Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Robert Redux: Pride Edition

Hello, happy readers! I am still deep in my Second Life obsession, and so haven't got a lot to talk about. However, I have been talking a bit over at Just Us Boys, my home-away-from-home message board. I've written a couple of posts lately that I thought were worthy of reprint, and have rediscovered some older posts that I'm especially proud of, and so I am duplicating them here for you... today's selection is on the topic of Gay Pride.
December 25, 2009
Re: Why do we have to "come out"?

(Background: the original poster and a number of posters who agreed with him bewailed the pressure of having to come out, to make great heavy pronouncements to all and sundry, when they'd rather just let it go and not say anything.)

Coming out is not, for everyone, or even for that many people, an announcement. I know some people feel there has to be a fanfare, it has to be done during the toasts at your sister's wedding, or standing in front of the Christmas tree with everyone gathered around.

Some people are drama queens.

But coming out, making the statement in whatever context comes up, is an act that is forced on us. I know I would prefer not ever having to say to someone I love, someone who is supposed to know me already, "Look, I'm gay." I would prefer people not make assumptions about the gender of my partner (real or imaginary) so that I have to correct them. I would prefer to not have to carefully watch for reactions in coworkers and relatives and random passersby before I mention anything to do with my social life.

But we don't live in that world. We live in a world where prejudice against us is encouraged by our spiritual leaders; we live in a world where ignorance is fostered by our media; we live in a world where people are allowed to simply turn their backs on the truth if it causes them an undue amount of thought.

We live in a world that builds the proscenium and hangs the curtains and turns the light on us, forcing us to either walk up to the podium and say aloud "I'm gay" or else cower backstage pretending to be part of the audience.

It pisses me off that I had to "come out." That I have to keep doing it over and over again, every day, sometimes to the same people. I mean, I came out to my Grandmother when I was fifteen, twenty-something years ago; but I've had to remind her several times over the years when her sense of denial got strong enough that she could ask me with a straight face about my marriage plans. I had to do it just last month when she started hinting that it was time my best friend Caroline and I "took the next step." In a perfect world, even in an acceptable world, she would have known without me telling her and kept on knowing and loving me anyway without the denial.

We're not going to get that world if people remain hidden. That's why we have to come out... be it a grand dramatic announcement or just a series of tiny revelations, we have to fight against the weight of this willful ignorance until it's properly ashamed of itself and bothers us no more. We have to come out so that the kids coming up behind us can see a beacon of light and know that they're not alone in this world, as we once thought ourselves to be.

Just fucking do it.

May 19th, 2010, 03:31 PM Re: Does anybody else think that Prides make us look like zoo animals?

(Background: this thread was started to gripe about how the media focuses on the outrageousness of Pride while ignoring the rest of the parade; many of the respondents, however, felt that it was our fault for being outrageous in the first place.)

Pride does not make us look like zoo animals.
People treat us like zoo animals at Pride... that's a different thing.

And it's something I resent mightily. We're not doing this for them, we're doing it for us... they can come watch, they can come support, but they don't get to dictate or get in the way.

I'm an attention-whore, especially when I'm in drag, so I'm always willing to stop and pose with some tourists along the way. But I sometimes wonder what the caption of the picture is going to be... is it "Here I am with these fabulous drag queens we met at Baghdad Cafe" or is it going to be "Look at the freaks, Ma!" I don't get to edit, since I agreed to the picture, but I still wonder.

But you know what I want America to see when they look at us? I want them to see that we're happy. We like being nekkid or dressed up as the whim takes us, we like being young and we like being old, we like being all kinds of races and socioeconomic statuses and all. We like being outside and in the open. We aren't hiding, we aren't ashamed, and we aren't afraid.

May 20th, 2010, 04:48 PM Re: Does anybody else think that Prides make us look like zoo animals?
  • Quote:
    Originally Posted by X
    "I agree 100%. I like the idea of it but not how it's done. It just looks like a big sex party which would be OK if they called it 'big gay sex party' but they call it 'gay pride' which is supposed to tell everyone what being gay is about. According to the parade, being gay is about sex, sex, sex, dressing up in women's clothing, sex, getting naked, leather and bondage, and more sex. There's more to being gay that these things and I don't just mean people who are not feminine. There's the whole emotional aspect of it missing.
I'm curious... what the hell Pride are you going to? I've been going to SF Pride pretty regularly for twenty or so years, and that's not what I've seen.

Sure there's some sex, sure there's a lot of leather and a lot of exposed skin, and yeah there are a mess a drag queens (yours truly included). But there are also absolute acres of families and lovers and friends, grannies and babies and dogs, boring guys who work at banks, cute girls who sing in choirs, hot guys in their police and firefighter uniforms, community organization after charitable organization after political organization marching down Market in a big moving ocean of Gay.

