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‘A perversion’: Emerson president rips Straight Pride Parade; organizer defends gathering

Emerson College president Lee Pelton called the Straight Pride Parade “a perversion.”
Emerson College president Lee Pelton called the Straight Pride Parade “a perversion.”David L. Ryan/Globe Staff/File/Globe Staff/file

Emerson College president Lee Pelton didn’t mince his words when he wrote a blistering letter condemning the Straight Pride Parade that’s supposed to take place this weekend.

Super Happy Fun America, the organization that is planning the event, said the parade will start at 12 p.m. Saturday in Copley Square and end at Boston City Hall Plaza, and former Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos will serve as the grand marshal.

Boston police spokesman Stephen McNulty said the parade is scheduled from 12 to 4 p.m., and the public should “anticipate street closures and parking restrictions similar to what we’ve seen in the past for other ‘rolling rallies’ in the area.”

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In an e-mail addressed to the Emerson community Wednesday, Pelton blasted the parade, calling it “a perversion” and “a desecration of beauty, truth and generosity.”

“Do not be lulled into believing this parade is motivated by any noble obligation to protect freedom of speech or assembly,” Pelton wrote. “This is its mask only and behind that mask are a group of angry and misguided people whose aim is to turn a cherished American value ‘e pluribus unum,’ ‘out of the many, one’ on its head.”

Samson Racioppi, a spokesman for Super Happy Fun America, has asked that Pelton retract his statement and issue an apology.

“It is clear that freedom of speech and the robust exchange of ideas in society is not welcomed at Emerson college, based off their extremely intolerant and heterophobic statement issued to their student body,” Racioppi said in an e-mail to the Globe. “Our movement is one of unity and love, not one of ignorance as alleged by the Emerson President. We welcome all races, genders, and sexual orientations, to our parade and ceremony at City Hall, and wish for the Emerson community — and all of Boston — to stand with us in Solidarity on August 31st.”

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Racioppi said the Straight Pride movement is not “a response or attack against the LGBT community, and to portray it as such demeans the experiences of our supporters, including many of those who identify as gay or lesbian.”

“The fact that official Emerson communications conflate our advocacy on behalf of heterosexuals — including serious discussions about the erosion of the family unit, the destructiveness of political correctness in academia and politics, and the denial of basic human rights like freedom of speech and the freedom to assemble — with things like ‘White Pride’ and national borders, shows the biased and politically slanted agenda of Emerson College. It is clear to me that if you identify as heterosexual, you have no reason or cause to celebrate who you are — at least according to Emerson College. Just because Emerson College does not take our issues seriously, does not mean others in society feel the same way.”

What follows is Pelton’s letter in its entirety:

Dear Emerson Community,

Well, it’s happening again: Fear and ignorance, humanity’s most potent cocktail, masquerading as freedom of speech, have been given permission (i.e. given a license) to hold a Straight Pride Parade on August 31st, which, barring the Boston Police determination that doing so would be unsafe, will march by our campus — an affront to the wonderfully pied beauty of our affirming and diverse commonwealth of learning.

According to a recent article in the Boston Globe, the parade organizers, calling themselves Super Happy Fun America, have adopted the slogan “it’s great to be straight” and warn that “until an ‘S’ is added, L.G.B.T.Q. pride will continue to be a system of oppression designed to systematically erase straight people from existence.”

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Of course, we’ve seen this before. Take, for instance, the annual lament among so-called White Nationalists and others that we don’t honor White Americans with a “White History Month,” to counterbalance, as it were, February’s “Black History Month,” as if every other month, week and day didn’t celebrate just that.

The Straight Pride Parade is meant to be a spectacle. The Grand Pooh-Bah of Spectacles, the pitiful Milo Yiannopoulos, who will do just about anything to get attention and who has been barred from Twitter, Facebook and much of human society, has threatened to make a pop-up appearance at the parade. As we know, Mr. Yiannopoulos has made a lucrative career out of seeking to antagonize college campuses, while playing to the media for the attention he so desperately craves.

We live in the Age of the Spectacle. This event makes clear that when you have no informed position to offer or when you lack a meritorious idea, you whip up an attention-getting spectacle — in this case, an odious parade.

Yes, the Straight Pride Parade is a spectacle. Yet, it is much more than that, as Milo reminded us in an uncharacteristic moment of clarity and honesty: “I get the joke of this, but I also get the seriousness of it. I agree with the ideological motivation behind all of this obviously.”

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The ideological motivation, as I wrote earlier, is ignorance, fear and its hideous offspring, hate. Its trope is part and parcel of a larger national trope: its rallying cry is “protect our borders,” a proxy for “preserve our national identity” and in this case, preserve “straight” culture, whatever that might mean. A border is meant to keep invaders out we have been told ad nauseam in recent months; it is conforming and confining and it is fear based. And mostly, it is meant to objectify the “other” as unworthy, as deformed, as disfigured and, most horribly, as something other than human.

Do not be lulled into believing this parade is motivated by any noble obligation to protect freedom of speech or assembly. This is its mask only and behind that mask are a group of angry and misguided people whose aim is to turn a cherished American value “e pluribus unum,” “out of the many, one” on its head.

The Straight Pride Parade is a perversion. It is a desecration of beauty, truth and generosity and that is why we must call it out, call it what is, with a loud, clear, unambiguous and unified voice.

Nothing less will do.

Later this afternoon, Jim Hoppe, Vice President & Dean of Campus Life will share a communication with the community that will provide additional event details and logistics, including the College’s safety plan for this Saturday.

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Sincerely,

Lee Pelton


Emily Sweeney can be reached at esweeney@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.