Break out the tank tops, the rainbow flags, the freedom rings, the pecs, and the drugs. Gay Day is coming to San Francisco. Market Street will be magically converted into a giant disco. This is the weekend every gay commercial institution in the city lives for. There will be dance clubs running pretty much twenty-four hours a day, gay pride massage specials, and attractive four-color flyers all over town showing the buff disco boys and rainbow colors (that’s ink…not skin…) which are the absolute definition of “Gay San Francisco”.
Big fuckin’ deal.
OK…I’ll admit that Pride Weekend is no more or less commercialized than any other major urban street fair. I can get past the fact that two of the biggest sponsors are breweries and a third is a distillery (although an email correspondent quips “don’t fags ever buy GROCERIES?”). I can ignore the bars and businesses along the parade route which suddenly sprout heretofore unseen rainbow flags for the weekend. They’re seizing an opportunity to make a quick buck, whic not a bad thing in itself.
I’m not even worried about the “freak show” the media will portray. Frankly, they usually showcase a level of humor and diversity of thought which is often sadly underplayed in the actual monotony of the parade. Contrary to popular belief, the parade is neither a celebration of perversion nor a demonstration of strength and diversity. It’s not really anything but a long and usually boring procession of bar floats, politicians, and “people with labels”.
So what is this “pride” thing anyway? I know it’s an unpopular notion, but is one’s sexual orientation anything to be proud of, per se? Granted, it’s nothing to be ashamed of, either. Nor to be hidden. But does “being gay” automatically confer a sense of community on those to whom it happens? I don’t think so. Frankly, I find that I have very little in common with my “community”; maybe I missed the ceremony…
Yes, it is true that gay people are discriminated against every day and in many ways. Equal rights legislation and a change in prejudiced attitudes are absolutely necessary. But, contrary to the “groupthink” inherent to the SF parade, gay white men are not the most oppressed group on the face of the planet. Especially not in San Francisco. And let’s face it: Pride Weekend here (and in New York and Los Angeles) is largely about professional gay white men.
Perhaps in some smaller cities and towns, there’s some validity to the notion of a gay parade to promote a sense of visibility and community. But in San Francisco, the whole event is about throwing a big party and showing off how beautiful and buff and out and gay we all are. And making a buck.
I’m in favor of partying, although Pride Weekend doesn’t provide a lot of opportunities which are to my liking. I’m usually in favor of making a buck too. But let’s not delude ourselves into thinking that this thing has anything much to do with “community”.
So celebrate on…just make sure you know WHAT you’re celebrating.