LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth
|by Chris Crain|
|Getting through Gay Pride Puberty
It's Pride season again and this grumpy gay man is wondering when we're all gonna grow up already. For years now, a lot of us Baby Boomers and Gen-X'ers have watched as the whole Gay Pride thing seemed in arrested developmentall rainbows and pink triangles, just like our baby Prides lo those many years ago.
Back in the day, Gay Pride parades felt edgyeven dangerous. As recently as the early '90s, when I came out, gays were non-existent on television and the butt of jokes in the movies. AIDS was going full-tilt, mowing down a generation of gay men and scaring the bejeesus out of those of us in the one that followed.
I still remember how my heart was pounding when a hot summer afternoon traffic jam back in 1990 forced me practically into the parade route for Atlanta Pride. I circled the gayborhood in my car for an hour, sun visor down and heart pounding.
A couple of years later, still neither out nor proud, I rode my bike along the outskirts of Capital Pride in Washington, D.C., and I remember being shocked (shocked!) that Laura Branigan had agreed to perform for these perverse masses.
Since then, of course, gay has gone mainstream and the new generation gays seems blissfully non-plussed about what all the fuss is about. We've gone from Jerry Falwell hissing at Ellen "Degenerate" for coming out on prime time to the Republican candidate for president coming on to her daytime chat show to wish her well in her pending nuptials.
But have Gay Pride events and their accompanying movement matured along with the culture? For years now, big city Pride fests seem geared more for the suburbs and surrounding region, places where coming out is still edgy and being proud can still be dangerous.
It's maturation only in the cushy couch potato sense. Those energized calls for equality of yesteryearthe air filled with chants of protest and counter-protesthave been replaced by crass commercialization and corporate sponsors. Even the bible-thumper with barely legible placard seem to be phoning it in.
With the exception to a few political bromides and opportunistic candidates, most Pride stages are fluff entertainment these days. There'll be folk rock for the dykes; bad drag and disco for the fags.
All that's not bitter, just descriptive. If Pride still helps clear the closets of suburbanites, small town queers and rural gays, while even raising a bit of homo and hetero awareness, then it's better than harmless fun.
The real problem is that our gay civil rights movement also seems trapped in puberty, or worse yet gone fat and complacent, losing any connection to those of us who've been "out" longer than we were "in" at this point.
There's a dangerous disconnect here. The deep and broad cultural advances we've made as gay and lesbian Americans have not been matched by political and legal advances. At the federal level, there's not a single gay rights law on the booksstill. Congress has refused to protect us from discrimination at work or at home, and even hate crimes meant to terrorize us go unchallenged except as petty crimes.
What's worse, Uncle Sam himself is still discriminating against us. Not only are our valid marriages and civil unions refused any federal recognition, but our brave gay service members still risk discharge even as they risk their lives.
The political party that calls itself our friend and champion took back the Congress almost two years ago, and yet even the most benign legislation on our behalf remains as mired in the mud as everdespite bipartisan backing and overwhelming public support.
Despite landmark gains in the courts and some select state capitals, the D.C. beltway remains the blackhole of the movement, sucking up millions with nothing to show for it. The bloated organization that sits at the head of our movement pays outrageous salaries to its top executivesmore than a quarter-million dollars annually to its leader alone and six-figures each to almost another dozeneven though their signature achievement is to have none.
When workplace and hate crimes bills died an ugly death this year, the "largest gay political organization" issued a press releasethanking the failed leaders of Congress. Do we really think we will "nice" our way to equality?
Hoping we'll forget the broken promises of the 2006 election, the Democrats and their apologists at the Human Rights Campaign are claiming anew that this is "the election our lives depend on," as former HRC chieftain Elizabeth Birth has been saying every November since anyone can remember.All that's not bitter; it's descriptiveand angry. If only some of that energy will rub off on all those g.d. rainbows.
Chris Crain is former editor of the Washington Blade, Southern Voice, and gay publications in three other cities. He can be reached via his blog at www.citizencrain.com.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 18, No. 08 June 27, 2008