Well, Gay Pride has come and gone. Such a fun time. It seems like you can go to a different party every night, and that it goes on for far longer than is reasonable.
I don’t mean to toot my own horn (although it’s so easy!), but have been going (off and on) since the 90′s. I was a teenager, and not “out”. I wasn’t sure if I was gay, as I hadn’t tried being with a girl yet. I was (and am) lucky enough to have a sister who was a crazy pagan lesbian vegetarian counter-culturalist forward-thinker who took me to Pride and all kinds of festivals where I saw Kim Airs wearing a strap-on and traffic cones on her breasts, lit up, amongst other things. It was exquisitely bizarre, and I am so grateful for those glimpses, being brought up in a very conventional environment.
But as I was waiting and waiting for the float I was on to start moving yesterday, I got frustrated. I mean, it took us four damned hours just to get started. Then I began thinking about the first time I went to the parade (when it was technically a “march”, which is different). I remember my sister being hesitant about taking me because there was an actual level of danger. It’s hard to imagine today, but back then the “march” was an act of protest. It was defiant. We are talking before “Will & Grace”, before “Glee”, clearly, before “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” went on goddamned fucking Broadway but was a small film your friends told you about that weirdly starred Agent Smith from “The Matrix”. The shit was Real. You could get things thrown at you, there were bomb threats, and about 20% of the people there were protesting against it. For all of these reasons, I stopped being frustrated and realized how far everything has come. It’s good that the parade is so large and so popular.
When I was a kid, I was spellbound by the freakish levels of abject randomness and how comfortable everyone was with whatever fantastical creature the march welcomed anyone to be. I fell in love with drag queens, and smiled at them with a starry-eyed stalker-like quality which I’m sure was a little scary- but which I still do because I find them absolutely bewitching. I met a curious man with door knockers in his nipples and scarification all over his chest (who was a banker in his vanilla life, not surprisingly to any of us, but which was to my 16 year old mind). It was probably the first time in my life I felt genuinely afraid and happy at the same time (probably a feeling a lot of bottoms can relate with). Especially when I saw Dykes on Bikes, who were at the very front. I remember being scared by the sound of the Harleys, and then burst into tears. I’m not sure why. It’s silly, really. I mean, their name alone is pretty ridiculous. But I think it was the first time I had seen a powerful group of women en masse wielding machines with utter assuredness. It’s an unequivocal expression of female power and toughness, and I’m sure it overwhelmed me. Now that I think about it, the placement of the biker babes was probably strategic. Not only because motorcycles are unreliable when stopping and starting, but it’s a show of force in an otherwise vulnerable seeming population. (Lest we forget drag queens started the Stonewall Riot- which is the reason Pride exists).
Sure, Pride has become very commercialized, it’s lost a lot of it’s protest “edge”, it’s too large and clunky, it disturbs traffic, and the sheer defiant excitement of being outrageous in the face of forceful opposition is gone. But while I was looking out into the crowd of people yesterday– smiling and waving and cheering and dancing- I felt the spirit of freedom of expression and universal concepts of love and acceptance are still at the heart. However you want to be, you can be. With enthusiasm. I’m pretty sure that having the experience of going when I was 16 did something toward assuring me that whatever pansexual, kinky, bizarre feelings I was having were fine, and even a positive thing. And I’m cool with that.