This first post in our “Hey Gays, Why So Proud?” series is brought to you by Caleb Ritchie, one of my favorite gay men in the world. It’s true that I have a lot of favorite gay men in the world, but Caleb ranks high on that list. Caleb is smart as a whip, funny as can be, and a genuinely good friend. So I said, “Hey Caleb, what does Gay Pride mean to you?” And he said this:
What immediately comes to mind about gay pride is a festival or celebration. A parade. Floats. Drag Queens. Lots of same sex couples holding hands or making out. Booths about AVOL, suicide hotlines, and/or free condoms. Lots of romance for gay couples. Like, lots. People drinking beer and then signing up haphazardly for amateur drag. People drinking beer and then laughing at the amateur queens and kings.
In a more abstract, touchy-feely sense, I think of non-heteronormativity as a norm, and straighthood as being an abberation, one I get to accept and love. At pride, we gays can embrace and love straight people, the minority. Everybody is completely free to be themselves. People who are not trans or queer or ace (Asexual) can express themselves however they want to, and yet, in all of this heterogenous expression, there’s a unified feeling of belonging to a community. A community of people who aren’t afraid to be different. Definitely a lot of counter-culture that isn’t expressly related to the LGBTQQIAA communities, but is embraced there in ways that it may not be in more heteronormative society.
In terms of what I feel I belong to: I belong to a community of trail-blazers. Of gays that came out at a time it was dangerous, making it easier for me to do so years later. Of gays that fought for rights and protections. A community of people politically involved and impassioned, who are determined to change the world for the better. Of people who regardless of their hardship, still find time to reach out to other people who may be on the fringes of society. People who risk being hurt again. People who consciously ask themselves how to better a community, or make it more inclusive. People who question what it is to be in this “community.” People who have a really good time. People with whom I am myself, and am not defined by my sexuality (Or that difference from societal norms.) Men and women who aren’t afraid to question what it is to be a man or a woman, or to be a human being.
There are a lot of other characteristics of this community that I cannot really think of, because I’m blanking, but there are tons. And no, you’re not going to look out on a gay person and find all of these traits off the bat. But, when I think of pride, I think of it being a time where I can appreciate the best in my friends, straight or gay, and think about people who made a difference. Maybe akin to the way I look at people with goodwill near Christmas, or treat people at church on Sunday. It’s a time that, for me, crystallizes goals and ideals for this “community,” whoever might belong to it and whatever on earth it is, and it makes me think of what we’re capable of when working together. Whatever I do in my walk with Christ, for instance, I can look at my behavior on Sundays and be like “Whoa, I can totes do that. Why don’t I do that all the time?”
In a similar way, I think Pride represents to me a lot of accomplishments and overcoming adversity for the LGBT community (Though with much more still to go, especially for our transgendered friends), and something to work towards.
So, whenever I go to pride, there’s always part of me that resonates more with these ideals than with just having a fun time watching a drag show and running into friends. I can think of just the work that went into putting the festival on, the people working at the booths, and what I can be doing to be contributing. Of thinking about being “Free at last” and what that means for me, and for anybody else, and how I might be a part of bringing that about. And this happens while I’m having a genuinely good time.
That’s my response. Probably high-fallutin or however you spell that word. But there it is. 🙂 Also, I’m positive that many LGBTQQIAA people would find my views rather rose-tinted and idealistic. But, that’s me. 🙂