Why LGBT Pride still matters
Travel Tales with Fabrice Tasendo of Pink Banana Media
How did you enjoy Sydney Mardi Gras this year?
I simply loved Sydney Mardi Gras! This year was the 40th anniversary of the event. 40 years ago, when the first Mardi Gras celebration started, it was met with unexpected police brutality and 53 people were arrested. Since then, the government has apologised and expunged the records of the people arrested — they’re called the 78ers, many of whom reunited to march in this year’s parade.
It was also the first Mardi Gras since marriage equality passed in Australia, and a couple took advantage of the law to get married on a float! It reminded me of my friends George and Sean getting married by Ross Matthews during Capital Pride DC 2015, after the law changed in the US. It was a really emotional moment.
Was this the first time that you’d been to Sydney Mardi Gras?
It was! Australians are amazing people. They’re fun-loving, socially conscious, and real. The city was buzzing with rainbow flags, acceptance, and a festive vibe that was contagious.
What was the first LGBT Pride event that you went to?
I grew up in France, and moved to the US in the mid-90s. When I was growing up, there weren’t any Pride celebrations around me, so when I was able to go to a Pride for the first time it was a game-changer for me. It was San Diego Pride, soon after I’d moved to the US.
Through my work with GayWired, I was actively involved in Pride events for a number of years — hosting the first live webcast for LA Pride, helping and sponsoring inaugural Pride events in smaller destinations, as well as having a presence at the largest ones. I guess I got a bit burnt out with Pride events.
But, with Pink Banana Media, we’ve recently had the opportunity to work with Madrid Pride, and in 2018 we’re sponsoring NYC Pride. I’m enjoying celebrating who we are as a world community once again.
Do LGBT Pride celebrations still matter?
Absolutely. Despite all the progress we’ve made as a community, there are still plenty of road blocks and prejudices that we face. So when it’s time to get together and embrace and empower one another, I feel like our community shows up.
How has the concept of LGBT Pride evolved over the years?
Like anything, Pride has grown up through the years. I remember not-for-profit Pride organisations struggling to get sponsors, and I remember activists a few years later claiming that Pride was now over-commercialised.
My vision for Pride in the US, is to be closer to what Pride is abroad. While remaining a safe space for our community, I’d like to see it embraced by all our straight brothers and sisters, like I witnessed at Mardi Gras and Euro Pride.
There’s nothing that equates to that feeling of belonging when you have three million people having fun watching a parade, like it was for World Pride in Madrid. You no longer feel just accepted, you feel like you’re a part of a broader, inclusive society.
In the current political climate in the US, what do you think the tone of LGBT Pride celebrations are likely to be in the US in 2018?
In 2017, a lot of the Pride marches turned into ‘resist’ marches. While the current occupant of the White House remains, Pride in 2018 will need to remain a ‘resist’ march as well.
That being said, World Pride 2019 is in NYC. It’s also the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots. I feel like a lot of eyes will be on our community, and I hope both the media and our LGBT leaders seize that opportunity to seek further inclusion and equality for all members of our community.
What are some of the key issues confronting the LGBT community in the US at the moment?
There are many, but I think the core of it is the normalisation of prejudice. When so-called ‘leaders’ defend ‘both sides’ or boast about sexual assault, they are signalling that hate, prejudice, and sexism are ok. They’re trying to divide us in way that fosters an us-versus-them mentality, and that’s a road we have to be very vigilant not to walk on.
Are things still getting better for gay men in the US?
Reports are showing that humans in general are doing better. If I’m to narrow it down to gay men specifically, I’d say we’re doing significantly better. With continued education and focus, we have a path to eradicate HIV and AIDS for the next generation. Our love is recognised in 50 states in the US, and many of the countries we travel to. When we survive this presidency we can resume our work on getting work protection in all 50 states, and to keep pushing for full equality.
What about the rest of the world, is Pride Month an opportunity to look at the experience of gay men in other countries?
Our community is unique in the sense that we’re all connected worldwide by our acronym. But our experiences vary depending on geography, finances, family, and work.
Attend a Pride celebration in a city other than the one where you live, and you’ll already see differences. When you apply that to attending in another country, on another continent, you’ve multiplied your chances of enriching yourself. You then have the opportunity to bring that knowledge home and have an expended perspective of the world.
What are some of your plans for 2018?
2018 has been crazy already — France, Mexico, New Zealand, and Australia, and it’s barely mid-March!
In May, we’re are hosting a pre-conference event for IGLTA — the International Gay and Lesbian Travel association — in Toronto. In August, I’ll be in Philly for The National Gay and Lesbian Chamber Of Commerce convention.
But my number one plan for 2018 is to be happy, and be grateful for all the moments of happiness that come my way. If I happen to make a friend or 20 along the way, and do good through my work, then 2018 will be a stellar year.