PrideFest, the gay rights protest-turned-celebration set this year for June 18 on the North Side, will have its own counter-protesters, right inside the parade.
"We do feel that the gay and lesbian community hasn't been accepting of the queers' perspective," says Von Singletary, of Bloomfield. She is a member of Resyst, a group organized at the Thomas Merton Center, the Garfield social justice organization. Resyst's pink and black banners, says Singletary, signal that its members feel that PrideFest's slogan -- "Equal Rights: No More, No Less" -- is not a goal they find acceptable. The movement has become "assimilationist," Resyst members charge, too focused on "state-regulated relationships" such as marriage, or pressing for greater acceptance for gays in the military when the military itself isn't acceptable. Resyst, says Singletary, is "not working toward acceptance on a level of normalcy."
"I feel betrayed" by the mainstream gay and lesbian rights movement, says David Meieran, another Resyst member -- "by the equality nuts, as I like to call them," led by the overly corporate Human Rights Campaign. Equality -- "accessing the same privileges afforded to heterosexuals" -- is not a worthy goal for the movement, he says, especially when "other progressive values are put by the wayside. The very simplistic 'Equal Rights: No More, No Less' -- I want much more from the movement. I want everyone to be able to have access to health care" -- just for starters. Resyst has "a broader vision of social change" that takes into account the economic and social costs of equality, coupled with a "broader vision of sexual liberation.
"Most of the mainstream movement was outraged that [Sen. Rick] Santorum compared homosexuality to polygamy," Meieran says, "without taking into account the real issue was [that] people should have the ability to control their bodies and their lives in the way they choose."
The anti-gay cry from the early '90s -- "equal rights are special rights" -- does have "a certain amount of truth to it," Meieran says. "More fundamentally, there's no way you can ask for one of these things without privileging one group or another. What are the important privileges [sought] from a more progressive society? Who do you have to sell out?"
PrideFest organizer Jeff Freedman, in his first year with the festival, says he has never heard of Resyst, but adds: "There's never enough politics, and everyone has a right to believe what they believe. I don't like infighting, us against them, us against us, which we do a lot of." But, he adds, "it's part of the political process. The American Revolution didn't start with a bunch of happy people."