By Evan Ross Katz
What to do when satire becomes reality?
Nearly three years ago, on July 5, 2016, writer-performer Dylan Marron released a video through Serious.TV titled “Happy Heterosexual Pride Day!” “As an ally, I wanted to celebrate the brave commitment of straight folks to love out loud in a world that encourages them to do so,” Marron quipped. But now, against a backdrop of continued dismantlement of LGBTQ+ protections in America, what was once parody has become a heavily-contested debate. It all started on Tuesday night, when news broke that a handful of Boston residents identifying themselves as "Super Happy Fun America” were making preparations for a so-called "Straight Pride Parade" to be held August 31 — or so they claimed.
The event organizer Kyle “Based Stickman” Chapman, whom the Daily Beast describes as a “notorious right-winger,” said the event intended to poke fun at “identity politics.” The story quickly blew up. “What a joke,” the actress Rosanna Arquette wrote on Twitter. “Straight Pride Parade????? FUCK OFF!!!!!!!!,” wrote the band Smash Mouth on Twitter, accumulating over 340,000 likes on the post — nearly four times the amount of their total following. Chris Evans opted to call out the organizers directly, but his statement, despite its 348,000 likes, caused a controversy all its own by inferring Chapman and his ilk were closeted. (“This is a worn out old trope and it essentially blames gay people for our own problems,” one Twitter user noted in response to Evans.) Others were quick to identify Chapman as a member of an anti-Semitic, alt-right group called Resist Marxism. By Wednesday night, firmly embedded in the ether, the conversation was parodied by Stephen Colbert on The Late Show.
But as Keep It host Ira Madison pointed out, the tone of these responses made it hard to tell if people were actually taking the event seriously or just paying too much attention to trolls, and running the risk of making the detractors feel legitimized, or at least like they succeeded at derailing the more important conversation. Online, such distractions are often called shitposting, in which Trump supporters and other trolls dangle so many carrots that people don’t know where to look. In this case, the so-called Straight Pride conversation was deployed right at the top of actual Pride month, thus asking people to focus on the rights of people who have, historically, never been so disenfranchised.
So much of LGBTQ+ existence revolves around the idea of making and creating space — especially for those who have been robbed of it in the past. Veteran activist and journalist Ann Northrop still remembers going with her first “real girlfriend” to her first Pride parade in the late 1970s. “We stood on the sidelines and watched,” Northrop tells MTV News. “It probably took me another couple of years to jump in.”
Let that sink in: Even for some of the people who fought for that space, it still took time to feel comfortable publicly celebrating it. Perhaps because there was and is still work to be done. Same-sex marriage was only made legal at a federal level in 2015; last month, the House of Representatives finally moved to pass the Equality Act, which would offer protections against discrimination to LGBTQ+ people. Meanwhile, the Senate is stalling on that bill, and the Trump administration is quickly trying to dismantle as many protections of LGBTQ+ people as they can.
To that end, it’s understandable why Northrop would call a “straight pride” parade “depressing” and “insulting.” Over email, she told MTV News, “[Chapman is] a bigot. He doesn’t deserve a serious response. He should be ignored … If you think this deserves more serious attention, I can go further, but I really don’t want to give an attention-seeking racist any more oxygen.”
She’s not alone, either: Boston Mayor Marty Walsh declined to give the event any breath, recognizing that to disavow it divides our attention from those actually celebrating Pride month. “Every year Boston hosts our annual Pride Week, where our city comes together to celebrate the diversity, strength, and acceptance of our LGBTQ community. This is a special week that represents Boston’s values of love and inclusion, which are unwavering,” he wrote in a statement to the Washington Post.
According to the Daily Beast, a source familiar with the Boston government’s permitting process says Sahady had not been granted an event permit thus far. But even if he is, will anyone attend?
And either way, should we be talking about it all?
Like the dudes who attempted to start an “Intentional Men’s Day” on International Women’s Day back in March and the #AllLivesMatter slogan adopted by those unable to grasp the meaning behind Black Lives Matter, a “Straight Pride” parade only reinforces a false sense of scarcity, the idea that shining a light on one thing means something or someone else falls into the darkness. That’s simply not the case.
It costs you nothing when you protect the lived experience and identity of trans people, when you recognize and celebrate the weddings of same-sex couples, when you make space for other people to share their joy out loud. But when you police other people’s true selves, it can cost lives. Merely showing up to or supporting Pride — actual Pride, LGBTQ+ pride — this year can serve as a deterrent to any effort to delegitimize our visibility. It’s that easy. Let’s validate our own community instead of expending energy to combat those trying to invalidate us. It can be frustrating, and even traumatizing, to witness that lack of empathy from people trying to garner empathy toward themselves, to cast themselves as victims when they’ve been the perpetrators all along. But we have to keep on moving.
As activist Peter Staley, who marched in his first Pride parade during ACT UP’s coming-out moment in 1987, puts it: “Our movement has always benefited from the foolishness of our enemies.”