There’s something about the perennial back and forth about pride that makes it seem like a holiday.
You know, your successful, established uncle in one corner saying it’s damaging to our community and we should, idk, grow up and be more like our straight brothers and sisters (who never act silly at parades, obviously). There’s just something special about it when we do it that makes nice good straight people we need to impress heads’ explode, so you kids stop that now.
And then there’s your Aunt Teresa and her girlfriend Biff and cousin TwinkStar3000™ in the other corner, interviewed right after they’ve taken coke and poppers. They normally say something like WOOO! or YOU GOTTA FIGHT FOR YOUR RIGHT TO PARTY! near a video camera, which makes the people your sophisticated uncle runs with shudder with horror.
Yes, these two sides are like the fruit and nuts in Aunt Gerty’s rum cake that no one really wants to eat. But, just like the rum cake, they’re going to show up for Christmachanukwaanzika next year, and they’re going to be fruity and nutty as though this year never happened.
Those of us who are indeed out, proud, and prepared to hit the pavement (and pay $8 for water) could stand to be more intellectual in our approach to the telling, and anti-pridesters might benefit from remembering that the QTBGL community isn’t a monolith meowing for heterosexual approbation.
For my part, since I’m one of those who has paid and probably will again in the future pay $8 for water (it’s fucking hot this month!), I’d humbly like to proffer a couple of points:
1) You’ve been there and done that, but a lot of people haven’t.
A lot of people will and do roll their eyes at the idea of blue-clad Human Rights Campaign volunteers flirting for donations, the house music, balloons, and speeches which rarely seem truly original. “I went to Pride and all I got was this lousy T-Shirt and a sense of disenchantment.”
But you know what? That’s just you. And every year, at every Pride, it’s hundreds or even thousands of people’s first Pride. Dan Savage like to rail (see your uncle above) that Pride used to be important because queer people used to experience shame. But people drive for hundreds of miles to get to Pride from places where they get nothing but shame from their neighbors. Not everyone is from a city of a million people or more. And for those of us who grew up in Bumfuck Hicktown America, being around that many people who don’t hate you (at least not yet) is magical and a truly formative experience. Maybe even life-changing. And it gives us perspective on who we’re fighting for.
2) It ain’t my revolution if I can’t dance.
I don’t remember signing a contract when I came out that said that being gay would only be about hard political work and no play. Pride is maligned for emphasizing fun. Which is in part true. To which many of us can only respond: so the fuck what? Many people who let their hair down (or put it up) for Pride spend the rest of the year in the trenches making change. I fail to see the connection between shaking your buns and maybe kissing your partner in a safe public space – maybe the only one you get the whole year – and the misled destruction of all queer progress.
Besides which, many people are invigorated or reinvigorated at Pride every year to take part in the political process of being QTBGL. Local and state political organizations are major presences at Pride, and most anyone behind a microphone will be delivering, at least in part, a political message. At Pride, you can have your politics, and eat them, too.
3) We’re not all worried about what straight people think.
This may come as a shock, but not all queer people think it is our daily mission to make straight people like us. Some of us have examined the failed tactics of The Mattachine Society and The Daughters of Bilitis as well as the straight-laced vision of the the modern gay marriage movement and decided, actively, that acting like straight people isn’t effective in swaying their opinions. To borrow a phrase from Shakesville, a lot of QTBGL pride dissenters are being concern trolls when they caution that pride doesn’t advance the movement.
Whose movement? is a question many of us are asking.
This push-and-pull narrative about Pride is probably here to stay. I do hope it will become more nuanced, though, over time. Us queers – we grow, we change, and we try to respect each other. Isn’t that alone something to be proud of?