Community Columns

Proud to be straight? No — proud to hate

By Maria Figueroa

Straight Pride organizer and LGBTQ ally discuss controversial Modesto event

National group plans to hold straight pride event in Graceada Park in Modesto, Ca, on August 24th.
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National group plans to hold straight pride event in Graceada Park in Modesto, Ca, on August 24th.

No one has ever shamed me for holding hands with a boyfriend in public. I have never been afraid to go out to a club or bar to meet someone special. I was not told no when I applied for a marriage license or when I ordered a cake for the ceremony. I have never worried about being attacked or murdered just for living my life.

I don’t need a straight pride rally, you do not need a straight pride rally, no one needs a straight pride rally.

Which is why we must question the motives and organization behind the yet-to-be-approved Straight Pride Parade scheduled for Aug. 24 at Graceada Park. This event really promotes ideas that have little to do with being straight and everything to do with promoting homophobia, racial superiority and hatred. To be clear, this is not a straight pride parade: this is a hate pride parade.

The organizer and director of the National Straight Pride Coalition, Don J. Grundmann, is not shy about his belief in white supremacy, Christian superiority and other zany ideas like using the film “The Matrix” to explain his theories on the Kennedy assassination. One does not need to do a deep dive on the website to see that the rally is really about “celebrating the inherent superiority of the following foundational principles of life: heterosexuality, nationalism and whiteness.”

This is not going to be a beautiful “celebration of life” like failed school board candidate Mylinda Mason will have you believe. Chances are it will be attended by violent extremists from The Proud Boys, which is designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (Grundmann stated that he is an active member), alt-right activists and maybe even members from the white supremacist group American Identity Movement, formerly known as Identity Evropa.

Their founder, Nathan Damigo, is still residing in Oakdale and facing various lawsuits related to his participation and planning of the 2017 Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, Va. That was where white supremacist James Fields murdered Heather Heyer by driving his car into a group of protesters. Though Damigo no longer is their leader, his group is still very active in the Central Valley, stickering our college campuses with their brand in an effort to recruit new members.

If you think a riot can’t happen here, you are wrong. If you think worse cannot happen, you aren’t paying attention.

The First Amendment gives organizers the right to talk about any idea we may think abhorrent, but it also gives us the right to stand up and expose the event for what it is: a celebration of hate. This isn’t just the responsibility of our local LGBTQ+ community; this is what we can and should do as allies, as friends, as neighbors and family. Volunteering at MoPride, writing letters to the editor, calling your local elected officials or joining one of the peaceful counter events are just some of the ways you can make your voice heard. But our vigilance cannot be limited to this one day, if they should get their permit.

Recently the independent media group Unicorn Riot leaked American Identity Movement chat logs where they strategize ways to gain a foothold in mainstream politics by running for local elections and working on campaigns. Local legislators and electeds have a duty to look closely at who is working with them and for them, now and as the election season approaches. Grundmann has been invited to speak at the California Republican Assembly of Stanislaus at an upcoming meeting. A white nationalist, speaking to our local GOP group; is this really the best choice?

As a researcher, I have been looking into extremist groups in the Valley. They exist and they are ready to mobilize. The question is, will Modesto be ready? This is the first chance to prove we are. If they get their rally, we get to call them out publicly for what they are. They are not just proud to be straight; they are proud to hate.

Maria Figueroa is The Modesto Bee’s research and information specialist, and is a member of the newspaper’s editorial board.

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