As the Alan Ross Freedom Parade approaches, I have to wonder why we do it. As most folks know, I am a big supporter of the idea of a Pride parade. I think these events help solidify our communities and put a face on us for the “muggles.” Because of that, there has always been pressure on participants to “tone down” the “gayness” for the general public. That has been true since the first parades here in Dallas.
Folks who adhere to this assimilationist philosophy have always been appalled by the drag queens, dancers and leathermen who appeared in the parades, primarily because the press tended to focus on the most visual aspects of the event. You can’t get more visual than drag queens and leathermen, and of course the buff twink dancers who adorn the floats for the multitude of bars and clubs that sponsor the parades.
Personally, I feel these participants express our unique style while affirming our sex-positive attitudes. That is a big part of gay culture, and it has always been a driving force in our lives. Our sexuality is one of the biggest things that sets us apart. Fast forward to today.
The current manifestation of the Pride parade has decided to be “family friendly,” which means less skin, less of anything that might hint of sexuality. What the hell?
Take away our sexuality and we are just straight people who hold hands with the same sex. I don’t advocate public sex or anything like that, but to have to “clean up” because there might be straight families watching is wrong.
We are different. We do indeed have a culture forged in oppression and refined in the few public events when we can be open and joyous. Now, the assimilationists insist we tone down and throw away all our joyous sexiness. They insist we cloak our skin in the mundane trappings of the heteronormative world. Why? To do that turns the Pride parade into a We-Are-Ashamed parade, and I refuse to be part of that.
Look back at the origins of the event. What happened at Stonewall was not a bunch of folks wanting to fit in; it was a bunch of radical queens and twinks and gay men and dykes who were sick and tired of being oppressed and denied the right to be who they were.
It is a travesty that the spirit of Stonewall is now completely lost in the corporate sponsorships and marketing opportunities the parade and “festival” now offer. It used to be a march and rally!
Now, I am not advocating anything more than allowing our community its moment in the sun, or rain, without having to hide. We have hidden for far too long. If we had kept hiding, we would still have no rights whatsoever. If the LGBT folks at the Stonewall Inn had hidden instead of resisting and rebelling, we would have no parade at all, and probably fewer rights.
I say this while living in a state where I am still a second-class citizen, and though Lawrence v. Texas overturned the “sodomy” law, I still can’t marry my partner of 18 years or share many of the more than 1,000 rights the straight population has. Perhaps we need to be more visible than ever in times like these! We should be dancing and strutting and celebrating our differences, not hiding in plain sight. We need to let people know we are here.
I heard it said once that if all LGBTQ people were purple, we would have had equal rights long ago. We would no longer be an invisible minority and as such we would be harder to ignore.
So it is in that spirit I firmly believe we should be visible and proud and FABULOUS. We should be wearing our leather, our feathers, our rhinestones and our skin, as far as is legal on the street. And no, I don’t have a body I display on a float. People would be horrified at the stretch marks and varicose veins. Still, I really resent having to tell the youthful and proud men and women who want to strut their stuff to cover up and tone it down.
That is why a small determined group of activists is going to take gay Pride back. Next June 28 is the 45th anniversary of Stonewall, and if the planets align and plans go well, there will be a celebratory walk-march-dance in Dallas to commemorate it.
There will be no corporate sponsors, no viewing stands, no floats, no marching bands — just us queers and queens and Leathermen and leatherdykes and drag kings out in all our visible and proud regalia.
So, this weekend, have fun at the family-friendly parade of people who look pretty much like everyone else and pay the $5 to get into the outdoor bar with a kids’ area and enjoy watching them play while you get drunk.
If that isn’t an image of the heteronormative world, I don’t know what is!
Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and board member for the Woodhull Freedom Alliance. His blog is at DungeonDiary.blogspot.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 13, 2013.