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the ghost of Pride past (and future)

7 Jun

It’s Pride month here in the US (see, we get a month, but we don’t get lots of basic human rights), which means, among other things, that it’s the season of Pride parades.

I’ve been going to New York Pride since I was in high school, missing it here and there for travel or rehearsals, but mostly going year after year. And I’ve watched Pride change from something angry, or at least defiant, in the 80s to the corporate excess of the post-2000 era to whatever it is now, which seems like a shadow of what it once was. And so, as it approaches this year, I’m a little bit torn about what to do. I don’t want to go if the whole thing just feels sad.

But it does feel sad, and not in the right ways. Because it’s not sad like it used to be when the moment of silence seemed to make the whole city hold its breath. Now it’s just sad because the route is shorter (due to city budget cuts that have impacted all parades) and the fact that fewer people turn out in favor of skipping right to the parties.

But honestly, I thought I was just being cranky and “hey you kids, get off my lawn” about this. But then a friend who has recently moved to Texas from NYC tweeted about Pride there, about how different it is in a state actively trying to take away your rights.

Which means all of this is about the evolution of community and about assimilation again. About how we’re not supposed to be able to have it both ways, but how we are supposed to be grateful for floats from Chipotle and Delta (do they make you feel more human?). And let’s not even get into the marginalization I feel as a woman at Pride — there’s the dance and the women’s dance. I am just as gay as you, and people shouldn’t make assumptions about gender, and I hate the many, many types of segregation that go on in my community (along lines that include orientations, genders and race).

My community. Which I feel like I need more than ever because we are in this fight for so many things that are so close, so close, right now. But that community feels more fractured, apathetic, and lost than it ever has. We weathered crises and have wound up at sea.

I’m working on a bit of fiction right now that requires me to imagine what it will be like — on the news, in certain cities — on the day when equal marriage is legalized on a national level here. I lived in DC for a long time, so it shouldn’t be that hard for me to find the image, the moment, my story needs. Certainly, I can list all sorts of things people partied or held vigil in front of the White House over; after all, I lived just a few blocks away for nearly five years.

Yet imagination is hard when you’ve spent your whole adult life waiting on something you’re sure will never come and yet can almost taste. You get muddled. You get confused. You forget how in a lot of cases life will just go on like nothing is different: you’ll still get stuck in traffic, lose your dry-cleaning ticket, and come home from work too tired and pissed off to flip on the TV, and so you may not even find out until someone tells you at the water cooler at work the next day.

Of course, for all those people, there will be the people that hear the second it happens, that will celebrate on the street, or honk their car horns or phone old friends from college or pour into bars, talking to strangers about all the people who didn’t get here with us. So many people will not have gotten there with us.

Right now, though, Pride in New York feels like a victim of the economy and so many years of waiting. I can’t not go, but the thought of it feels disappointing already.

Anyone out there got an answer, other than wait, about how to make it matter or at least seem enjoyable this year?

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12 Responses to “the ghost of Pride past (and future)”

  1. firefly124 June 7, 2011 at 4:28 pm #

    Being a latecomer (last year was the 1st time I attended a Pride Day), I don’t have the frame of reference to make comparisons, and I’d feel like an upstart making suggestions if I had any.

    But I can say that Hartford Pride was a major letdown. It mostly felt like a venue for various corporations and vendors to say, “See how gay-friendly we are?” There was no parade, bad karaoke for entertainment, and nothing other than shopping the vendor area to do.

    The little group I’d gone with still managed to have fun, but we all left wondering what the point really was.

    GetEqual has a thing going to “take back Pride” and I signed up to help at any of three nearby Pride Days. Haven’t heard anything though, which is disheartening. I’m hoping to make it to Boston or Providence this year, for a bit of comparison. But if things are that dire in NYC, I guess Ishouldn’t get my expectations up.

  2. deconstructingglee June 7, 2011 at 4:28 pm #

    Do you remember your first pride? I do, so clearly. It was a tiny parade in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I’d hitch-hiked for a whole day to be there after my lift fell through (pretty much lost my job over it too).

    I remember standing on the sidewalk with so many people — young families, other singles, older people, everyone — and just gazing in awe as the dykes on bikes rode by, and the drag acts from the local bars threw condoms and lollipops at the crowd.

    It just felt amazing. And ever since then, whether it’s a big Pride or a small one, I bring a little of that awe with me. I think it helps.

  3. figgymama June 7, 2011 at 4:43 pm #

    Commenting from my queer blog, because it seems appropriate, but it’s just Selkie from that other blogosphere.

    We’re torn, too. Because it seems (in DC) like Pride has gone limp and died. If we go, it will be because we have a kid this year. I haven’t even begun to analyze that.

