1969 when patrons at the Stonewall, a gay bar in Greenwich Village, decided to fight back against police persecution. Though there had been political activity in the LGBT community prior to those initial parades, the mobilization that followed is largely considered to be the start of the gay liberation movement and marked an important moment in the progress and acceptance of the LGBT community.
“The genius of gay pride parades is that they demonstrate both unity and diversity,” says University of South Florida professor David Johnson, who teaches a gay and lesbian history class at USF.
The significance of pride events is unquestionable, but their effectiveness is what concerns Reyes.
“It’s embarrassing,” says Reyes of the sexual spectacle he believes Pride events have become. He sees more “oiled up muscle dudes wearing nothing but speedos” humping each other on floats in an overtly sexual manner, which takes away from what he believes it means to be gay.
For Reyes, being gay is about having the ability to fall in love with someone of the same sex, to be able to share a life with someone.
“I could go out and fuck a chick and get off, but that doesn’t make me straight,” says Reyes. It’s not about sex for him. It’s about love and sharing. He would like to see Pride focus more on successful homosexual professionals and leaders.
The gay community is perpetually engaged in a fight for equality. The sexual atmosphere that pervades some aspects of Pride parades seems counterproductive to Reyes, highlighting negative stereotypes. He sees no need to display fetishistic behavior and overt sexuality when such events could highlight the success of gay men and women as human beings and families, respectable and responsible.
“If we want to be respected, we need to have more respect for ourselves as a community,” says Reyes.
Eric Skains, executive director of St. Pete Pride, acknowledges the existence of these groups, but feels they should not overshadow the other aspects of the pride celebration.
“Much like families at a football game are overshadowed by the few who are loud and rowdy, there are LGBT family groups, church resource groups, healthcare services, arts and culture all participating at the parade and festival each year and shouldn’t be ignored simply because a few choose to represent themselves differently,” says Skains.
However, it’s the niche groups, small or large, that bastardize the celebration for Reyes.
He wants Pride to show people that sexual orientation doesn’t make you inhuman, weird or a sinner. He’d like it to be a celebration of everyday life.