24 June 2006

Proud Mary, Keep on Burning!

The high holy weekend of global gayness is upon us. Yes, Mary, it is Gay Pride Weekend in most North American cities, as well as several cities in Europe. This is of course in honour of the Stonewall Rebellion (Riots), the events of the weekend of June 27th, 1969, when not for the first time, but perhaps most prominently, contemporary lesbians, gay men, and transgender people stood up to the casual, pervasive, and insidious discrimination and institutional abuse which had characterised lesbian and gay life since the interwar years and the development of urban LGBT subcultures. Paradigmatically, Stonewall is the LGBT Declaration of Independence, or as the infamous campy saying goes, “The hairpin drop heard ‘round the world!”

David Carter’s excellent history of the events surrounding the disturbances at the Stonewall Inn in New York City’s Greenwich Village in 1969 details the elegant fact that lesbians, gay men, and transgendered folks were all present at the birth of our contemporary movement for liberation (We were all there for the party!), which speaks nicely to both the inclusion of different stakeholders in our movement as well as to the difficulties of building movements across differences: after the brick is thrown, how do we figure out where we are at, what is the plan of action, where do we want to be headed? These are questions contemporary LGBT folks have pondered and debated and fought over, and that continue to challenge us to imagine ourselves both as individuals in an incredibly individualistic society as well as placing ourselves both in space and time as inheritors of a legacy of struggle and connecting to each other through perhaps overly abstract notions of community, similarity riven by difference, and coalition building, as well as the idiosyncratic love we have for each other, across differences of gender, sex, identity, race, and politics.

It has been a long, strange trip, that is for sure. From Lesbian Separatism to the HIV crisis, Anita Bryant to Matthew Sheppard, bathhouses to gay marriage, Harvey Milk to Brandon Teena, "off our backs" to "on our backs" to off and on simultaneously, we continue to struggle, continue to ponder, and continue to live our quotidian lives in a house full of questions, choices, pathways and decisions and, ultimately as well, of danger. And, for the most part, we still try and look our best while doing this complicated dance.

I went to my first gay pride parade, in Los Angeles, in 1987. A gay friend from Prestigious Eastern University, who also lived in LA, took me in his convertible VW bug, and we spent the day along Santa Monica Boulevard in a very eighties/West Hollywood moment. All I really remember is how annoying the festival was (I had a terrific headache), and how intimidating and fragile the buffed and tan porno queens seemed, and how I had to lie about my sunburn to my mother, as I was still in the closet. Well, almost twenty years and many prides later, a part of me always feels like, “Pride? Ah, whatever…” You seen one drag queen on a flat bed truck gyrating to booming mindless disco, you seen ‘em ALL! But, simultaneously, there is a feeling of excitement, potential, and community that surrounds this particular time of year, a vibration of sorts, even if its particular power had been blunted by the reality of being openly gay for twenty years. I am gay everyday, right?

As my friends and I have discussed on many occasions, pride is but one or two days. The challenge and joy is living LGBT “pride” year round. And what exactly does that mean? When I was in my twenties, and feeling deeply alienated from gayness, I often thought we needed more “gay shame,” and by this I meant more introspection on the subculture we, especially gay men, had created and nurtured, of sexual hedonism and sexual economies, of the way in which our sexuality led us to devalue members of our community, and prioritise bodies and appendages over people and community. Older now, and yes wiser, I am more sanguine about that aspect of gayness, and see how the sexual economy of hedonism is but one part, still problematic, of the bigger picture of gayness, of the complications of human sexuality, and the thrill and disappointment of community building in most forms.

But community exists and persists, regardless of the pressures both internal and external to its existence. In honour of those LGBT people, both personal and known as well as public and abstract, who have most influenced me, I salute you! A sentimental roll call:

The Fierceness (and the Suisse Miss)
La Connaire (and the Bear Shrink)
La Donna (and whatever boy you’re loving right now)
Big Sis
Miss Prancilla (and Zilla)
La Vickstrix (and Ms. Clinique)
Ktrion (and L*)
The Voice (!, and Miss Hockey)
The Printmaker
Ms Butch (Scott M.)
Skanque Huore (and whatever girl you’re loving right now)
La Martina
Gilliam Girl (and the Divine Miss M)
Mi cuñado Quique y su pareja Oscar (mi Tía)
Mi cuñada The Beautiful Lisa

Andrew Holleran
Larry Kramer
Jill Johnston
Judith Jack Halberstam
Lillian Faderman
Ethan Mordden
Mattachine Boys
Women of DOB
Richard Rodriguez
Cherríe Moraga
John D’Emilio
Randy Shilts
Gloria Anzaldúa
Harvey Milk
Audre Lorde
Pat Califia
Susie Bright
Sylvia Rivera
Jennie Livingston
Todd Haynes
Vito Russo
Craig Owens

And to all the Dykes on Bikes, Mikes on Bikes, fairy Queens, drag illusionists, lipstick lesbians, tranny boys who have stolen my heart (OK, maybe loins), fabulously sexy butches, Radical fairies, realness girls, gay accountants, divine femmes, lesbian mechanics, shop girls and bears and cubs everywhere, let’s be proud, Mary! ¡Adelante!

A mi mono caraqueño, en este momento en tu ciudad de rascacielos de vidrio y pobreza y carreteras y felicidad y amistad: te mando besos ricos en el avión de amor. Te quiero tanto, mi feo.


Anonymous said...

Came by your blog via Gay Prof. I really enjoyed the post!

Anonymous said...

Any comments on gap pride in Cold City?

Anonymous said...

GAY not gap. WOops . . .

Anonymous said...

wow...what a gap!!! that´s what I call a slip. Call your shrink to fill that gay (ooops, sorry, that gap)

I really enjoy your post, OR. You are one of the best kept secrets of the blogosphere.

Sigmund F

Sfrajett said...

This is a great tribute to gay pride. Sure we're ambivalent about it, but that's what makes us human, right? And it's ours to be ambivalent about. I hope you had a great pride this year--I know I did!

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