    • Amal Nahurriyeh June 8, 2011 at 11:19 pm #

      I feel this. I’m probably taking my son to Brooklyn Pride this weekend, because there will be fire trucks (at least there were last year) and because he needs to know that his moms are lesbians and this is a reason to throw a party. With fire trucks. (He’s two and a half.)

  4. eandh June 7, 2011 at 5:25 pm #

    We may not go to Pride this year -but for some very different reasons. We’ve been to Vancouver Pride most of the last 20 years, and it’s getting just too big and we’re getting too old. We don’t want to party all night, we don’t like the crowds which are so thick you can’t even move along the parade route. It’s very successful, very mainstream – all the political parties city and federal, the armed forces and the police and the banks, one misses this event at one’s political peril, it’s a huge tourist attraction. Which in a way is great – but it doesn’t feel important or risky the way it did in the 80s.

  5. Red Stapler June 7, 2011 at 6:07 pm #

    It must also be noted that Austin’s Pride is actually in September.

    The parade in question, QueerBomb, was made as an alternative event, more in spirit with the Prides of the 80s.

  6. K`shandra June 7, 2011 at 6:11 pm #

    I kinda blew the curve for myself by marching in the first Pride Parade I ever attended, so it’s been difficult to match that energy. (The year a friend of mine invited me to ride with her in the Women’s Motorcycle Contingent did.) But even allowing for that, the energy has changed so very much.

    San Jose moved their Pride Fest. Which I can almost understand, because it’s been two weeks before SF Pride forever, and I’m sure they lost a lot of people who just figured “Oh, I’ll go to the REAL one…” :eyeroll: But SJ moved it to AUGUST, which makes absolutely no sense to me.

  7. gement June 7, 2011 at 9:06 pm #

    I’m too young to have attended any of the parades before they were a giant corporate party. (Seattle, for point of reference, and I think my first parade was 2003? OK, so I was a late bloomer.)

    I’m sure it means different things to different people at different times. I wish all the best to people living in places where it’s still an act of outright defiance. There have been years I wasn’t in the mood to go watch the A&F boys dance and worried that my Queer Card would be revoked somehow, or that I was Supposed To Be More Involved, and screw that. If it’s not working for you, it’s not working for you.

    But there are always more sixteen year olds. I’ve heard personally from young Seattlites who have found it *so important* to participate, or even attend and get slapped with their neon PFLAG sticker and feel like the in-crowd for a day. Some years I’ve needed that too.

    • gement June 7, 2011 at 9:08 pm #

      Regarding what to do, take a page from me and Arjache at Folsom and cosplay your favorite queers. 😉

  8. Meredith June 7, 2011 at 9:32 pm #

    I will march with you if you want. I never really feel like there’s a place for me anymore, I used to march behind a banner with some really long name like queer sci fi gamer geeks that was the weird overlap of Panix and CUGC, but that was a long time ago. I default to the leatherfolk, who I marched with at Stonewall 25, but they tend to break down into smaller groups that I’m not a member of too, and i hardly know anyone anymore.

    I don’t have time to organize much of anything, but I think if we could get a glom of queer fen together that could be fun.

    I actually kinda like the floats, they play dancy music and I like that we are worth courting nowadays, but it all reminds me of the Pride I went to in Galway in the 90s. There were 30 of us, and they asked if I was gay, and I did my NYC-trained-disclaimer about “only” being bi, and they didn’t care — they were like, you’re here, you’re one of us, have a beer. I know that was only and entirely because with such a small and discriminated against community they didn’t have the luxury of infighting, but it was still so different.

  9. Christian A. Young June 8, 2011 at 6:26 pm #

    One of the benefits and downfalls of having befriended board members from the local LGBTQ community center (where I’ve been attending some events of late as well — OMG leaving the house WTF) is that I’ve found myself volunteering for Pride-related things. I’m not on the planning committee for the ‘fest itself, or the party, but I’m doing party set-up and a door shift, and am possibly helping one or more groups table at the ‘fest (depending on needs, which I need to know soon since the ‘fest is Saturday).

    Thirteen years ago, I was just moving out of a podunk village next to a military base where my attempts at putting Pride stuff on my locker would have impressed Sisyphus. Now I live in a place that doesn’t really have a parade, but we get a little festival in the park, and then a shindig.

    It’s strange, because sometimes I feel very much a member of various communities. Other times, I feel so very much like that kid on the sidelines I was growing up. I’m still so very Other in a lot of ways. People don’t quite know what to do with me, sometimes. I’m not sure I’d call it transphobia so much as just…not being on the menu? Not a part of the group? Being one of Those People? It’s a thing. The dance party could well be an exercise in awkward loneliness. Or it could be amazing.

    But yeah, the Community is a strange experience, but Pride is at least a time I’m encouraged to exist on some level, and that’s interesting to me.

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  1. newsmongering 06/08 (for the second time) « whackanarwhal - June 9, 2011

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