In London or New York, the Gay Pride March is a momentous event filled with fun and frivolity – all tinged, of course, with some very valid political activism. But this embrace of LGBT equality hasn’t reached all corners of the first world yet – which is why Sunday’s first parade organized by Tokyo Rainbow Pride was attended by a modest, but proud 2,500 participants.
“Japan has yet to have a culture of accepting diversity,” said Tokyo Rainbow Pride’s spokeswoman Sayaka Kato, “Compared with that of New York or London, Japan's awareness of sexual minorities is quite low.” She also added that Tokyo Rainbow Pride hoped to be attracting crowds of 50,000 people – rivaling that of better known pride marches, within five years.
To those of us in America, the march makes an interesting and inspiring contrast to the struggle for LGBT equality on home turf. While the LGBT community is faced with true discrimination across many parts of the country – some worse than others – there has been talk of a kind of “mainstream exhaustion” with the sheer size and spectacle of the annual gay pride marches in various cities.
Some have argued that gay pride marches have become overtly sexualized – featuring graphic displays and costumes that certainly go beyond what’s considered “family friendly.” Even some who support LGBT equality argue that the parades have lost much of their political edge – especially in places like New York and San Francisco, where the goal of legislative equality has pretty much been achieved.
Some argue that if the goal of pride is to make people fully embrace the LGBT community, a march highlighting the community’s difference is counterproductive – or even actively harmful.
What are your thoughts? Are gay pride marches still a valid and important part of LGBT activism? Or as more goals are met, and more of society becomes accepting of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people, is it time to reassess just what message these parades are broadcasting?