Oakland Pride kicked off its own event this weekend, but found itself embroiled in a near-tempest with media reports that the leather community had been disinvited.
The event's organizers were quick to clear up the record: It's not that they didn't want leather daddies to join in; they just weren't so keen on chaps in chaps. That is to say, the issue of whether attendees were wearing treated animal skin was less a concern than how much human skin their attire might not be covering up.
The brouhaha began with a quote posted by SF Gate on Aug. 30, the day before the event's inaugural edition.
"We had some leather groups from San Francisco who wanted to come, and we politely declined. We want to keep this G-rated," event organizer Carlos Uribe told the publication, before going on to say, "...we just want to offer a more family-friendly, diverse celebration. Sort of an end-of-summer bookend to SF Pride."
The comment sparked online reports that Oakland Pride was looking to exclude the leather community.
"One thing you probably won't find at Oakland's first LGBT Pride Parade on Sunday: partially clad men in leather chaps," a posting at JoeMyGod stated. "What you will find is the Jolly Trolly from Children's Fairyland, pony rides, antique fire engines and singer/drummer Sheila E. Instead of kicking off with Dykes on Bikes, as is the tradition in San Francisco, Oakland's parade starts with Tykes on Trikes."
JoeMyGod went on to report that Oakland Pride had posted an explanation at it Facebook page that indicated media reports were misinterpreting the comment.
"Although it is correct that Oakland Pride will not allow nudity or sexually explicit materials at the Parade or Festival, this in no way denies the leather community from participating," the Oakland Pride Facebook message read.
Uribe himself clarified his comments, saying he had been misquoted. FrontersLA.com reported in an Aug. 30 post that Uribe had this to say: "Those are not my sentiments and not my words. What the article should have said is that we are not allowing nudity, which I can only assume that the reporter made the jump to leather, which is not acceptable."
Evidently, it was all about keeping the event "family friendly."
"Oakland -- home to more same-sex families than almost any city in the country -- is expanding its traditional Pride party this year with a seven-block parade up Broadway. The event includes an all-day music festival in the Uptown neighborhood, with four stages and children's activities ranging from a petting zoo to puppet shows," SF Gate's article noted.
Nudity and semi-nudity at GLBT events -- particularly Pride, but also street events such as the Folsom Street Leather Fair, which takes place yearly in neighboring San Francisco -- has long been a point of contention. Some in the LGBT community saying the day should not be dominated by stereotypical images of scantily clad gays. Others respond that the point of public Pride events and other festivities is to provide an outlet for non-heterosexual cultural expression, as well as to provide a time and place in which sexual minorities can feel safe and at home.
The mainstream media tends to sensationalize Pride by focusing on participants in exotic costumes, revealing outfits, and other unusual attire. Critics of the LGTB community similarly seize upon such images to characterize the entire community, which is, in reality, as diverse as the heterosexual demographic.
But internal strife within the ranks of America's sexual minorities cannot advance the cause of equality; it can, though, play quite handily into the narrative that anti-gay forces continually push. Oakland Pride seemed conscious of this fact.
"Oakland Pride has made a request to have the quote removed from the SF Chronicle, and also acknowledges everything, from charity work to front lines activism, that the leather community has done for LGBT rights," the FrontersLA.com article noted.