Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Pride Schmide, It's Not Enough

By Kelly Jean Cogswell

802 words.

Marina wants me to, so almost every year, I drag myself out of bed with feet sore from the Dyke March, slather on some sunscreen, and take the train uptown to watch the Pride Parade.

These days, it's full of bar floats and dancing boys, condom throwers, church choirs, ethnic groups and politicians, like a cross-section of America.

We march sometimes with the Brazilians for the sake of their homegrown music. But the best part is watching the people watching the parade in the Village, Westchester lesbians with button-downs rubbing shoulders with Brooklyn dykes with wife beaters and dreds, a couple of fabulous L-word types, plus the big beefy boytoys and skinny nerds, all applauding P-FLAG and wishing their parents were there, too.

For a minute, I love them all, out for the day, and proud, whatever that is. I looked pride up in my computer's dictionary, and if you throw out the stuff about lions, what you have left are feelings about accomplishments and qualities.

In truth, being gay isn't an accomplishment for most of the people I know. We don't have any more choice about being queer than a needle on a compass has to point north. We may as well throw a parade for humans with opposable thumbs. Give me an award, I can hold a pencil.

It's why I like the label sexual orientation. With "identity" there's the idea you can buy false ones, just give the guy on the corner fifty bucks. You wanna be bi this year? Or do you prefer boyz? How bout knocking off a few years? I swear these'll slip by Homeland Security.

Women are my magnetic north and I've always been pulled towards them even when I was twelve and thought that girls were gross. Everybody but me could see where I was pointed. When I came out my sisters said, "Oh, we figured you were like that."

Guys in cars knew before me, too. I got bottles heaved out at me a couple of times. "Fucking dyke." It was written all over me -- like being white. I wake up every morning and without any effort, there I am, in the neighborhood of beige, no badges or uniform required, or any particular sentimentality.

I was born that way and my girlfriend a couple of shades darker which gets her called white in Cuba, and a person of color in New York. Go figure. There's no accomplishment in skin. Even turtles have it, and potatoes. Why pride?

The sponsors call themselves the Heritage of Pride, and if you bring history into it, I guess you could be glad simply that you've survived, that we all have. It hasn't been easy. But I think they mean something else with heritage.

I've never understood that exactly -- Kentuckians like me celebrating Abraham Lincoln living in the state for about ten minutes as if his greatness rubbed off somehow in the soil and we're better for it. That kind of stuff is staking a claim like a tapeworm, eating someone else's food.

Maybe I should lighten up, and concede heritage as the role model thing, trying to find some vague, encouraging connection to somebody older or smarter or richer than you. But you have to know what the score is. Learn what you can from Gertrude Stein and James Baldwin, pin their faces on your vest pocket, but don't expect reciprocation.

At any rate, the champagne and parades and pride seem premature. There's gay marriage in a handful of places in the U.S. In the rest it's banned. In Moscow, queers get beaten every year at Gay Pride when they ignore the parade ban, march, face down violent brutes, and then get arrested while the thugs go scot-free.

Around New York, plenty of young dykes get baited so much the only question is why more don't erupt in violence against their harassers.

As a word, I'm not sure pride has a future. What have you done to be proud of lately? What have you ever done? A couple of decades after Stonewall "pride" smacks of complacence. We act as if the queer movement is a perpetual motion machine that chugs along with an occasional nudge and donations to the Human Rights Campaign, as if it's all been done.

Instead of Gay Pride, we need a day (or a week or year) of Gay Belligerence, Lesbian Audacity, Dyke Desire, Trans Aggression. Fury would be good, a boost for our community, good for our country, too, numbed first by Clinton's hospitality, then under Bush, by sheer despair. For me, anyway.

Lies and bombs. Habeus corpus was suspended, you know, prisoners tortured, and who cares? We have our dancing boys, all that beautiful gay energy that evaporates Monday morning like the dew.

Pride seems like a sin again.

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