I am pretty unsure about gay pride parades. What is the essential goal? With suffragettes they had definite requests on voting rights.

Personally I have no problem with homosexuals, I am pretty indifferent towards them. I just don't really get the concept of the gay pride parades. Is it supposed to make intolerant people more tolerant?

Also my opinion is: tolerant people will enjoy them, intolerant people get more furious. In this sense it seems counterproductive. On Wikipedia, I can read about historical background, opposition, etc... but the purpose or goals remain unknown.

So my questions are:
What are the purposes of the gay pride parades?
And if it is defined, what are they trying to produce?


6 Answers 6


There are several purposes.

  • One is the feeling of unity and strength. It's well known that being "different" (including homosexual in a society that frowns on it) sometimes makes a person feel very depressed because they assume they are "the only one like it". As such, a mass public gathering to show that there's plenty of people sharing your "differentness" serves a purpose of showing to all those who are alike that they aren't alone.

    This doesn't JUST work for homosexuals. it works for ANY political movement (that's what demonstrations serve, in part), or even niche interest conventions.

  • Another goal is as a subtle (or not) "eff you" to society that is viewed as homophobic.

    I fully agree that it's counterproductive at best if your goal is to make homosexuality more accepted, but people aren't always rational. That's why San Fran gay parades turn into a "let's dress as provocatively and sexually as possible" carnivals.

  • Another one is a show of strength to the society. "You may think you can mess with that one gay kid in your large group because he's alone. But he's NOT alone. There's tons of us".

  • Similar one is show of POLITICAL strength. "We are a large and ACTIVE and ENGAGED demographics, so take us seriously as a voting block".

  • Another one is publicity/branding. As they say in Hollywood, "there's no bad or good publicity. There's only publicity or lack of it".

  • 1
    I am willing to accept that point if the main purpose is publicity. If it is a higher priority goal than increasing the tolerance levels, then it makes some sense. Jul 9, 2014 at 15:23
  • 2
    @DVK Do you have evidence suggesting that gay pride parades are counterproductive?
    – Publius
    Jul 10, 2014 at 3:04
  • 2
    @Chad I appreciate your sentiment. I've been trying to stay out of the crazy here. But when the topic of gay pride parade causes the two biggest posters on the site to reference Nazi groups, I just get pulled back into it.
    – user1530
    Jul 11, 2014 at 17:32
  • 4
    @DVK That is not evidence, that is an anecdote.
    – Publius
    Jul 13, 2014 at 2:19
  • 8
    @DVK that you have reasoned without evidence that you alone are a representative sample does not actually turn your anecdote into data.
    – Publius
    Jul 14, 2014 at 1:08

In an objective and detached way, gay pride assumes or presupposes a society at large in which gay lesbian bisexual and transgender people are devalued, ostracized, and marginalized on the basis of their sexual or gender identity.

The purpose is ostensibly to celebrate their identity in the face of a society which would rather shame them than recognize them as human beings.

The purpose is also normalizing. Gay Pride parades make gay lesbian bisexual and transgender people visible and more widely recognized. Consequently, it becomes a little more possible for GLBT people to exist in the world openly.

There are also business purposes, and therefore gay pride prides throughout the county (US) have many corporate sponsors, advertisers, etc, which seek to profit.

  • The purpose is also normalizing. Gay Pride parades make gay lesbian bisexual and transgender people visible and more widely recognized. So the way people dress and act in these parades would be intended to show that they are just normal? I was always under the impression that their aim was more like "Hey look at me, look how different I am from you", and I'm not the only one who gets that impression. They would achieve more if they showed that being gay does not imply cross-dressing, being on a leash, being towed inside a wheeled cage and other such typical sights at these parades. Jun 11, 2018 at 11:03
  • Not all gay people engage in the behavior you described. Moreover it’s not as if straight people don’t engage in the behavior you described either.
    – Kyle
    Jun 11, 2018 at 15:33
  • Not all gay people engage in the behavior you described. That's exactly my point (I wonder why you seem to say that as a counter argument). And exactly because many gay people (probably most) don't feel the need to engage in that behavior that I fail to see how the parade can be thought to help normalizing as this answer says. I am even willing to bet that a lot of gay people not only do not engage in that behavior but also don't like to be "represented" by extravagant parade types who do engage in that behavior and who send the message that that's what being gay means. Jun 11, 2018 at 18:25
  • If it makes you that uncomfortable than don’t go.
    – Kyle
    Jun 11, 2018 at 19:56
  • That's a given, but weren't we talking about something else, namely about the "normalizing" purpose of these parades? Jun 12, 2018 at 5:51

This is my opinion as individual Gay people are basically bullied all year long, facing attacks etc. For ONCE in a year you can be who you are in public and celebrate.

Consider that they cannot hold hands in public by fear of being attack, maybe it would help you to understand why pride is important.

  • 4
    Which country are you talking about? I'd think a place you describe wouldn't have such parades either. Can you add some examples?
    – JJJ
    May 2, 2019 at 22:46
  • @JJJ this may not be (strongly) the case in all countries where parades are held these days, but in several it would at least be a regional problem at the time the parades started. Assuming people travel to the parades as other people travel to festivals internationally, it also does not need to happen in the same country but can be an occasional flight from local repression. May 3, 2019 at 16:05

To expand more on the publicity point in user4012's post:

A major point of Pride, and further, being publicly out, is to show other LGBT people that they are not alone and to encourage others to come out of the closet. LGBT people, like all other people, have unique challenges. In their case, one of them is people not acknowledging that they even exist, which is why publicity is so important. This is frequently why LGBT people care that characters on a TV show are LGBT, i.e. 'Representation Matters."

So pride parades and festivals are ways of calling attention to LGBT people's existence, as if they don't acknowledge you exist, you can't get any rights or tolerance.


Consider that when gay pride events started it wasn't all that long after homosexuality was legalized in many countries. The legacy of it being illegal and many people being disgusted by, or hostile towards gay people resulted in a lot of discrimination and bad treatment, even attacks.

So when they started gay pride marches were an attempt to alter the public perception of homosexuality, normalizing it and reducing fear/distrust by familiarizing people with it.

More recently they have become popular annual events, as well as continuing to push for rights and acceptance for LGBTQ people.


I've asked a Pride parade activist this very same question and this was his response, summarized.

Here in Canada people of all sexual orientations have the same rights and society generally doesn't care anymore if someone is homosexual or not. It's literally no more of an issue than someone being a dog or a cat person - either way is fully accepted. However:

  1. Issues surrounding transgender people are still highly controversial and society still doesn't fully accept one's right to change their gender.
  2. Homosexuality might be a non-issue in Canada, but it is a big deal in other countries. Showing oppressed minorities in other regions that they have a large community of supporters around the world can encourage them to stay strong.
  3. At the end of the day parades are fun, regardless of what the topic is. Pride parades are fully open to heterosexual folks as well, so it's a good opportunity for all citizens to enjoy a day of celebration.

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