Gay Pride 98

It’s almost that time of year again. San Francisco’s Lesbian – Gay – Transgender – Bisexual – Questioning – Curious – Insert – Appropriate – Label – Here Weekend. Time to start making plans for the big weekend. So far, the one viable suggestion I’ve received has been from my friend Sarah; she thought it might be a good day to go thrift store hopping in Stockton. Sounds like a winner to me. Beats last year when I cleaned the bathroom…

I know…the parade is tempting. Nothing like four (five?) hours of standing in the hot sun watching a bunch of groups with signs declaring their narrowly-defined labels drone past, with the occasional bar float blaring the latest techodiscohouse drivel to break the monotony. I only WISH the parade were as much fun as the 700 Club portrays it…

And nothing like fighting your way into a crowded bar and waiting a half-hour to buy a beer behind some drunk disco bunny who’s ordering seven DIFFERENT cocktails of varying colors and textures for his entourage, none of whom remembers what they wanted and all of whom must stand in the way for fifteen MORE minutes trying to figure it out…

The Saturday night before the parade is a special treat. The city becomes one huge circuit party, with rainbow-clad muscle boys in various stages of chemical disrepair all heaving and grinding to the happnin’ rhythms of Axel K or Simon Q or whoever. It’s great. Really…

When I was a young curmudgeon back in North Carolina, I used to love going to the Pride parades. It was all about visibility and making a statement of political and social power.

Of course, pride is about making a statement here too. And the statement is thus: fags have money. If you sponsor our parade, we will buy your brand of liquor or beer. If you set up a booth full of insipid T-shirts with slogans like “2Q2BSTR8”, we will buy them. If you say you’re working to fight AIDS, we will give you donations, no matter how much of this money goes to furnish your plush offices. If you have a petition about a “gay issue” (like, say, abolishing rent control), we will sign it without even reading it.

We are happy liberated gay men. We are secure in the knowlege that having a sexual orientation is an acceptable substitute to having a personality or an individual identity. We can think for ourselves, as long as the Advocate and Genre tell us it’s OK. And as long as there’s a snappy ad campaign (and a cool T-shirt) behind the recommended thought.

And we’re PROUD dammit. PROUD of our sexual orientation (even though we had no say in its development). PROUD of our ability to get liquor companies to sponsor our parade. PROUD of our muscles and our disposable income and our wardrobes from Bloomie’s. PROUD of the way we’ve made the Castro into a suburban shopping mall and kept those property values high. PROUD that we’re the only ones allowed to make jokes about ourselves.

Of course, we’re probably proud of some other things too, like our political gains, etc.. Some of us might even be embarrassed about a few things. Things like the way we elevate mediocrity to sacred status (witness “Ellen” and the Pet Shop Boys). Things like rampant commercialism, or a completely useless “gay press”, or a culture which completely ignores its youth and “marginal” elements. Things like our severe substance abuse problem and our body fascism. But we’ll be embarrassed quietly, so as to avoid disturbing the party.

Yup…I think I’ll be embarrassed in Stockton. Or maybe even Fresno…

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