Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A "Normal" Gay Pride Parade Would Be the Freakiest Most Twisted Parade of All

I originally posted this in 2010.  I think it's worth posting again for this year's Gay Day.

Joe. My. God. posts his annual pre-Pride Parade rant. He's published this same essay every year since 2005, and I think it's always worth reading.

Here's a sample:

"David! Sweetie! Where are you watching from? Come hang out with us on Allen's balcony!"

David, a bookish looking middle-aged man, destroyed the festive mood in the little store in an instant. "Absolutely not. Those defectives and freaks?" he spat, indicating the colorful crowd outside the store, "They have nothing to do with MY life, thank you very much. This parade has as much dignity as a carnival freak show. It's no wonder the whole country hates us."

Luckily for David, the Asshole Killer mind ray I've been working on is not yet operational. I settled for pushing him a little, just a tiny bit, just to get by him in that narrow aisle, of course. I returned to my sweaty little group and tried to put what I'd heard out of my mind for the remainder of the day, because I knew that by the next morning, the thousands of Davids of the world, the ones who have media access anyway, would all issue their now familiar day-after-Pride rant. The one where they decry the drag queens on all those newspaper front pages. The one where they beat their chests and lament, "Why don't the papers ever show the NORMAL gay people? Where are the bankers and lawyers? Why must all the coverage be drag queens and leather freaks in assless chaps?"

And every year, the logical answer is that bankers and lawyers are
boring to look at and that pictures of marching Gap employees don't sell newspapers. There's no sinister media agenda intent on making gay people look ridiculous, no fag-hating cabal behind the annual front page explosion of sequins and feathers. It's just good copy. Drag queens are interesting. Even the bad ones. Especially the bad ones.

Yet right on cue, the day after Pride, the Davids of the blogosphere dished out their heavy-handed dissections of parades around the country. Only this year, there was a palpably nastier tone to an already traditionally nasty annual debate. Blame the election, blame the recent avalanche of anti-gay legislation, but this year, the usual asimilationist arguments went beyond the hypothetical speculations that maybe our Pride parades were too outlandish, that maybe we weren't doing the movement any favors by showing the country a face that happened to be wearing 6-inch long false eyelashes. This year there was some actual discussion about HOW we were going to "fix" Pride parades. Of how we might go about "discouraging" certain "elements" from taking part in the parades.

I've had the same experience myself many times over. There are always the curmudgeons complaining about the whole "freak show" and worried how it must look to the rest of hetero America. I have the same answer JMG does. Straight people watch the parade precisely because it is freaky and over the top. They count on it. If it was sober and respectable with hymn singing, no one would come. I knew an elderly couple from New Jersey who came to the Gay Day Parade in New York every year and brought their cameras. She liked the go-go boys, and he liked the drag queens. There are a lot of people who wouldn't go near the Saint Patrick's Day Parade (a "religious" parade with a lot of drinking and fighting) who never miss the tits, feathers, and sequins on Gay Day. There are many who bring their kids. There are lots of straight folk who come to the Parade every year, and even march in it, because it's the best party of the year (New Year's in Times Square is being cold and wet, locked into a police barricade with a horde of tourists, nothing to eat or drink, and a bottle to pee in). [Caribbean Day in Brooklyn is Gay Day's closest competitor in fun and spectacle with the added advantage of great food].

It's great to have the straight folk enjoying our parties and having fun. No one does a blow-out like us. And what's more, they are encouraged to make their own fun, just like we do. No one ever asks (except in irony), "are we having fun yet?" If they genuinely enjoy our company, then they are much more likely to be our friends.

Our straight friends don't want us to be "normal." They want us to be "out there" going where no one has gone before. "Normal" isn't doing very well by anybody these days. "Normal" invaded a country and started a war for made up reasons. "Normal" got rich off looting the world economy. "Normal" looked the other way and covered up decades of child molesting in the church sacristy. "Normal" is politicians from Rand Paul to Diane Feinstein preparing to go to war against the unemployed (as opposed to unemployment). "Normal" is a fat drug addict in his fourth marriage claiming to be a Tribune of the People and champion of what is "normal." "Normal" is a certain governor who quit half way through her term becoming a political star. "Normal" routinely got waived past safety and environmental laws by corrupt regulators and was responsible for a refinery explosion in Houston that cost 15 lives and is now responsible for an oil rig explosion that killed 11 people and created the worst environmental disaster in history in the Gulf of Mexico. That's "normal," and you can have it. Assimilate yourself Andrew Sullivan. I want no part of it.

Most importantly, Gay Day is a big party to celebrate being alive in the faces of all those people who wish we were dead.

