The first amendment sits at the top of our Bill of Rights for a reason. The freedom to express thought is central to the foundation of a democracy. However, when the execution of this power affects others, the right can become convoluted.
This complexity of our rights is exactly where Super Happy Fun America found its niche. The organization was founded to represent the rights of heterosexual people, who they believe are an oppressed group, but the larger role of the organization lacks clarity.
Super Happy Fun America’s official goals are declared in a statement from their president, John Hugo: “Straight people are an oppressed majority. We will fight for the right of straights everywhere to express pride in themselves without fear of judgment and hate. The day will come when straights will finally be included as equals among all of the other orientations.”
To raise awareness, the group organized the Straight Pride Parade in Boston on August 31. The vice president of SHFA is Mark Sahady, who expresses the organization’s mission in clear terms, “We will educate the public about straight issues and foster unity and respect by having a parade.”
Their approach is hard to argue with from a legal standpoint, which is why after SHFA filed a discrimination complaint, Boston City Hall had to comply with their request for a parade.
From a cultural and logical point of view, the existence of a straight pride parade is wholly unnecessary, even if the organizer had the legal right to demonstrate. A long history of persecution and discrimination against LGBTQ+ people calls for the need to raise awareness and promote inclusion, which is embodied in gay pride parades.
That persecution is absent in the history of heterosexuals. Though the parade organizers claim they are an “oppressed majority,” there is no evidence to support this. Beyond this claim of the parade’s purpose, the organizers and their associates brought another level of controversy. The parade drew more than one thousand counterprotesters — spurred on by the fact that many of the organizers have alarming ties to far-right groups with violent records.
Mark Sahady, the VP of SHFA, is associated with the group Resist Marxism and can be seen in multiple photos with members of the Proud Boys, the American Guard, and Patriot Prayer. These far-right groups all espouse hateful rhetoric and have all been involved in forms of violent protest and activity.
In a photo from June 30, 2018, Sahady stood dressed in a helmet and flak jacket, armed with what appears to be a club at a violent rally in Portland, Oregon. He is also associated with neo-Nazi John Camden of the American Guard, of which there are more than a few pictures of him showing off his Nazi tattoos and symbols. He and Sahady also appeared in a video clashing with protestors at the Boston Women’s March in January.
The Straight Pride Parade marshal, Milo Yiannopoulos, invited even more controversy to the event. In the past, Milo has encouraged violence against journalists and made unsettling comments in regard to his issues with the age of consent.
Prior suspicion that the Straight Pride Parade would attract followers of hate groups was confirmed in photos of participants displaying Nazi symbols at the parade on August 31.
The difficulty lies in determining if SHFA’s association with hate groups was intentional or if it was simply people from various backgrounds rallying behind heterosexual rights. From a legal standpoint, this could be an uphill battle to prove, and denying their permit could have been seen as a violation of free speech.
The parade organizer’s well-documented ties with fascist and Nazi members were enough to mobilize the counter-protestors, who arrived in much larger numbers than actual parade participants.
The issue at the heart of the matter is determining if this is, as advertised, a singular movement to express heterosexual pride or a vehicle to promote the larger alt-right movement and white nationalism. A look at some of the popular signs seen in the parade help shed light on the motives of parade participants.
One of the larger floats in the parade was a large trailer with a massive homemade Trump 2020 sign, accompanied by other messages of support for the administration like a “Unite America 1st” sign. “God Bless America” was blasted from large speakers while “Make Normalcy Normal Again” posters were carried by several parade-goers; it was likely the most popular sign displayed.
Other displays of support for the broader rightwing agenda include a graphic of a very unapologetic President Trump giving the middle finger juxtaposed with an “Include Don’t Exclude” sign, adding to the convoluted and muddled direction of the parade’s objective.
What is apparent though, is the result. The parade, though relatively small in number, was able to continue unfettered with a vastly disproportionate number of police and city resources required to keep the peace.
According to SHFA’s website, they were happy with the turnout and determined the parade to be a massive success. If attracting attention to the many underlying, yet undefined movements who comprised the makeup of the Straight Pride Parade was the goal, then it was in fact a success.
In a statement on their website, SHFA states the future plans of the organization: “We direct those who are interested in our movement to check out the website and stay tuned for future events. We are building the infrastructure for other chapters to open up across the country, and the world.”
The complexity of ensuring the right to free speech can lead to unsettling situations and many unresolved questions. Is Super Happy Fun America just a vehicle for hate groups to join together and gain strength and momentum? Is it right to silence them, based on the backgrounds of many of the participants?
While these questions hang in the balance, this organization has gained steam. The group claims normalcy is being threatened and the oppression of the “majority” is listed as a basic tenet of SHFA’s concerns. What is normal? Who is the majority? These terms remain undefined.
If Super Happy Fun America is advocating to Make Normalcy Normal Again, what will happen to those labeled as “abnormal"? The right of free speech hinges on the idea that one human must not infringe upon the rights of another.
While SHFA advocates to bring an end to the alleged oppression of heterosexuals, they appear to be looking to reduce the rights of those determined to be outside their definition of normal.
In the closing remark of Super Happy Fun America’s article on their website describing the Straight Pride Parade, they add, “We also would like to remind people that “It’s Christmas, not Happy Holidays." What is to be made of this exclusionary remark in the larger context of their movement? It seems SHFA is advocating for more than just “heterosexual rights.”