Out of the twenty thousand people in the Parade, maybe a thousand are shirtless. But, of course, those are the people whom the media spotlight. Never mind the two trolleys full of Lavender Seniors, our community elders who've paved the way for the rest of us; the news just wants to see the half-naked hotties on the dance-club float. Don't look at the three hundred PFLAG moms bopping down the street, look instead at the five Dykes on Bikes who have the temerity to wear their bazooms on the outside.

They treat us like zoo animals, and your response is to change our ways? Well, OK. This year I'll be sure to dress like Pat Boone.

June 27th, 2010, 09:00 AM Re: So.... I don't do gay pride...

(Background: the originator of the thread was complaining that his friends were treating him like a combination child-molester/puppy-killer because he wasn't interested in attending Pride in his native NYC, and expressed it as "I don't do gay pride.")

The reason you're getting those reactions is because we too frequently hear statements like that from the Uncle Tom asshats who are happy to take advantage of the sexual freedoms of liberation but want no part in the social responsibility, preferring the "respectability" of the closet and believing that if they disassociate themselves from the "freaks" now that they will be spared if a holocaust ever comes. That's the company you're counting yourself with, in many people's books, when you say "Pride's not my thing."

Pride really isn't about just entertaining yourself. It's about being part of something bigger than yourself, being part of The Community... a community that will not exist if people don't participate in it and help shape it. It's not just for fun, it's a civic responsibility.

SF Pride is today, and I'm not going to be there... my Court isn't hosting a contingent this year, so I can't be in the Parade as I usually am; the sidewalks are too crowded for me, I tend to have freakouts when I get stuck in a people jam; and even if I could march, or deal with the crowds, I'm still wallowing in a fairly profound depression. So instead of celebrating with my brothers and sisters, I'll be taking my Grandmother to church... but I am out there in spirit.

I can understand if you can't handle crowds, I can understand if you have other things you need to do; but I don't understand how people can look at something that is a celebration of the community you belong to, that celebrates what you are, and say "this is not to my taste" and then walk away from it, as if it were a movie or a buffet table.

In my opinion, the crassness and commercialism are there because people want to be entertained, not to participate. And it will never become what you want until you take a hand in making it that way.

June 7th, 2011, 04:35 PM
Re: Are gay pride days necessary ??

(Background: every year at this time, National Gay Pride Month, the closet cases and their sympathizers come out in force, questioning the viability, necessity, and message of Gay Pride; charges of public lewdness are the most popular criticism. This particular thread started off questioning why we gays support "bad behavior" by allowing Pride to be focused on drunken drugged-up party boys, and it got up my nose.)

"It is not the simple statement of facts that ushers in freedom; it is the constant repetition of them that has this liberating effect. Tolerance is the result not of enlightenment, but of boredom." Quentin Crisp.

When straights and gays see drag queens and boys dressed as fairies on TV, and say to themselves "Ho hum, whatever, let's see who's on Letterman," then the necessity for pride parades will pass.

When people get tired of worrying about chaps and g-strings, they'll also get tired of worrying about what you and your boring husband do in the privacy of your own home.

No need to thank us.

June 10th, 2011, 10:10 AM Re: Are gay pride days necessary ??
  • Quote:
    Originally Posted by X
    "Counterproductive.[...] Citing Mardi Gras and St. Patrick's Day are irrelevant: there isn't a Catholic or an Irish faction fighting for the right to marry, to have legal rights equal to WASPs. Hedonism when generalized doesn't have the political fallout that Pride Parades generate. Deny it all you like, but it is costing the movement, no matter how fun it may be or how much it may mean from the past. The excesses are both foolhardy and expensive politically."
While in terms of political expediency, I can see your point, I find one serious flaw in your argument: we are not in negotiations. We are not sitting at the table with those who oppress us and offering bargains, "OK, we'll tone down the shenanigans and you'll give us our rights."

No, this is a war. This is a war between people who believe they have the right to dictate to others how they should live and behave, and those others standing up and fighting back.

And really, do you actually believe that if we "behaved" ourselves it would change anything politically? Do you believe that if all the drag queens and leathermen put on suits and all the Dykes on Bikes put on dresses that Ma and Pa Kettle in the Bible Belt are going to say "Hey, those people are just like us, let's stop discriminating against them!" Do you really think that if we got rid of the flash and the bare skin and the wigs and the disco that the news media will turn their electronic eyes to the staid "normal" folks remaining in the parade?

Do you really think it's the hedonism and extravagance that these people are pushing back against, and not the specter of two men having sex?

