This past weekend, San Francisco hosted the 41st LGBT Pride Parade and as I was walking down Market St., I noticed how much Pride has changed since I first went to it, back in 1990.
Each year, more and more of my friends share the same observation with me: “There sure are a lot of straight folks at Pride.” Now, unlike a few people, I think that’s a great thing. There was a time when very few straight people, especially men under 30, would attend. I’ve always assumed that some of that was not wanting people to think that they were gay. And I also figure that some of it was being freaked out by the scantily-clad men wandering around. (The scantily-clad women never seemed to bother them as much. Go figure.) The fact that more straight folks feel comfortable around queens, dykes, gayboys, fairies, queers, and homos is a fabulous step forward. And I do mean FABulous!
At the same time, it changes how Pride feels to me. It feels like a celebration of my community, rather than a celebration by my community. Somewhere along the way, the event seemed to drop below a critical threshold and stopped seeming particularly queer to me. Now, I know that gaydar is imperfect. I’ve certainly had enough experience with seeing how incorrect my assumptions can be to know that. So I’ve checked with a few of my queer friends and pretty consistently, they’ve had the same impressions.
If Pride being less queer is part of the price to be paid in order to have more acceptance, less gay bashing, and more legal equality, I think that’s ok. I simply want to honor what was given up because it was a marvelous thing. I remember being surrounded by crowds of people and knowing that the overwhelming majority of them were queer. It was a wonderful experience and it isn’t something that happens in the same way anymore.
I acknowledge that some of this could certainly be the result of my getting older and not having Pride be such a groundbreaking experience for me anymore, especially since I get/choose to be out of the closet in pretty much every aspect of my life. But I also know what it feels like to be surrounded by queers and Pride just doesn’t feel like that these days. It’s still a fun celebration and a great time, and I love having the support of the heterosexual world. It’s just that it’s no longer a queer space and I miss that. As LGBT Pride goes mainstream, it stops being queer.
Of course, everything grows and changes, including the LGBT community. And I definitely don’t want to try to hold onto the past when things have moved on. But it’s also important to acknowledge what we give up in order to have our hands free to take what’s next. I feel a deep ambivalence around Pride, and I know that I’m not the only person who does.
Coincidentally, while I was writing this, an article from SF Gate popped up on my RSS feed with this to say on the topic:
I don’t think that “grown-up” is really the right phrase here. It implies that the divas and daddies are less mature than the less outré celebrants, which I think is condescending and insulting. I agree that Pride seems less sexual than it used to, but with so much of the focus of the LGBT community on gay marriage and gays in the military, the sexuality seems to have been taken out of homosexuality. That may simply be part of the political strategy of assimilation and acceptance, but something wonderful and beautiful has been set aside as part of that bargain. And all of the corporations and companies with their floats can make it seem like Pride has been commodified rather than being grown-up. Unless your definition of “grown-up” means something different than mine does.
Perhaps it’s only to be expected that as LGBT folks have become more accepted among straight & cisgender people, the defining boundaries between the two communities have begun to blur. But it raises the question of what we’re celebrating. In all of the talk about the right to love who we want, we’ve forgotten (or perhaps, encouraged other people to forget) that part of that includes the right to have sex with who we want (consenting adults, please) in the ways that we want without apology or fear of recrimination.
So I’m curious- if you went to Pride this year, what was that like for you? And if you’ve been going to Pride for a while, how do you think it has changed?