The annual marches ultimately accomplish two things: They entertain those of us—gay and straight—who already wholeheartedly support the cause of equal rights for the LGBT community, and they feed into the rotten stereotypes of bigots, the same people who fear gay Boy Scout leaders and consider same-sex marriage “deviant.” The LGBT community has every right to claim its place in the civil rights struggle. But in such a politically important year for the gay community, perhaps it’s time for its members to start taking some cues from the civil rights movement of old.
[. . .]
I wish I could say that no bigots are going to use pictures of a few men in thongs in San Francisco to write off millions of gay, lesbian and transgender people, but I can’t. There’s a lot at stake right now. The community is on the verge, perhaps, of a tipping point for rights and acceptance. Maybe, just once, the LGBT community should try abandoning the scant costumes and embellished sexuality and “do two.” They could march down the center of America’s great cities in all the clothes they regularly wear, exposing themselves for what they truly are: normal human beings. It wouldn’t be as fun as past parades, and it’s not fair. But for now, that’s life.
compare to Barney Frank (in a different context):
I am not seeking your approval. Your approval of the way in which I live is not terribly important to me. [. . .] This is not a request for acceptance. We don’t want it and we don’t need it…
By quoting Frank, I’m not saying he is some flaming ‘mo out celebrating Pride in a thong (and I have no idea where he stands on carnivalesque pride events). But his point, while defending the need for hate-crime legislation, is poignant here—and really, a central question of rhetoric. How much do you want to change yourself (or, more accurately, your ethos) in order to change the beliefs or actions of others? And how much do you want to change your ethos for incidental or secondary audiences? One of Jim Porter’s points in Audience and Rhetoric, to simplify it a bit, is that a rhetor in a way becomes her audience—not completely, but identifies with the discourse style of her audience (or, more accurately, discourse community). What is at stake… and what is lost… in this identification?