Sunday, June 5, 2011

To Thine Own Self Be True

Toronto Pride Parade
I am a bit conflicted about this post. 

President Obama issued a proclamation declaring June GLBT pride month.  Pride Pittsburgh participates by scheduling a number of events including a parade. There is a party in the street on Liberty Avenue and a fundraising event at the home of the owners of Club Pittsburgh.  Each year a gay icon is chosen to entertain.  This year it's Patti, I Got a New Attitude, Labelle. It is Pittsburgh after all.  Who'd you expect Gaga?   The homophobic mayor holds his nose and issues a proclamation.  Pittsburgh's lgbt nonprofits host rallies and educational events.

In spite of, or maybe because of this, I hate gay pride.

I've always hated pride week and its associated events.  However I've lived the majority of my life placating others  hoping to gain their acceptance and so I've never admitted it.  Look I know it isn't politically correct.  I know that as a gay woman I should wholeheartedly support gay pride.  I know the history.  I've watched the Stonewall documentaries. 

Case in point.  When I first starting going out to the gay bars the only way to gain entrance was to already  know where the gay bars were because, believe you me, there was no signage indicating what was behind that dive's door. Second, upon finding the bar you had to knock surreptitiously on a little wooden window.  I kid you not.  It was like trying to gain entrance to the neighbor boy's secret treehouse club.  Then a really scary looking individual of questionable gender would slide back the window and seriously give you the once over.  Finally, if you really wanted to get in you'd better be with someone the door person knew and knew well or you were S.O.L.  At that time the bars in Pittsburgh were still being raided. More than once I was hurried out a back door as the cops came in the front.

When I was young gay men and women resorted to sending silent signals to one another.  Wearing only one earring (I can't remember if it was in the left or right ear) meant you were gay.  Color coded handkerchiefs tied around an ankle or left hanging out of a pocket indicated ......well.....stuff.  (like pitch/catch) Pinky rings, a thick wallet in a back pocket, a skate  haircut (remember those?) and androgynous clothing all indicated one thing.  Maybe.  It was easy to misread cues, even if you had excellent gaydar.  C'mon it was the 80's, mistakes were made.  Oh you're not a dyke.....oops, so sorry.
Anyway, I recount all this because when I grew up, gay kids, hell gay adults hid.  It was dangerous to be gay.  Discrimination, jeering, bodily harm, being ostracized, losing friends and family all were part of the package.  Or could be.  More often than not, it can still be that way even though we have progressed.  So I understand the idea of gay pride.

But I still hate it.

Here in Pittsburgh, Pride is sponsored by the bars and bathhouses.  Yeah, yeah, the  nonprofits like GLCC, Persad and the Aids Task Force participate, but basically its the bars.  And given all the partying that occurs during Pride it's no wonder.  The nonprofits aren't the bucks behind this event.

The most philanthropic folk are the owners of Club Pittsburgh, a place where gay men get together to socialize and recreate.  You know, the establishment where two men died, one in a club hot tub and another in a private room.  Go here or here to read more.  A club where socialization and recreation include open sex, group sex, drug paraphernalia sold on the counters and pornography.  This is what I want to be associated with pride?

Another, albeit minor issue is, I am not proud to be gay.  I don't know for sure, but I don't think straight folks are proud to be straight either.  I have never understood it.  It feels like being proud because I have blue eyes.  I am not any one thing and my sexuality is just a part of who I am.   Plus I didn't really have much to do with it.  I've been this way for as long as I can  remember. I can't really take credit for anything.

And isn't Pride month and all of its activities preaching to the choir?  I don't believe it changes anyone's mind or attitude toward lgbt persons.  Folks who think gays are immoral and hate them aren't going to be persuaded differently by a parade.  And in fact the parades just give them more ammunition to fire at us.  I don't really think that Marsha Mellow and Aunt Chilada dancing in the streets is going to convince anyone to treat me equally.  Some think Pride parades are important so people will see our numbers, so we will be visible, that it's necessary to show folks that we are out there, that we exist, that we're loud, we're proud, get used to it ..... really?

Finally, some folks will chalk my feelings up to prudishness.  They'll say I am repressed, that I just don't like sex, that I'm ashamed of the the flamboyant queens, the leather kings, the transfolk, the dykes on bikes. 

Look, I don't deny it.   I do want to assimilate.  I want to be treated the same as heterosexuals.  I want to have equal rights and have my marriage be recognized in the U.S. I don't want anyone to be bullied emotionally or physically for any reason.  And I say more power to folks who let their freak flags fly.  I accept that who, how and where folks choose to have sex is really none of my business.  I guess I just am not interested in marching through downtown Pittsburgh and making out with Sunshine and Happiness.  I  don't see the point.  If the gay community (and I use that term very loosely) wants an excuse to party, I say go for it.  Call it Carnival.  Call it Mardi Gras.  Just don't call it pride.