June is Pride Month. In my family, we take folding chairs and drinks to the sidewalk to watch the parade, and we cheer the participants as they go by. The parade gets longer every year. Over the years, it has also gotten more and more mainstream, with local businesses, politicians, schools, churches and synagogues joining the clubs, gay bars and civil liberties organizations.

I began attending the parade in 2002, when there were exactly 8 entries, the parade took 15 minutes, and most gay folks were still reluctant to come out of the closet. The speed of social change on issues of sexual orientation has been one of the bright spots in America’s quest for civic equality.

I suppose we should have expected the current, fierce backlash, but–like the backlash  to women’s rights explored in my recent book–it seems so unaware, so awkwardly out of place in a society that has moved on. Polling continues to confirm that these angry Christian “warriors” are a distinct minority, but thanks to the GOP’s success in electing radical right-wingers to state legislatures, anti-gay laws continue to be passed.

This year, activist haters targeted businesses supportive of Pride . (No pun intended.)

As Charles Blow recently wrote in the New York Times,

As the L.G.B.T.Q. community celebrates Pride Month, we are besieged by a malicious, coordinated legislative attack.

There’s been a notable rise in the number of anti-L.G.B.T.Q. bills since 2018, and that number has recently accelerated, with the 2023 state legislative year being the worst on record.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, in 2023 there have been more than 525 such bills introduced in 41 states, with more than 75 bills signed into law as of June 5. In Florida — the state that became known for its “Don’t Say Gay” law — just last month, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation that banned gender transition care for minors and prohibited public school employees from asking children their preferred pronouns.

As Kelley Robinson, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, recently told me, the number of signed bills is likely to move higher: “There’s 12 more that are sitting on governors’ desks, so you could be at nearly 100 new restrictions on the L.G.B.T.Q.+ community by the end of this cycle.”

Blow compares the current legislative onslaught to the burning of a cross on a Black citizen’s lawn: an effort to frighten and cow a minority population. It is, as he says,  “a malicious, coordinated legislative attack.”

The 2023 state legislative year has arguably been the worst on record. According to HRC, this year there have been more than 525 anti-gay bills introduced in 41 states. As of June 5th, more than 75 have been signed into law, and that number is likely to increase.

The focus on trans children has been particularly despicable, since those children are incredibly vulnerable and least likely to be able to defend themselves. The decision to come after them was–quite obviously– strategic, as Blow points out.

It seems pretty obvious that the trans community is an attractive target for culture war bullies because it’s a small subset of the queer community and an even smaller subset of society as a whole.

According to a study last year by the Williams Institute at U.C.L.A., about 1.6 million people 13 or older in the United States, or 0.6 percent, identify as transgender.

Furthermore, in a 2021 survey, nearly 70 percent of Americans said they know a gay or lesbian person. Only about one in five said they know someone who is trans. That number is up but still small. That’s about the same number who said in response to a 2021 YouGov poll that they’ve seen a ghost.

Recognizing the roots of this particular backlash is critical to understand ing where it’s coming from–and where it wants to go– knowledge we need if we are to counter it successfully.

The war against trans children and the gay community generally is part of a hysterical  reaction to social change–a rejection of the improved status of Blacks, women and other previously marginalized communities. Today’s culture warriors are those who are–in William F. Buckley’s often-quoted description of conservatives– standing athwart history and yelling “stop”!

The party that was “conservative” in Buckley’s day has morphed into the party of pure bigotry in ours. A number of Democratic politicians–including the Mayor– participated in yesterday’s parade. Maybe I missed it, but I didn’t see a single Republican.

I did see huge contingents seemingly from every large local employer, and endless floats–from the police and fire departments, local schools and universities, civic organizations and LGBTQ clubs…and a crowd of thousands cheering and waving Rainbow flags. 

The immensity of that celebration doesn’t bode well for what has accurately been called the “slate of hate.”


Do You See What I See?

Apparently not.

Our local Pride Festival has come and gone, but the annual culture war over it goes on. And on.

