Dismantling Gay Pride, Ctd

Jun 10 2011 @ 11:05am

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A reader writes:

I don't know what Pride parades are like in DC, but my experiences in NYC are anything but "enforcing some ghastly, single 'gay identity' memes". Rather, the range of ways to be gay on display is always impressive to me!  How can you think that Dykes on Bikes and the bears from The Eagle, along with the twinks with their club music on the bar and clubs' floats, next to the parents walking with strollers and those from PFLAG, followed by multiple groups from (nearly) every religious denomination, to the increasing numbers of men and women in uniform, to the drag queens walking miles in heels, don't already represent, " far more niches, sub-sub-cultures, individuals and experiments in living as possible?"

Look, we can all be real and say that after the parades stop being "great therapy and empowerment for those just coming to terms with being out", they are at the end of the day, a parade.  And like all parades, they become onerous affairs that compel people to navigate large crowds, find bathrooms and in June, cope with oppressive heat and humidity in the years when it's not pouring rain.  Those are reasons enough to avoid the parade, but pretending that it's an exercise in one way of displaying the appropriate way of being gay – well, that's what's gay!

PS – I look forward to the year when you and Aaron are invited to be the Grand Marshalls at the NYC Pride Parade.  I'm sure Dan never imagined it'd be him and Terry, so I'm sure it's not as out of the question as you think it is!  ;)

When hell freezes over. I've always tried as an independent writer not to be too associated with any group, or organization, especially big ones like pride parades of HRC. I'd rather focus on small effective organizations like Immigration Equality or the Trevor Project. And, look, I'm just not a parade person, ok? In Ptown, I have attended the annual carnival parade about twice in the last twenty years. Usually, I run away to a deserted beach. And I have no problem with gay pride marches, as long as I don't have to join in. Another makes the reader's point with more punch:

Sorry, Andrew, but your post raised my hackles – particularly coming from you – for quite a few reasons. Although I don't know where you and Aaron make your home in D.C., I would assume it's Dupont or Dupont adjacent. I definitively know, however, that you both spend a significant amount of time vacationing in Ptown each summer and loudly proclaim your identity as a bear. Given these facts, for you to say that Pride is too "gay" – after admitting that you haven't even been to a Pride festival for many years – is just a bit too much and indeed smacks to me of the often naked condescension that often exists between members of the leather/bear community, on the one hand, and twinks/those who might formerly be called Chelsea boys, on the other.

If you would deign to attend a Pride festival (or better yet something like Chicago's Northalsted Market Days), I think you might just discover that, just as "gay culture" and broader societal acceptance of homosexuality has changed quite substantialy over the past twenty years, so too has Pride. It's no longer just about those Chelsea boys showing off their impeccably sculpted bodies on floats sponsored by Bud Light or I.D. Lube (or whatever) prior to all-night, drug-fueled dance club bachannals; it's more about a multitude of people, gay and straight, getting together to celebrate difference and tolerance while simultaneously providing the myriad public service entities that focus on our community to educate and reach out to those potentially in need (whether homeless youth or crystal addicts or the uninsured poz).

Seriously, Andrew. "Too gay"?? Your post was homophobic and offensive, and I expect a lot better from you. (You are, after all, one of my icons, who's openness about being poz helped me immensely following my own seroconversion.)

Oh, please. No condescension implied or meant. I know pride has changd a lot, and I am glad for it. I do my bit in other ways. And look, I did write a widely cited piece on beardom, but it included these critical remarks:

Every time I try and write a semi-serious sociological assessment of the phenomenon, I find myself erasing large amounts of text. Part of being a bear is not taking being a bear too seriously.

I'm really a little past disliking other sub-sub-cultures. I was once a twink, dabbled in leather, have hung with East Village scraggots, love gay black dance clubs, am now a kinda-bear (not much chest hair, alas), and soon will be a cranky old Kramer. I'm not into crowds, I hate heat, and some aspects of gay culture make me cringe. Please don't hate me for it. And please have the best of times, while I read in a quiet air-conditioned room. As I've said countless times, the point of the gay rights movement is not to be gay, but to be yourself. I'm being myself.

(Photo: Officer Dan Choi attends the 2010 New York City Gay Pride March on the streets of Manhattan on June 27, 2010 in New York City. By Ben Hider/Getty Images)