It’s gay pride week here in Northern Ireland, an event which will culminate in the Gay Pride parade due to take place next Saturday in Belfast. For almost 15 years now the homosexual community has been coming out to tell us all how proud they are to be gay. This has always been a source of bewilderment to me. Just what is there to be proud of with regards to sexuality? Anal sex with another man hardly ranks up there with finding a cure for AIDS as far as things to be proud of go. Winning an Olympic medal, getting a job promotion, achieving a university degree, raising decent children, are the sorts of things about which people might rightly feel proud. But, taking it up the arse? Any Bombay hooker can do that. And if, as increasingly seems to be the case, sexuality is a matter of nature rather than choice, there is as much sense in being proud of having ginger hair, green eyes, or curly pubes. As fun as Curly Pubes Pride day sounds there isn’t really much worth in it, except for the market it would create for the manufacturers of crotchless pants.

Despite the fact that I find this phenomenon so queer that I can’t bend my mind around it, there are those who think differently. It seems to be a great source of fun and meaning for many, and I’m willing to accept and respect that without further ado.

The Gay Pride Parade annually faces increasingly organised opposition. In previous years there was always some guy in a sandwich-board (“ye must be born again”) yelling “sodomy is sin” from the sidelines as the parade meandered its way through Belfast city centre. But the nature of the opposition has now changed. Last year I received an email from a group calling itself the Stop the Parade Coalition. This organisation was attempting to get as many people as possible to contact the Parades Commission to complain about the parade with a view to having it banned on the grounds that it “offends public decency and morality,” and “promotes a sinful lifestyle.” And the debate is raging this year once more.

The gay community does not allow such opposition to go unheckled. On a radio programme this morning a gay member of a discussion panel complained that it was offensive when a Christian referred to homosexuality as “sodomy,” and such offence had, in his view, no place in a rational discussion. Later in the debate, however, his own pretence to reasonableness went out the window as the Christian community, or certain segments of it, were labelled as a pack of bigots. Unfortunately so often the response of the gay community is not tempered by reason or thoughtfulness. Instead they have tend to adopt the good old typical tom-cat-with-a-firework-up-its-arse approach: “bigots MEORRR fanatics MEORRR MEORRR.”

It is quite regrettable that the most vocal critics of the Gay Pride Parade have been religious fundamentalists. This has created the impression that it is only such people who have any problem with the parade. Of course, this suits the gay community nicely, giving them a fantastic opportunity to characterise anyone who opposes them as closed-minded, backward, homophobic, ignorant bigots fuelled by religious zeal. If these types of people are saying something, then it must be wrong. This is brilliant ammunition and it has been fired off by every pro-gay commentator that I have read or listened to lately. The orthodox line is, “well, it’s only a handful of religious bigots who have problems with this.”

This is false. There is a great number of non-religious people who have issues with it, and, even more surprisingly, there is a high number of homosexuals themselves who have problems with the parade. If you take your eyes off the eccentric men in sandwich-boards for a few seconds you will see just how many other people who are uncomfortable with the parade or with certain elements of it. I have gone to see the gay pride parade several times over the past few years. It has always proven to be quite an eye-opening experience.

One of things that I have found rather repulsive about it is the sight of sweaty semi-naked men writhing to incredibly loud dance music. Before I’m charged with homophobia let me say that this point also holds for heterosexual men. Lets face it guys, us men look appalling when we’re dancing at the best of times. Every wedding party in the country testifies to this fact. Taking off our clothes and writhing in public doesn’t help us out much.

Secondly, at the parade two years ago I heard a group of women getting rather irate: “My God there’s children up on that float.” Indeed there were children on that float. Now, I’m not suggesting that there is something sinister going on here. I’m just wondering why the gay community thought it would be a good idea to involve children in what is fundamentally a celebration of a certain form of sex. It would be ill-advised to involve children in an Oral Sex Pride parade for similar reasons. As a PR exercise it, rightly or wrongly, just makes you appear to the public like a bunch of paedophiles. Young children and sex should not be mixed. How to lose friends and alienate people, folks. As far as I know the gay community wised up to this one and last year children, young children anyway, didn’t appear to feature.

On other floats we are treated to the sight of a bunch of transvestites in various stages of undress. Nothing wrong with that – Lily Savage is quite a hoot. But, who wants to watch a bunch of transvestites simulating sex? And even those who do enjoy doing so generally recognise that 2:30pm on a busy shopping day in a city centre is an entirely inappropriate time and place for it. If such a sight might make you feel a bit ill then you need to be careful because during the gay pride parade it isn’t easy to find a safe place to rest your eyes. On one occassion I looked down the street only to see a bunch of homosexual people who had been watching the parade groping each other and sticking their tongues down any available consenting throat. Now, I hate it when heterosexual couples do this, so to be fair I have to criticise the gay community for it to. Equal opportunities and all that jazz. Not nice to look at, but it‘s difficult to avoid it.

Lastly, some of the banners carried were both insulting and provocative – most of it aimed at religious people generally (“God save me from your followers” being amongst the nicest things they had to say). Now, I’m not against this at all but it’s a little hypocritical of the gay community to whinge like little bitches if someone so much as fails to give a hearty thumbs-up to their lifestyle and culture let alone aims a bit of criticism in their direction. If you give it, you must be prepared to take it: a principle with which gay men are surely well acquainted.

I’m sure any gay readers are seething right now, if they’ve even managed to get this far without the big vein in their head popping. But, I should point out that I have in the past argued for full gay rights – such as the right to marry – and abhor incidents of gay-bashing. Live and let live. What takes place between consenting adults isn’t any concern of mine. If you wish to engage in consensual homosexual activity then you are and should be free to do so. However, too often the gay community link failure to endorse their lifestyle with the closed-minded desire to outlaw it, and confuse homophobia with genuine criticism or mockery. Whilst I don’t consider homosexual behaviour to be immoral I certainly don’t find it tasteful, even when it’s expressed in milder forms as it is during the gay pride parade. Homosexual activity is, to me, disgusting. I make no apology for that. However, I also consider a lot of heterosexual behaviour disgusting too. But I readily acknowledge that I can’t arrogate to myself the right to tell someone else how they should or shouldn’t live in cases where their lifestyle has no negative impact on my own life at all. Whatever gay people get up to behind closed doors it’s simply none of my business. Whether or not they do the things they do makes absolutely no difference to me.

The gay community is its own worst enemy. I said above that there is a great number of homosexual people who do not like the gay pride parade. Often this is explained by the mainstream gay community as fear: fear of what might happen to be seen as openly gay. But, I have heard from several gay people that they don’t like the parade because of the image it paints of homosexuals. For instance, the gay men who take part in the parade simply behave in accordance with their stereotype: as camp as a row of pink tents, and a little sleazy. And, the gay community comes across at best as being obsessed with sex and at worst as insidious sexual deviants. And many of these dissenting gay people resent the fact that the in-your-face nature of the parade is putting off many people who might otherwise be sympathetic.

The gay community often complains about how it is stereotyped, mocked and reviled. But before they point their fingers at everyone else they would do well to engage in a little introspection and realise that their own behaviour and image is as much a cause of this mockery and revulsion as anything external to them.

Stephen Graham B.Th (Hons)