August 13, 2007

Giving the Right More Ammunition

I posted yesterday on the subject of not giving opponents of GLBT equality the opportunity to play themselves as victims. Here is another story that gives the right-wing more ammunition to damage the credibility of the GLBT community.

You've probably heard by now about four San Diego firefighters who were allegedly ordered to ride a fire engine as representatives of the department in the San Diego pride event last month. It was a common occurence for the SDFD to be represented in the parade, and the lesbian fire chief assigned four apparently straight and unwilling men to participate in this year's activities.

So of course they are now preparing to sue the city for having to endure "three hours of vulgar sexual harassment." No doubt the Thomas Moore Law Center, who is the legal representation of the firemen, latched onto this and, dare I say, fanned the flames for all it's worth.

From the Christian Post:

“‘Participation’ should be a voluntary act,” argued Brian Rooney, an attorney and director of communications at TMLC, in a released statement. “[T]hese four firefighters had no choice in the matter and that is wrong no matter what one’s sexual orientation.”

Unfortunately, he has a point.

"Even the homosexual community should be outraged and ashamed of the sexual harassment these firemen were forced to endure,” Rooney added.

“To say that this parade was sexually charged is an understatement,” commented Matt Barber, Concerned Women for America (CWA)’s policy director for cultural issues, in a statement.

Although most local papers reporting on the parade made no mention of the lewd and offensive behavior that characterized the parade, Barber noted that the event and other events like it “are simply pagan celebrations of hedonism and sexual deviancy.”

Although I have no doubt they are exaggerating, from what I've learned about pride parades, they're probably not totally making the story up either.

Two critical issues come up here that will allow the right to gain a lot of propaganda mileage out of what is, really, a very minor issue.

First, it seems to me that the fire chief should have tried to find four firemen who wouldn't have a problem participating in the event. If these men are telling the truth, they made it known that they did not want to do this and forcing them to do so was begging for trouble.

Second is the general nature of the pride parades. I do have some understanding of people wanting to express themselves in a manner that neither I or others find comfortable or appropriate. It seems to me, however, that the exhibitionists I believe can be found at every big city pride parade need to think a little less about themselves and more about others in the GLBT community. Their behavior only gives bigots and homophobes more ammunition to preach hatred and discrimination, and does so in a very public setting.

Can people just take a look at the big picture here? Obviously the right wing won't, instead making this issue, as they do so well, into a major event to galvanize support against perceived hedonistic GLBT people and get their fellow homophobes to dig deeper into their wallets to support the cause.

Knowing that, participants in events celebrating the pride of the GLBT community need to take some ownership of their own destiny. If you want equality, you need to be saavy enough not to give you opponents something to use against you. If you don't care about equal rights for yourself and others like you, then you don't have enough pride to warrant participating in these events. Save the drama and theater for the clubs.

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