Pride is no longer about fighting discrimination; it’s no wonder people are choosing not to raise the flag

As Pride is celebrated around the world, it’s become expected that politicians and public offices raise the Pride flag for the month. Declining to do so generally results in harsh criticism and accusations of homophobia. The assumption and implication is, too often, that those who decline to raise the Pride flag (and, generally, to support all that Pride stands for) are opposed to diversity and inclusion.

When a mayor in Pennsylvania blocked the local city council from raising the flag in July, LGBT groups promised to protest, and some residents threatened to file complaints with the city’s human relations commission. In Norway, the parliament’s Presidium refused to raise the rainbow flag outside the parliament building during Pride in June, leading Une Aina Bastholm, MP for the Norwegian Green Party,  to tell media she had to “take a deep breath.”  In an article for Dagbladet, a national tabloid, Conservative parliament member Mari Holm Lønseth argued that “all councils must be inclusive and raise the Pride flag.” After Kjell Ingolf Ropstad, the Minister for Children, Family, and Church Affairs, said he would not be attending Pride this year because he disagrees with FRI’s (The Norwegian Organization for Sexual and Gender Diversity) policy on “polygamy, a third gender, abolishing the ‘Sex Buyer Law,’ and surrogacy,” he and other MPs representing the Christian Democratic Party were accused of being non-inclusive. Leader of Norway’s Labour party Jonas Gahr Støre said:

“I think the Minister for children, Family, and Church Affairs should attend Pride. He doesn’t have to agree with all the slogans on the banners, but this is the day politicians should tell the people that everybody should be safe.”

In Vancouver, federal Conservative candidate David Cavey announced he wouldn’t be marching in the city’s Pride parade this weekend after the Vancouver Pride Society (VPS) banned the University of British Columbia and the Vancouver Public Library from participating. Cavey has marched in the parade in the past, but took a stand in favour of free speech, challenging the VPS decision to ban UBC and the VPL for allowing speakers who challenge transgender ideology to book space for events. In a press release, Cavey stated:

“As publicly funded institutions, both are obligated to ‘host’ whomever wishes to rent their property — within the limits of the law. They don’t necessarily agree with the speakers. But to punish them for following their obligation to respect free speech, the exchange of ideas and intellectual freedom, is plainly wrong…

…We encourage other political leaders and campaigns to join us in taking a principled stand on behalf of UBC and the VPL on inclusiveness, free speech, intellectual freedom, and diversity of opinion and refuse to march in the parade unless its organizers reinstate these respected local institutions.”

He was promptly accused of “transphobia” by Nicola Spurling, a member of the BC Green Party.

When it comes to Pride, everyone is expected to join in, whether they want to or not.

But Pride is not neutral. It is political; and not everyone is obligated to support all Pride stands for today.

Parliament doesn’t raise the red flag on Labour Day or the women’s liberation flag on March 8th, yet they are expected to raise the Pride flag during Pride month. Pride now appears to be more celebrated than any other political movement. Over the years, this attention — from corporations, politicians, and public institutions — has given the Pride organizations enormous power. Pride has become big business.

This might be seen as cause to celebrate, but while Pride may have begun as a human rights movement for lesbians and gay men — something I and most others support — it has developed into something entirely different.

Not only has Pride rejected sexual dimorphism, biology, and anatomy as essential in defining biological sex, in its support for “trans rights,” it has adopted many controversial positions, including legalization of the sex industry and the surrogacy industry; the promotion of BDSM as a sexual orientation, rather than a fetish; and advocating the prescription of puberty blockers to youth identified as “trans” who are as young as 12 years old.

If Islamic or Christian organizations promoted surrogacy, the legalization of buying sex, and the legalization of conversion therapy (meaning, the practice of “transitioning” young lesbians to live as “men”), I imagine the response from politicians and the general public would be different.

But it seems these positions are accepted both by politicians and the general public, so long as they are wrapped in glitter and rainbow colours.

Norweigian LGBT groups like FRI (the organization that puts on Pride every year in Norway) receive large amounts of public funding. “Pink Competency” — a government-funded program that provides training for health professionals around LGBT issues — is supported heavily by the Norwegian Labour Party. Its employees are activists, not professionals, and by no means experts in childhood development, medicine, or psychology. Many identify as “gender fluid,” “transgender,” “queer,” or gay.

The Norwegian Labour party’s manifesto explains:

“The level of competence must strengthen in all parts of society. Therefore, we want to strengthen and expand the work on Pink Competency in the workplace, the health service, schools, kindergartens, the police and in asylum reception centres.”

In Canada, SOGI has been heavily promoted in schools, from kindergarten to Grade 12, by the government. This means the concept of gender identity is being taught to children, uncritically, from a very young age.

What other controversial political lobby groups been given access to schools in order to teach children their ideologies? If all political groups and lobbyists were given this kind of access, we would likely view it as a situation where children are being exposed to propaganda instead of knowledge. But when it comes to LGBT, everyone is expected to be on board.

Pride often uses the language of “vulnerable LGBTQ youth” as a means to gain sympathy from the public when arguing in favour of puberty blockers and surgeries for “trans youth,” such as masectomies, as well as in terms of advocating the importance of supporting Pride and its political agenda. But it is primarily grown men and women who attend Pride, not teenagers. Beyond that, Pride is not an appropriate place for children, thanks to its dedication to adult fetishes. Drag queens and adults dressed up in latex costumes have little to do with lesbian and gay love, but this imagery dominates. Why the sexual fetishes of adults are of public interest and how they relate to human rights is beyond me. Particularly when these things are very much mainstream today, and are celebrated not only in “queer” clubs, but straight ones as well.

Musician and writer Lars Birkelund wrote in his piece, “One flag should be enough,” published last month in the left wing newspaper, Klassekampen, that the Norwegian flag symbolizes freedom from discrimination, regardless of sexual identity or orientation, as it is a symbol of our constitution, laws, and democracy. In Norway, we have laws against discrimination, and LGBT+ people have exactly the same rights as heterosexual people. The Sexual Orientation Anti-Discrimination Act entered into force in 2014 and the Gender Equality Act was adopted by Norwegian parliament in 1978, ensuring women and men are given equal opportunities in education, employment, and cultural and professional advancement. The law is based on the principle of non-discrimination. Our flag therefore already symbolizes opposition to discrimination and support for human rights for all. Similarly, Canada has laws in place that prohibit discrimination based on sex and sexual orientation. Celebrating Pride is no longer about opposing discrimination and fighting for rights. While I absolutely support the rights of lesbians and gay men, I also support the right of parliament and mayors not to raise the flag or attend Pride.

My experience is that, in fact, Pride is one of the most intolerant political movements of our time. Those who disagree with the various positions and ideologies supported under the Pride umbrella are shunned, slandered, bullied, ostracized, and even fired. People should be allowed to disagree with and question ideas, without being accused of opposing human rights and equality.

Declining to raise the Pride flag or attend Pride does not necessarily mean a person or party is opposed to human rights or even gay rights. There are many, today, who are troubled by what Pride has become. Including me — an out and outspoken lesbian. I have been a part of the lesbian and gay community since I was 15 years old, but the Pride flag does not represent me.

Tonje Gjevjon is a visual artist, composer, columnist, and filmmaker from Norway. She is the leader of Hungry Hearts.

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