This weekend is Gay Pride Weekend in DC.
Thing is, I'm trying to get all excited about it. But for some reason, I can't.
I came out in or around 1996. Back then, it was new for me. It was exciting. I bought all kinds of pride t-shirts and baseball caps (none of which I ever dared to wear then and which are certainly too passe to wear now). I attended pride every year, and even went to NYC's Pride. (I tried to check out Honolulu's pride festivities one year -- I just happened to be visiting during the celebration week -- only to find that it appeared rather woefully pathetic, so I just went to the beach instead.)
Now, nine years after my first tentative steps from the closet, I don't find Pride festivals as relevant anymore. The street festival just tends to be overpriced food vendors hawking $8 plates of mediocre chow mein; the same tired organizations show up year after year, and I just find myself bored.
Don't get me wrong, I still manage to go, if for no other reason than to be counted. I used to hoard the cute little tchotchkes (I'm impressed I spelled that correctly on the first try), but now I'd just as soon decline yet another free gay.com pen or frisbee. But more often than not, I'll see old friends of mine with whom I've lost contact, which is a good thing (I suppose).
But in Washington, DC, does Pride even really matter? There's a lot of gay people here, and we function pretty darn well in society. Is there really so much of a need for us to reaffirm our existence in a city that doesn't seem all that terribly hostile to us?
(Okay, I know life isn't a cakewalk for gay people and I certainly don't mean to imply that there are no hate crimes or anti-gay discrimination in the city. All I'm saying is it could be a lot worse -- and it IS a lot worse in other parts of the country.)
And -- excuse me while I don my bitter hat -- Pride Parades lately seem much more about see-and-be-seen than an actual expression of individual or group pride. Sometimes I think it's really just a huge cruise-fest, where generally attractive men remove their shirts in their bids for attention while less "attractive" men are all too happy to lavish such attention on them. (I use "attractive" in a community standards sense of the word, which is horrible, because gay community standards are ridiculous.) Sure, gay men are proud of being gay men... but many still secretly wish the less attractive of us would either remain in the closet or go straight.
To me, the best contingent of the Parade has always been PFLAG. That's because those involved with PFLAG tend to be about nothing more than the love and support for their family members despite the social stigma of being gay. But that's pretty much the only contingent that has, as its core theme, love, support and affirmation. Compare PFLAG's message with what comes across from the Results float: shirtless, muscled men. What exactly are those men proud of? Are they proud to be gay, or are they just totally stoked about how their hot bods can get them laid on demand?
True, there are more events than just the parade and festival which comprise gay pride. All week long, events have been taking place. But I think I'll pass on the JR's bachelor auction, though -- the guys who "sell" themselves usually are the ones who least need still more people clamoring for their attention. The HRC open house tends to bring out the angry radicals on both sides, who feel HRC is either doing too little or too much. Then there's always the contingent that hates HRC in general yet crashes their parties anyway.
This year I'll probably check out the parade and wander through just a bit of the festival. I'd like to recapture the sense of what it was like when I first came out... the mystery, the wonder, the excitement. I'll probably go to Apex with my friend Amy and dance part of the night away, hoping she'll score a date.
Once upon a time, I went to Pride because I wanted to be among people who didn't make me feel like a freak, an outsider, a pariah. I no longer feel like an outcast every day, so I don't need a Pride Festival or Parade to remind me that I'm worthy of everyday decency and respect. Sometimes, though, one comes to miss the affirmation -- the kind that comes only to the insecure -- when one has truly become comfortable with the skin he's in.
Friday, June 10, 2005
This weekend is Gay Pride Weekend in DC.