LGBT Pride, Columbus, OH, 2017 was held this weekend. It sounds trite to say “things sure have changed since my first Pride celebration, back in Toronto, in 1978“. It is true… sort of. Many things have changed, but only a few on any deep(ish) level. Parade watchers most likely didn’t notice that, even when marching as Sister Flirt, I do not wave at the audience. I have never marched for them. I march for myself, and I march for those who can’t. The thousands I’ve lost, the hundreds of thousands we have lost, to hiv/aids, bigotry, shame and guilt. I march for the young queerling who faces a future less certain than their peers- although this year I don’t know who is, or should be, certain of too much of anything.
It is becoming too obvious for me to ignore that this will probably be the last Pride event in which I march. I am not forecasting doom; but the inevitable outcome of pediatric surgery and use of a Denis-Browne Bar in my infancy to treat TEV (“club foot“). Whether or not additional surgery will be required, or just continually stronger corrective orthotic devices, is yet to be determined. To be clear, I realize (to quote Derek Hartley “Hashtag: Gratitude“) that there was a time I would’ve spent my entire life with a brace or dragging my twisted foot around. Next month I complete my 59th orbit around the Sun- decades more than so many I knew back in Toronto ever saw. Although far from an athlete (“outside of the bed/play room“), I have danced out my joy and pain, and walked into, and out of, many an adventure on these two legs. I do my best to put things in perspective.
There’s also the realization that my blog post from last year (the first link in this piece) about the commercialization of Pride has become outdated. Not just because we queers are facing renewed challenges (or perhaps renewed strength in ongoing ones) to our rights, our humanity, brought on by economic stagnation and the rise of old reactionary tactics. The truth is that the lives of QOC (Queers of Colour) have always been treated with disregard; disrespected and dismissed even as middle-class (often lily white) gays have made progress for themselves.
Yes, I am pretty white; Irish and Scottish with a touch of Austrian heritage. I have been able to pass as ‘normal’ -and these days, that can include being a gay man. I have to actively Come Out as a queer, kinky, spiritual humanist Sister. Repeatedly. I do so as part of resisting #mainstreamingQueers and I am very aware that even in this, I am coming from a place of privilege.
I was probably too far ahead of the protest that occurred at yesterday’s March here in Columbus to have witnessed it. So I won’t say much. I don’t know what transpired, who did (or didn’t) do what to whom. But I will never forget that in 1981 we in Toronto did not march in a Gay Pride Parade. We protested. We voiced our discontent, our dissatisfaction, our disgust with ‘the Man’. As with so many things in life, I wish this March had begun on time (because by now there’s no excuse for ‘the 20 minute gay delay’) but am totally fine with disruptions and delays from community-based, genuine, heart-felt, protest of injustices.
I guess in summary, my response to people’s responses to the disruptions of commercialized, corporate-funded, “community celebrations” as well as the Philadelphia Flag-gate (potential parody of that Elton John song?), is to avoid fundamentalist ‘all-or-nothing’ fights in favour of promoting maximum personal freedom of expression and minimal censorship, hate-speech and name-calling.
Assimilation is (still) for the Borg.