Personal feelings on “Pride Month”
I would like to start this post with a bit of a preface; Its come to my attention as of late that I seem to be developing a bit of a repute as a “contrarian”, which seems to be a catch all term for “questioner”. Its not really my ambition nor goal to rain on anyone’s parade nor take anything away from any community. If you have the courage of your convictions in who you are and what you’re about in this world, then any counterpoint should not come as any kind of attack nor condemnation, especially when it’s not meant to be anything more than an insight. Because, when its all said and done, I’m here to observe, give my witness, and make notes- just like all of us.
Each year, I come across at least two big conundrums.
1-I’m getting older.
Now, in regards to the first, let me just say that I actually have no problem putting on a few years. This forthcoming August I’ll hit my 37th spin around the sun. By and large, I welcome it. I’m aware to some, 37 is still a pup, and to others I’m barely middle aged. Regardless, its an overall positive experience. Well, okay, not all things. IE- waking up in the middle of the night for no reason. An ingrained sense of mistrust in general, the purchasing of Collagen supplements, and the fact I don’t simply want to, but MUST have at least one bath a day. I find myself becoming a bit of a “Liberal Gran Torino”, staring in contempt at anyone I don’t recognize or who happens to veer near me who happens to fall below the age of 25. That and an intense dislike of about 97 percent of all modern music, Taylor Swift, Marvel Movies, the term “literally”and “lowkey” being used out of proper context, Spotify, hashtags, TikTok, Pixar, vaping, Bitcoin, craft beers, slam poetry, Bernie Sanders, essential oils, menu apps, graffiti “art” and the word “foodie” and- well, Christ- I could go on forever.
In any case, as the late great George Carlin once said, “there’s some advantages to putting on a few extra years”, and I for once completely agree- which leads me to the second big yearly conundrum.
Now, what’s the best jumping off point for this? I will preface by saying I can only glean off my own experiences. I feel the elephant in the room would be to address that technically I myself am a part of this community. I mean, its just my way. I’ve had same sex attraction my whole life and by and large, its never been a particularly agonizing experience. Was I bullied? Yes, but not because my orientation, but because I was just “different”. I did my own thing, liked what I liked, and lived with my passions stitched firmly on my sleeve thinking nothing of it. Even as a tot, I never understood the need for people to align with “groups” or “communities”. Strength in numbers, I suppose, but apart from tribalism, it never fully factored into my realm of need or experience. I really did not know about Pride Month growing up as a child of the late 80’s and early 90’s . I did of course experience the onslaught of what now would be seen as homophobic media. Movies where gay men as seen as basically fairies and the women are basically truck drivers. I enjoyed films like “The Birdcage” or ” Priscilla, Queen of the desert”, because it amusing and enjoyable. I never saw how Nathan Lane cavorting around in a wig or a drag queen in the outback was supposed to fit into the narrative and scope of my personal experience. To my young mind, it was really just humorous pageantry.
As I got older, and became a bit more “self actualized”, if you want to call it that, people encouraged me to go to Pride parades-purchase a flag, and so on. I remember being very put off by this notion. Because of what my preference was, i automatically had to align with this world? Why? I wasn’t perfect, but I liked myself on my own terms. The idea of having a flag for my identity seemed silly? Why not get a flag for my brown eyes? Or a flag for being Italian? It never occurred to me to go and parade myself in the street donning flamboyant garb and shouting my specialness with a megaphone. However, during a brief time in Seattle, I did make it a point to visit a Pride parade. Maybe I was just being judgmental. Perhaps it was all in my head. I took my place in the fray and watched. I must say to you, dear reader- I was not impressed. What I saw, was a joke. Overweight men in leather, Sex toys on full display and boas, people basically dressed like clowns tossing beads into the crowd, which was mostly straight couples who gee gawed the people in the parade like like it was Ringling brothers. This was nothing to be proud of. This felt dehumanizing. I left feeling ill.
Was this my group? My tribe? It seemed more and more to me to be more focused on feeling special simply for its own sake. This wasn’t my only run in with the “scene”. I occasional went to a gay bar, but always with a friend, saw Gay open mics, fraternized with friends who were militantly pro cause. Even as an outsider looking in, by osmosis alone- I was far away from being a babe in the woods. The thing is though, it never caught. One of the great occupational hazards of being an observer- a flaneur of ones own generation, is that your natural tendency to question doesn’t really know any loyalties- even to your tribe.
My hackles raised. I began to feel off balance- suspicious. Vaguely curious? What did LGBT want from me? What did I owe it? Or what did it think I owed it?
