Gay Pride Parades: Can We Talk?
Fort Lauderdale held its annual gay pride parade this past Saturday, that unlike New York’s which features activist groups, is mainly an excuse for alcoholics to drink, and this year’s parade was surprisingly short and, well, boring. (The leather contingent resembled one of those endlessly touring “don’t they know when to hang it up” rock bands from the seventies, hot then, grey-haired and tired now.) Also, New York is one of the few locales that holds its parade closest to the date of the Stonewall Riots and, this year, will be having its parade this Sunday, the 28th, the very date it all happened almost forty years ago.
What many gays don’t realize is that we all owe the lifestyles and freedoms we enjoy today to the drag queens of that fateful night and to – yep – Judy Garland.
You see, on June 28, 1969, the drags along with others at the Stonewall, a Mafia-run gay bar in New York’s Greenwich Village, were mourning the loss of their great gay icon who had overdosed the week before, when the cops, who probably hadn’t been paid off that week, decided to raid the place. In those days, raids of what were considered illegal places of congregation for deviants were common, and if you were caught in a raid, your name could be published in the local papers which often meant disgrace, loss of job and more. My other half often speaks of the time he ran out the back of a bar being raided, for fear his Syrian American family and Wall Street employer would find out he liked men not women.
In earlier raids, the drags and their peers had put up with the bullshit, but no, not that night when they were crying their eyes out over their poor, beloved Judy. And so was born Gay Liberation which probably next week, unless everyone is reading the Supreme Court tea leaves wrong, will culminate in same sex marriage as the law of the land.
So, yes, we owe a lot to those cross dressers, but having said that, I ask this simple rhetoric question: we can stop starting our gay pride parades with drags and over the top steroid junkies and leather men? I know the Rainbow flag is a symbol of our diversity, but I wish some of us had the balls to celebrate another kind of diversity, the diversity of ordinary people from all walks of life who happen to be gay to be the lead contingent of our parades.
Sure, those who attend our festivities – the last New York gay pride parade I attended in 2002 had as many str8’s as gays on the sidelines – are looking to be entertained. But invariably the 30 second clip on that night’s news represents, frankly, the fringe of our sub-culture and, without sounding judgmental, only perpetuates in mainstream society that we’re all a bit weird.
I know that will probably never happen – too many of us, despite these enlightened times, live in the shadows of bigoted rural America and the straitlaced corporate world where being open about who you are can still lead to rejection, violence and worse.
But I can fantasize, can’t I?