I never cease to be amazed at the descriptions of our Pride Parade emanating from the “family values” folks. Our local American Family organization sent out an email alert a couple of days before the parade, asking recipients to pray for the grievously damaged souls who participate in the debauched and immoral displays involved, and attaching photos from prior ‘exhibitions.”

I’m not a “family values” person—at least, not in the sense that phrase is typically meant—and I guess I proved it at Pride, because my husband and I took our youngest two grandchildren to the Parade. They had a great time.

The Indianapolis parade began seven years ago, with—to the best of my recollection—the same number of floats: seven. This year, there were 125. For the first year, and several years thereafter, there were small groups of protestors with signs urging participants to “Repent” and “Choose Jesus” (and the ubiquitous “Adam and Eve, Not Adam and Steve.”), but this year, if they were there, I didn’t see them, although it is possible that they were obscured by the crowd, which gets bigger every year.

So what sorts of inappropriate and sordid behavior did my grandchildren—ages 7 and 9—see?

Several political candidates and officeholders participated, as did local firefighters and police officers. (The police had announced their official participation, only to have authorization to do so yanked by the Mayor in the wake of the AFA email blast, but several participated anyway, on their own time.)

I counted at least four churches. There were dykes on bikes, our local PFlag Chapter and another one that had come all the way from Dayton, Ohio. There were radio stations, hairstyling studios and automobile agencies–plus gay marching bands, a couple of floats featuring local drag artists, and floats entered by a number of GLBT organizations—ranging from the Indiana Youth Group to the GLBT staff and faculty members from Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis, where I teach.

The raciest float I saw was one featuring a bunch of well-muscled men in fairly skimpy bathing suits, dancing. The suits were pretty tight, but I’ve seen tighter at the local swimming pool.

Most of the people who participated in the parade threw candy, rainbow leis or multicolored strings of beads as they passed. (The candy was the least healthy part of the celebration—I finally had to call a halt before sugar comas set in.)

It is interesting to consider why the parade I saw—and felt perfectly comfortable sharing with my grandchildren—is so different from the parade viewed by our local “God Squad.” I guess it’s true that most of us see what we expect to see—that we view reality through our individual worldviews and social attitudes.

I feel sorry for those who insist on looking for the underside of everything—those who are intent upon seeing smut where there is none.

They miss all the fun.


Greg Ballard’s Curious Approach to Fiscal Discipline

There has been a good deal of discussion on local blogs about our Mayor’s ham-handed approach to the just-concluded Gay Pride celebration.

The Indianapolis fire department has participated in the Parade previously, and this year, IMPD announced that it, too, would participate–and show that our local police serve all parts of the Indianapolis community. The day before the Parade, Ballard unexpectedly reversed course, and told IFD it could not use a city fire truck, and IMPD that it could not officially march at all.  (Several members of the police department did march, in uniform, but in their “individual” capacity, and the department’s Hummer was nowhere in evidence.)

Yesterday, Mayor Ballard was interviewed by Amos Brown, who asked an entirely appropriate–and foreseeable–question: why had the Mayor prevented the police from driving an official vehicle in the parade? The obviously bogus response was that the decision was made in order to save tax dollars. It had nothing to do with the fact that this was a gay event, or that Micah Clark and the Indiana Family Institute pitched a fit about the symbolism of treating the gay community like all other taxpaying citizens. Nope–just being fiscally responsible.

I asked a friend of mine who is a police officer whether IMPD officially participated in other community celebrations, and he rattled off a list: St. Patrick’s Day, Veterans Day, Black Expo and several others. I guess those constituencies must be more deserving of the tax expenditures involved.

And that brings up an interesting question: just how many dollars are we talking about?

What is the cost of vehicle depreciation and gasoline during a trip down Massachusetts Avenue? Ten dollars? Five?

Yesterday, the media reported that the Ballard administration stands to lose a three-million-dollar Federal grant, because it hasn’t complied with the grant’s staffing requirements. This makes Ballard the poster child for “Penny wise, pound foolish.”