I guess my jumping off point with all this is, what is the point of “Pride”? Because the way I see it, “Pride” should be reserved for something that a person accomplished through their own stubborn effort, skill and determination. Now what they are attracted to by default. I never felt the need to be proud to like guys. I just have my preference and navigate it as best I can, like I would for any other attribute of my existence.
Now, that said, I am overtly aware of the counterarguments to all this, and they are valid. I mean, suffice it to say, up until a few years ago, gay marriage was illegal in many states. There are countries on this planet still were you can not only be jailed but killed for being gay. Its a horrific notion to think that by simply being what one is, you can be beaten in the street, maimed and even slain. Despite our seemingly more progressive times, homophobia and gay bullying still exist. Some places en masse. There are children with religious parents who know that if they come out, they could be abused, kicked out onto the street, and essentially left to die or be exploited. Very Christ like, wouldn’t you say?
Growing up in the era I did, I saw movies like “Heathers’ where the word “fag” is dropped every other second, or after school specials where the gay kid is either the most flamboyant stereotype fathomable or some poor tortured soul who gets his hearts desire for the fraction of a second and then inevitably dies or loses in some way- cue martyrdom. Was this was my life was all about? A fabulous dead martyr..a punchline….a magical entity here to teach us about love. I never saw myself as any of those things. Where was I in this world?
Is it a bad thing that there is more representation now? Not particularly, although I must confess to you, all this pansexual, demisexual, polysexual, amorphous, diesel, fem, butch, etcetera- seems to definatly muddy the waters. Which brings me to another point in my little opinion piece. Why is it any kind of counterargument to all this is seen as “hate speech” or “intolerance” or, now the greatest catch all term of them all, “problematic”? Who are these arbiters of all that is deemed acceptable to question in our community? Because, personally speaking, for a group that seeks freedom to be what they are- I’ve never seen so many rules and stipulations.
That I feel is really the crux of my point here. Why is standing apart seen as opposition? Why is questioning, deemed as “hate”? Why is even asking these questions taken as being a dissenter? Honestly, in the gay community, I’m starting to feel more and more like I’m in Children of the Corn and I’ve just been declared an “outlander” and I’m being chased with rainbow scythes across the field. To my away of thinking, counterargument is good. It tests the facility of your group, your argument and ultimately the strength of your convictions. Any sword that wants to be strong-must be tempered.
There’s alot to unpack here and this is a heady topic to say the least. Just, is it so wrong to acknowledge the struggles, yet say ” you know what guys, this just isn’t my thing-but if it works for you-great. I’m aware of the trials and tribulations we’ve encountered. I know full well about Stonewall, Matthew Shepard, third world homophobia, and the efforts of people like Harvey Milk. I appreciate them. I honor them. Yet, I know when I go to sleep at night- its just me. When my head hits that pillow-its just Chris. Not Lgbt Chris. Just Chris. Like I said from the beginning- when its all said and done-you’re yourself. My sexuality is not something I’m ashamed of. I like it, and I like the people its brought into my life and the conversations it allows me to be privy to. I wouldn’t change it-but…its JUST an aspect of me. Not the whole package. I’m not trying to edify anything. I know we aren’t a monolith.
Speaking for myself, I don’t need any “ally. I’m just fine with a friend. I did not make it almost 40 years to feel like some protected species. When its all said and done, folks-these are just words. Placeholders. Emotional stopgaps.
If you want to have a pride flag in your window, go for it.
If you identify as omnisexual ( whatever that is) have at it.
I’m not here to stop you, nor do I wish to.
Realize this though. One of the key components that the community seems to really want to drive home is being an “individual”. Well, from what I see a lot of people are being individuals these days. So who’s truly an individual then? The guy who goes to every Pride parade, schools people on gay history, talks about inclusivity ( yet seems to have an aversion to any outsider opinion) or the guy who recognizes how far we’ve come, has sip of wine- and gets back to watching his Lebanese cooking shows?
At the end of the day, speaking for myself- I’m not a Pride parade. I’m not a flag. I’m not about “divas” and flamboyant things and camp.
I’m myself. An alchemical arrangement of stardust alighted to this sphere of existence for a yet to be determined sum of time. I think. Feel. Bleed. Laugh. Dream and hope.
I’m an uncle. A son. A friend. Occasional poet, and a seeker.
We come in all colors. folks. That’s why we’re a rainbow.
Yet some of us, dear reader, are the gray area.
-and there’s nothing wrong with that.