Some LGBTQ activists are pushing to make Pride Month feel more like Memorial Day than Mardi Gras this year, mindful of conservative pushback against exposing children to sexualized events.
State lawmakers have introduced more than 400 bills limiting LGBTQ programming and passed 75 of them into law this year, according to the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Campaign.
The laws limit children’s access to drag shows, sexually explicit books, public school sexuality lessons, cross-sex athletic competitions, gender-neutral pronouns and medical gender-transition treatments.
Pride Month events likewise should reject sexualized advertising in favor of a family-friendly focus on fitness, wellness and mental health, says Los Angeles-based LGBTQ event planner Gareth Gallagher.
He’s one of a small but growing number of activists calling for the annual celebration of gay rights to be more apolitical and have less public nudity, alcohol and drug abuse.
“I think sexual orientation is very personal and shouldn’t be placed in a public arena,” Mr. Gallagher, 42, told The Washington Times. “These Pride events are driven by excess and it damages mental health.”
A recovered alcoholic and drug addict who came to reject rowdier Pride celebrations after coming out as gay at age 18, Mr. Gallagher shares his views in the new book “Eventually Gareth, The Show Had to Go On.”
He has planned LGBTQ wellness fairs featuring yoga, workout classes and boxing for banks and other companies for 25 years. In 2018, he started exporting the fairs to Pride Month events in New York City but said they have received little interest.
In addition to wellness fairs, more pro-LGBTQ religious groups are hosting booths with family-friendly activities such as face-painting at Pride events this year.
They’re part of Faith for Pride — an initiative of the progressive Interfaith Alliance, a Washington-based network of Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus and other religious congregations.
The initiative is “part of a fight for shared justice” aimed at countering conservative backlash against transgender rights, said the Rev. Paul Raushenbush, a Baptist minister who heads Interfaith Alliance.
“This is personal to me as a gay man with a husband and two children. For me, faith has been a great source of inspiration and support for my family,” Mr. Raushenbush said.
Participating synagogue Beth Chayim Chadashim is handing out pink pens and pride stickers featuring a rainbow Star of David at events in the Los Angeles area this month.
Founded in 1972, the reformed Jewish congregation claims to be the first synagogue in the world that caters to LGBTQ people.
“We want to create new spaces to express pride in different ways and respond to the desire for family events, but without giving in to the rhetoric that there’s something wrong about how we express ourselves now,” Rabbi Jillian Cameron, the congregation’s leader, told The Times about the outreach.
“As a gay person myself, it’s not all about sex, but sexuality is part of humanity,” she said.
Pride Month, an annual commemoration of the June 1969 Stonewall riots that the gay community organized in New York City’s Greenwich Village, traditionally focused on same-sex marriage.
But since the Supreme Court legalized gay nuptials more than a decade ago, progressive activists have gradually emphasized the right of children to transition from their birth sex into other gender identities.
Pride events in recent years have come to focus on transgender, non-binary and bisexual advocacy, sparking pushback from parental rights groups.
“Pride events will never be ‘family friendly,’” Sheri Few, president of United States Parents Involved in Education, said in an email Friday. “Attempting to make ‘LGBTQ Pride’ palatable for children is merely another way to indoctrinate children with the leftist agenda.”
Political and corporate support for Pride Month has become more visible in recent years, adding to the clash.
President Biden, a Democrat, has expanded access for transgender children to the restrooms and sports teams of their choice since taking office in 2021. His administration has proposed amending federal anti-discrimination regulations to recognize gender identity rather than biological sex.
As part of a Pride Month campaign last year, Uber-owned Postmates released a sexualized advertising campaign with gay sex references to “topping” and “bottoming” to promote a new “bottom-friendly menu” in Los Angeles and New York.
Last June, Burger King rolled out a “Pride Whopper” for customers in Austria that featured “two equal” top buns or bottom buns. The company apologized after a viral backlash from the LGBTQ community on Twitter.
This year, a recent Bud Light advertising campaign featuring transgender social media influencer Dylan Mulvaney, and a Target clothing display for trans women have sparked damaging consumer boycotts.
On Friday, restaurant chain Cracker Barrel faced viral calls for another boycott after posting a photograph of a rainbow rocking chair on its social media channels.
In addition to corporate sponsorship, a growing number of towns and government agencies are flying rainbow Pride flags over their buildings for the entire month.
On Friday, New York City’s Rockefeller Center replaced the 193 flags of United Nations members with multicolored Pride standards.
Such displays make it “unlikely there will be a reversal of course” in how the nation celebrates Pride Month, said Gregory T. Angelo of the conservative New Tolerance Campaign, who recently wrote to public officials protesting the rainbow flag displays.
“I think the LGBT community should adopt a live-and-let-live approach to Pride Month,” said Mr. Angelo, who is gay and a former head of the Log Cabin Republicans LGBT group. “Instead, they are catering to a fringe that has adopted the mantra ‘you will be made to care.’”