Monday, June 29, 2009

Sour Pride

I waited until after the weekend to talk about this here, even though I did mention it over on Facebook.

Have we come a long way since that mythic night in 1969, when the Queens fought back against a routine Vice-Squad raid of a Mafia-run gay bar on Christopher Street in Greenwich Village? Yes. Undoubtedly.

Background check of my bona fides:

I'd turned 21 the week before. I was in the Navy and had just reported for duty after a year of boot camp and electronics schools, to the Naval Air Test Center in Maryland. It was weeks before even a hint of the events in New York managed to filter down to where I was. And where I was was alone and lonely inside my own skin, absolutely convinced that I was doomed to a lifetime of secrecy about who, and what, I really was. I remember being thrilled to hear that there had been a "queer uprising" of some sort in New York City. It gave me a teensy bit of hope that maybe the future might be okay for me, after all.

Long story short, I got out of the service and came flying out of the closet, got very involved in gay lib on a grassroots level at the University of Delaware, got burnt by same, swore off gay lib and gay politics -- moved to Seattle -- moved to New York, attended a few early Pride Parades and most importantly... I saw where it was all going.

It was all going to a party.

The early parades were rag-tag events, scheduled mostly by word of mouth in those pre-internet, pre-email days. Mouth and pamphlets and underground newspapers.

They didn't need no stinkin' permits to march. Everybody just "showed up" on Central Park West and started organizing themselves behind banners. There were no "floats" or flatbed trucks full of scantily-clad party boyz and blaring disco music, tossing Mardi Gras beads to the gawkers along Fifth.

The cops didn't interfere because, to be honest, there were about a quarter of a million of us and about 10,000 of them.

But then, and rather quickly, the marches got sold out. To corporate interests and the aforementioned flat-bed trucks loaded with Party-Boyz.

And Pride stopped being political.

Look, I like a party as much as anyone else. But there is a time and a place for it. And Pride Parades are NOT it. NOT yet. When we have achieved our political goals of full, unbridled, equality before the law ... then, and only then ... can we "reward" ourselves with a parade with floats sponsored by Bud Lite and American Express.

Until then, there is work to be done. Political work. Hard work. In your fucking-face work.

Our lives are at stake here. And a once-a-year, blow off some steam, Disco-on-Fifth, is not a fit way to demonstrate against discrimination and in favor of civil rights for LGBT peoples from coast to coast. All it is is just a fucking bone thrown to us by an establishment with a vested interest in keeping us "uppity faggots" in our place.

A minor annoyance to the majority and a battered-wife reliable cashcow to the Democratic Party.

And if that don't piss you off, then just what will it take?


I seem to have struck a nerve with a few people with my post, both above and over on Facebook. My friend Robin posted something remarkably similar on her website. You can jump directly to her post, here. I've also added her to my list of Daily Reads under "Here's What I Don't Get." Check it out. Eclectic, feminist and po'd at the status quo. Like me!


Robin said...

Found your blog via a facebook friend. I just wanted to say thank you so much for writing this. It's a voice that we rarely hear these days. I couldn't agree more--and would add the feminist angle (coincidentally related to the lesbian movement, how bout that) as well.

At Boston Pride this year, several groups ahead of my women's chorus (we just walked and sang in our T-shirts, no float, no dancing, no motorcycles, no nothin') was a whole contingent from some alcohol company (can't remember who--maybe Bacardi). They had hired a whole bunch of pedicabs which they had decorated, and each pedicab was occupied by heavily made-up, scantily clad (all in pink vinyl) straight girls (yes, I'm sure). All I could think is "What the fuck are they doing in the parade?"

A lot of people don't want to talk about this. There's a lot of eye-rolling, a lot of groaning "Oh, here it comes--the old fags (or dykes) speak..."

Damn right.

Thanks again. Very bold.

JoyZeeBoy said...

Like you, Robin, I'm relieved that it's "not just me."

These should be political events. Mostly political, too, not just a little political.

I think what happened was that, 20 years or so ago, somebody thought it would be a good tack to take to get corporate America on-board with the Gay Agenda. That having Bud Lite and Amex "sponsor" us would somehow or other lend an air of legitimacy to our claims -- as if we needed some sort of capitalist imprimatur to validate our existences and our demands.

As well-intentioned as that may have been at the time, it is not a tactic which has served us well.

Maybe it's time for us to reclaim our movement.

Whaddya think? Are you up for a little rabble-rousing? I know I am!

Robin said...

Count me in.

Just fyi, I linked to your blog today on my blog. My entry for today was inspired by yours....take a gander.

Thanks, and sign me up. I mean it.