Gay Day in Jerusalem

Gay Day in San Francisco

Gay Day in Albany, New York

Gay Day in Rome


Take a look at what acting "normal" and trying to "pass" will get you in Texas. Here is a tea-bagger inspired plank in the latest Texas GOP platform:

We oppose the legalization of sodomy. We demand that Congress exercise its authority granted by the U.S. constitution to withhold jurisdiction from the federal courts from cases involving sodomy. We support legislation that would make it a felony to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple and for any civil official to perform a marriage ceremony for such. We believe that the practice of homosexuality tears at the fabric of society, contributes to the breakdown of the family unit, and leads to the spread of dangerous, communicable diseases.

Joe.My.God again

2012 UPDATE:

 This year's Gay Pride Parade in Sao Paulo, one of the largest in the world turning out crowds in the millions.

Salt Lake City's Gay Day which this year included a large contingent of sympathetic Mormons.

Last year's Gay Day in Tokyo

The 2010 Gay Day in Bucharest, Romania.  It remains an open question if there will be another one there.

Gay Day in Moscow this year.  Probably the world's toughest gay activists were set upon and beaten up by nationalists encouraged by the Russian Orthodox Church.  The police looked on, and then arrested the gay activists.

A little reminder of what this is all about:

Popular homophobia in Uganda whipped up by far right American evangelicals and backed with a lot of right wing American money.  Uganda is again considering a bill to make "homosexual acts" a capital offense, this time with the endorsement of the Ugandan Anglican Church.


Iran continues to live the right wing dream with continuing public executions of gay men.  As I've always said, and I will still say, the only meaningful difference between Christian fundamentalists and Muslim fundamentalists is a shave.


Erika Baker said...

Anyone who is outraged by the Gay Pride photos but not by the photos from Uganda and Iran is sick. Truly sick.

Counterlight said...

Indeed Erika. That is my litmus test for basic decency, which picture outrages you.

IT said...

Good point, counterlight.

I also think that it's a time when those of us who ARE more assimilated need to come out andstand with our proud brothers and sisters who push the envelope and stand on the edge. Our progress did not come from being "assimilated" it came from inyour face drag queens and AIDS activists. We are one big rainbow family and it's the time of year when we celebrate all of us. And I'll be wearing rainbow bracelets ALL SUMMER to celebrate.

Counterlight said...

IT, I think one of the greatest of all ethical imperatives is chaconne a son gout.

susan s. said...

Oh my god!!! Those last 3 pictures are absolutely revolting. I agree about fundamentalists of all stripes. They are so full of hate.

JCF said...

"And I'll be wearing rainbow bracelets ALL SUMMER to celebrate."

Great idea! Why should I put my rainbow-chain necklace away after June?

Re last pics: Kyrie eleison! Liberating Queer Lord, protect your children and bring us JUSTICE!!!

MarkBrunson said...

Still find it obnoxious, but then, I find that true of most human behavior. However . . . I would gladly put the Orthodox, the Ugandan homophobes, the fundies of all religions on a great sea cruise - and sink them and their families halfway across the Atlantic. They are a cancer on the entire species and should be cut out.

MadPriest said...

When the Knotting Hill Carnival began in London it was a black Caribbean thing. White people began to go as spectators. Now they join. It's become a whole community event. I wonder if straight people will ever take part in Gay Pride, not as supporters (which already happens) but as participants with the same in your face gusto and exhibitionism. I would love to see it happen(although, with my ageing flabby body and the inclemency of the English weather, I wouldn't be showing everything to the world myself). However, my guess is that many in the gay community would hate the idea. When gay eventually becomes just a part of normal, everyday life, there are going to be a lot of gay people who will be lost without their status of specialness and victimhood. The only way for the gay community to avoid this come down is for them to own the idea now that they are doing Pride to free everyone from Puritan oppression not just themselves.

Counterlight said...

I don't know about Britain, but in New York, anyone can be their own show for the Pride Parade, and I know a lot of straight folk who join in.

MadPriest said...

That's good news. What happens in America...

Counterlight said...

Well, parts of America anyway.

Murdoch Matthew said...

The Pride Parade on the first Sunday in June in Jackson Heights, Queens, is a community festival. Gays and immigrants join to PARTY! This year was the 20th celebration.

The NYT this week had a good op-ed by David M. Halperin, a professor of the history and theory of sexuality at the University of Michigan:

. . .“Style” is routinely opposed to “content.” And, indeed, style is not a sign or a representation of anything else. Rather, it is a thing in itself, whose meaning is right there on its surface but remains difficult to specify. Unless we figure out how to specify that meaning, we will never understand gay male culture. We will never understand why it still survives, or why so many people, straight and gay, are so overeager to declare its death. And we will never understand the most essential thing about it: how gay culture continues to perform a sly and profound critique of what passes for normal.

I think the evolutionary purpose of gays is to keep the pot stirred up. Whatever the 80% assume is normal from their experience, the rest of us are witness to "No, that's not the whole story."