Flight Papers

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Pride is not the opposite of shame.


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I got back from San Francisco pride a couple of weeks ago, and that is one intense. fucking. party., let me tell you.

I thought I would be writing right now about the commercialization, commodification, and normalization of “the gay lifestyle.” I thought I would be talking about how the rainbow-banner Bud Lite banners were vaguely cute but also vaguely sickening; about how the marriage industry is opening its arms to (heteronormatively-attractive and “normal-looking”) gay couples without missing a beat; about how the entire pride industry is a concerted force to push “normalish” (white, affluent, could be straight if they, y’know, wanted to be) gay people into the mainstream whilst marginalizing everyone else.

And I expect much of that is true, but those words didn’t come, in part I’m sure because we didn’t go to the “core” pride festivities at the civic center. We went to the tranny march and the dyke march, both at Dolores park; we also went, albeit briefly, to the giant rave held at the intersection of Market and Castro, where twenty-thousand people pack into the streets and just… dance. And my girlfriend and I cuddled in my friend’s backyard, and watched fireworks that we and nobody else made, and talked about moving to the city.

We thought, just a little, about getting married.

If we had, it would have been a political act, more than a personal one. We love each other, for sure, but we haven’t been dating that long, and were we straight, it would be a huge step. But it’s possible now, and before I stepped off the plane in California I didn’t really get what that meant. It’s kinda awesome. And when we were enmeshed in the thousands of people dancing and celebrating us, it seemed almost rude to decline that possibility (for now).

There’s more to that decision, of course. We don’t have scripts in the way straight couples—even very non-traditional straight couples—do. In a very real way, we can’t rely on anything except our relationship to guide us. Is that freeing? Yeah, it’s a kind of liberation. Is that terrifying? Yeah, that too.

But that’s talk for another time.

The dyke march was fantastic. Amongst other things, it was probably the only pride event where vegan food (hot dogs) was readily available (stereotypes go!). Walking around, you saw old and young women, women of every color, trans women, disabled and able-bodied. And we marched, all of us. When it came time, we waited at the sidelines for the dykes on bikes to drive by, and walked out into the street. I’ve done political marches before, I’ve done protest marches, but this felt like something categorically different. For a few hours, Dolores park and the surrounding streets were flooded with women. They were transformed.

Before we left, a friend of mine told me that she doesn’t believe in the whole spectacle of Pride. That having a pride party implies that the rest of the year, you’re supposed to be feeling just a bit ashamed. And aside from that, having a pride party riddled with commercialism seems counter to the spirit of the thing.

I see what she’s saying. But surrounded by ten thousand dykes, it was hard not to feel just… better. Stronger, in the realization that there’s a community around you that you may have never seen, but is there, nevertheless. I’d read on Wikipedia that the streets are lined with supporters—typically gay men supporting the dykes. I suppose I didn’t believe it entirely at first, but it was there, and their signs and support were intensely warming in person.

The other thing I learned from Wikipedia was that the dyke march started as a reaction to the misogyny of the gay community and the Pink Saturday organizers. I think that’s changed a lot, but the march still retains a strong radical focus. The speakers talked about politics and radical action; the street vendors sold cunt hoodies (anatomical drawings, helpfully annotated!), and the march wasn’t organized in a strict way—whoever wanted to step out into the street, did.

Maybe I’m carrying around more shame than I thought I was. Maybe it’s inevitable that we should do so, given that there are now and will in ten years be people telling us that we don’t belong, that we’re aberrant in some way, that we represent the imminent downfall of civilization. But the march, the parade—it was still blindingly bright. Intensely warm, comfortable, and strength-giving in a way I absolutely did not expect it to be. I’m thankful for that, and so even and especially after the last Fred Phelps is dead, dead, dead, I wish us many happy Prides to come.

3 Responses to “Pride is not the opposite of shame.”

  1. Sarah J Says:

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    So glad that you did find Pride good and supportive.

    I see the problems with trying to normalize…I don’t quite know what the proper word is here, really. But yeah, the idea of gay marriage being appropriate for certain types of gay couples.

    Yet it doesn’t change the fact that when you take control of it for yourself, as opposed to have it impressed upon you as I do, as a heterosexual woman, it IS in fact revolutionary.

    and I missed your blog-presence. I’ve been writing about comics a lot lately. Hope you’ll check some of it out.

  2. wanton frolicking Says:

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    My moms live in suburbia, hold nicely paying typical jobs, and got married when it became legal in British Columbia. Going to Pride has always been such a vastly different gay experience for me. I’m used to suburban mom-lesbian. Then I get to Pride and I see, well, adorned nipples staring back at me.

    But SF Pride is really something. I’ve gone the past two years - to volunteer - and the energy is just amazing. It’s the one place I feel I don’t need to explain myself when I say “my moms”. I’m just not sure I’m up for what some people wear to these parties.

  3. violet Says:

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    Yeah… I’ve always been a tiny bit skeptical of any story that goes, “when you do this, it’s patriarchal; when we do this, it’s revolutionary,” but I think you’re right in saying that’s the case here. Every chapel in the Castro (and I’m sure a bunch around civic center) had giant rainbowey “get married here!” banners, and it really made a palpable change in the atmosphere. (The booze and fifty thousand queers helped, too. :p)

    I’ve missed blogging! Which sounds weird, but is true. Also: yay comics! SF put me way behind on my blog reading, but way caught up on all my comics (except the online ones, where I am once again behind). I shall have to catch up on your posts sooooon.

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