Every year, Washington, D.C.’s celebrate Pride parade on the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage in the United States. By the start of the Pride festival the following day, the mood of festival-goers had shifted from celebration to confusion and anger, as an emerging story of a deadly mass shooting in an Orlando gay nightclub reminded us how our very presence constituted a transgressive political statement. That reminder pervades Katherine McFarland Bruce’s fascinating yet analytically uneven exploration in Pride Parades: How a Parade Changed the World. In her effective exploration, Bruce challenges voices within and outside the LGBT community that consign Pride festivals to frivolous events evacuated of their political potential.
As a new political administration emboldens opponents of the LGBT community movement. First Pride parades started in June 1970. Initially commemorating the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in June 1969, Pride parades also find an obscure antecedent in the Annual Reminder, silent picketing of homophile activists in Philadelphia every Fourth of July from 1965 to 1969. In contrast to the colorful festivals that contemporary Pride parades assume, Annual Remindersendeavoreda politics of respectability. Dressed in professional attire and exuding solemnity, gay and lesbian activists challenged controlling images of homosexuals as predatory and deviant by promoting themselves as productive and concerned citizens. Minimizing differences between themselves and heteronormative culture, homophile activists adopted an ‘‘inside-out’’ approach, drawing on accessible cultural repertoires to transform individual attitudes about homosexuality. While gay liberationists mobilized a more reactive and transgressive politics postStonewall, the Annual Reminder proves vitally important to the evolution of contemporary Pride parades every year.
In Los Angeles and New York, organizers of the first parades debated the appropriate format to observe Stonewall’s anniversary. While New York’s first ‘‘Christopher Street Liberation Day’’ ultimately resembled a festive protest march, Los Angeles staged a full-fledged parade, complete with floats and provocative messaging that celebrated ‘‘gay sexual behavior in the face of cultural disapproval. Pride parade might appear tame compared to the carnival-like atmosphere in New York; and while Fargo participants might wish for the explicit sexual expressions present in a parade like New York’s, the hostile climate toward LGBT citizens in North Dakota renders the very existence of a Pride parade politically transgressive. Beyond the presence of Pride flags and rainbow-colored beads, Pride participants, allies, and spectators may also rely on distinctive local traditions whose meanings may not easily translate across contexts.