My Opinion: A Common Cure for Pride Guilt
Over the past few years I've attended Dallas Pride with my friends only to stand for hours half-drunk in 90-plus degree heat, unsuccessfully reaching for the beads thrown by shirtless bartenders, overdone drag queens and cheery college activists marching in the parade.
This year, an overcast sky drizzled down over the gayborhood. Our lesbian friends cancelled brunch because of out of town guests and two of our closest pals weren't attending the parade, so my boyfriend and I decided not to attend either — a decision I later felt strangely guilty about.
After all, didn't an army of effeminate men, trans people and drag queens battle New York cops with broken bottles and bonfires for three days just to win our right to march? How many noses had been broken, how many high heels thrown, how many lives ruined just so I could stay indoors on the third gayest day of the year (the first two being Halloween and Christmas)?
I've made a career as an LGBT journalist, but I don't consider myself an activist. I don't march in protests. I've never donated to any LGBT organization. I'm not a member of any gay groups except for the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association (and I hardly take advantage of that).
It's not that I wear my lack of political involvement as a badge of honor; if anything it's an embarrassing proof of apathy, though it is somewhat comforting in its commonness.
It's just that I think I do my small part writing about gay issues for national publications and that plenty of other people with more time, intelligence and resources have devoted their lives to ably fighting against LGBT inequality in their own way.
I'm not one of these navel-gazing writers wondering if we still "need" Pride. While modern day American prides are more about celebration than protest, considering the level of institutionalized discrimination and public violence we still face, the answer is an undeniable yes, we still need Pride.
Pride is the one time of the year when local queers can let their inner rainbows shine while hanging with the trans faeries, leather bears, and others who make up our truly diverse community.
And while I think we owe more to our community than being unabashedly queer in public and posting pro-LGBT opinions on Facebook, we shouldn't have to prove our support by drunkenly grasping for flying beads in the rain either.
My boyfriend and I did celebrate the occasion by having brunch with a close gay friend who we don't get to see very often. The brunch wasn't pointedly gay—we ate cantaloupe, stayed mostly sober and played trivia games.
I didn't watch Whatever Happened to Baby Jane when I got home as I had hoped (which isn't even a “gay movie” so much as a camp one). Apart from shopping at a farmer's market and getting sodomized over a banister by my boyfriend, my day wasn't very gay at all.
But in a small moment, while munching on a mini-spinach quiche as The Bourne Identity played low in the background of my friend's apartment, I realized, "The queers at Stonewall fought for this too."
No, not for quiche or for The Bourne Identity (as good as those things are), but for the right to live our lives peaceably and in private, to gather with other gay men in our homes without fear of the police unexpectedly barging in. To work jobs and buy strawberries with our boyfriends without fear of being fired or publicly lynched.
These bougie, everyday things are small blessings that come with a peace of mind not afforded our predecessors, not guaranteed by any national set of laws and desperately sought by queers around Asia, Africa, Europe and the Middle East.
It's possible that joining the rainy Dallas Pride crowd might have provided me a great metaphor for an article such as this about how the LGBT community endures — nay, thrives! — amidst the decades long downpour of injustice.
Maybe attending would have reminded me that with each absent person, Pride grows tamer, less vibrant and less true to its purpose. Or that with each colorful queer who fades into grey comes a vibrant young person who may shine even brighter in a less hateful world.
Instead, I live each day with a small amount of Pride in my heart, grateful that my community's livelihood doesn’t hinge on my attendance at an annual parade.
The next day, as photos of our Pride-going friends began appearing on Facebook, I thought, "Awww, it would have been cool to go with them." Then I frowned at their wet hair and the thought of 66 degree weather, and cuddled closer to my boyfriend on the couch, wondering what we'd have for dinner and which episode of Angel was next in our Netflix queue.