Yesterday, we reported on the findings of a survey that ranked Philadelphia as one of the worst places to celebrate Pride. Of course, as soon as the piece hit the interwebs, people went berserk, defending Philly Pride Presents and decimating the survey’s results.
Aren’t these the same people who, for the other eleven months, complain and moan about how horrible Philly Pride is?
Let’s face it: Philly Pride has problems, and everyone knows it. Also, let me be clear: I’m not attacking any individuals, organizers, or people who put together these events, and, as you’ll soon read, I think the issue here is a lot more insidious than just a small group of people.
What I can affirm is that I’ve lost track of how many people I hear say that they would rather leave town during Pride than actually take part in the festivities. When I travel and I identify myself as a gay Philadelphian, one of the most common responses I get is, “Oh, you guys have a terrible Pride.” In other words, this isn’t news, people.
So why does everyone who is otherwise so vocal about the problems with Pride get completely offended when there’s clear data to support the argument that Philly Pride isn’t up to par?
The survey, completed by users of the app Jack’d (okay, fine—not the most professional of survey tools, but still…), encompassed users from across the country; this isn’t some random sampling of people sitting around Tabu for a drag show. The fact of the matter is, Philly ranked pretty damn low on the list: Dallas, Houston, and Detroit all beat us. This isn’t the most encouraging news.
Therefore, why not take this information and use it to improve the festivities? Why react like Jack’d has somehow decimated the gay community in Philadelphia? What exactly are we scared of here?
One of the cries I heard yesterday was how unfair the survey was to the hard-working people who put Philly Pride together. Let me offer a comparison: There are television shows that get canceled every season due to low ratings. I’m sure that the casts, crews, and producers of those shows are all “hard working,” too. Data is data. It can’t be taken personally. Sure, it’s a slap in the face to those who put effort into organizing the festivities, but an emotional reaction is not the way to handle a suggestion that Pride needs to be re-thought and re-imagined. We can’t let feelings get in the way of actually doing something.
Perhaps one of the biggest concerns is that no one wants to really go forth and admit there’s a problem. It’s natural human psychology: change leads to fear. Admitting a problem makes people feel vulnerable. However, there’s something bigger here. As one high-profile gay Philadelphian told me (who, of course, asked to remain off the record), people are scared of the “gay mafia” in this town. They don’t want to say anything because of fear of being ridiculed, rejected, or downright “barred” from the community. This begs the question: What kind of community is this, then?
Which leads to another issue: We absolutely cannot assume that the Philadelphia gay community is “one size fits all.” People who identify as LGBTQ in this city are just as varied as the colors on a rainbow flag, if not even more so. To assume that every single person in Philadelphia likes the same sort of things, wants to go to the same events, wants to drink at the same bars, is not only lunacy: it’s downright dangerous. To criticize or question how a “gay event” in Philly operates shouldn’t rouse a battle cry to bar an individual from the community. If anything, questioning or offering feedback should be commendable—it is an effort to improve.
In essence, we need a candid, open, and civil dialogue about Pride and how we, as individuals, can contribute to the future of this city’s LGBTQ events without feeling threatened, shamed, or scared. The community has been abuzz for years about wanting to see change; we have the data now to support that a change is not only needed, but required. We can’t let sentiment get in the way of the future. Now is the time to actually do something.
But first, we’ve got to admit there’s a problem.