The conciliatory approach was tried. It failed. What succeeded was the rioting and the decades of never-back-down activism that followed it. And even if there were a possibility of political expediency in "behaving," do you really want to be part of a movement that throws some of its members under the bus so that the rest can enjoy some civil liberties? Liberties that have been illegally and immorally withheld? I certainly don't.

June 10th, 2011, 10:23 AM Re: Are gay pride days necessary ??

And another thing. Aside from the question of political expediency, what harm does all the "bad behavior" do? I'm not talking about giving offense, I'm talking about actual harm.

Who, besides the individual, is actually harmed when someone else, or a thousand someone elses, get high and make spectacles of themselves? Who is harmed, besides the individuals who choose to participate, when people have sex in the streets? (which never actually happens at Pride, you're thinking of Folsom Fair.) Who is actually harmed by the vision of a woman's exposed breasts or the bared buttocks of an elderly man in chaps? Who is harmed by seeing a penis, for Christ's sakes?

The people who discriminate against us do not have the right to discriminate against us for these reasons or any of the other reasons they like to cite. We cause no harm to anyone but ourselves; they, however, cause us unspeakable harm... in fact, a lot of psychologists will agree that much of the harm we do ourselves stems directly from the harm done to us by the narrow-minded prurient reactionary bigots who raised us.

Telling us to behave ourselves better so we can have our rights is like telling an abused child to behave better so his parents won't beat him senseless. It's like telling a rape victim to dress more conservatively so she won't be raped. It's like telling the victim of theft that he shouldn't have nice things that people will want to steal.

Backing down is not honorable or honest. We're fighting for the right to be who we are, as all who do no harm have the right to be who they are. But offending a person's personal morality or preferences is not harm. It's an inevitable byproduct of human progress.

June 7th, 2011, 04:17 PM Re: "Why I'm Not Proud of Being Gay"

(Background: the originator of this thread was impressed and fascinated by an article which you'll have to read in order to understand my response --
Jesse Bering: Why I'm Not Proud of Being Gay.)

It amuses me that the author parses (or nitpicks) the word "pride" but does not dissect or even look at the word "gay." Like many, he appears to equate "gay" with "homosexual" as if they meant exactly the same thing.

But he should know, since he has an OED to hand, that no two words mean exactly the same thing: every word in the English language is weighted with connotation as well as denotation, emotional as well as historical etymology, and all sorts of shadings of sound and meaning.

"Gay" is an identity that one embraces or does not embrace, which is always paired with homosexual behavior of some type, but is not attached to all homosexual behavior. All gays engage in homosexual behavior, but not all who engage in homosexual behavior are gay, if you see what I mean.

(Aside - I was later questioned about that statement and offered the following explanation:
  • A homosexual is loosely defined as a person who engages in homosexual behavior. The general connotation of "a homosexual" is that his or her sexual attractions are completely or predominantly homosexual; strictly speaking, however, there is no such thing as a homosexual: the word was meant to be an adjective, not a noun. One can speak of homosexual acts, or homosexual persons, but not homosexuals...it's a misnomer, and that's why I avoid it.

    Being gay, however, is an identity whose genesis is found in sexual behavior but goes beyond mere sexual behavior into social behavior. The very word "gay" was created to fight a social stigma toward homosexual behavior... it exists in opposition to socially enforced paradigms. It is therefore a choice to be "gay," to stand up in opposition to the social expectations.

    You don't get to choose the gender of your sexual attraction; you do, however, choose what you're going to do about it. Fight it, or accept it? Hide it, or celebrate it? It's your responsibility to make these kinds of choices... and people who think those choices are made for them, by biology or society, are lying to themselves.)
The act of coming out is the act in which we justly take pride. Our ongoing and seemingly endless work for our own civil rights is an act in which we may justly take pride (at least if we've done anything about it). The very act of survival in the toxic environments in which most of us grow up is something in which we may justly take pride (survival is an act, not a being).

The article is all very well for a puff piece in a scientific journal, but it's horribly imbalanced... to delve into the meanings of one word in a two-word phrase without even touching on the meanings of the other word is simply not scholarly. I know I never would have got away with it in college.
So those are my thoughts on the subject. I hope you found some usefulness or inspiration in them. I know I enjoy reading them over and over again...but then, that's my dirty little secret: I love to reread my own writing, almost more than I enjoyed writing it.

Having defended Pride so vehemently, I feel like I ought to be more involved in it than I have been the last couple of years. But the demophobia keeps me at home when I want to be out there glittering and hollering with my brothers and sisters. So I'll just have to content myself with white-knighting in message boards.

In the meantime, I hope you have a happy Pride Month!

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