I have never been able to attend a New York Pride because my boss always made me work in the store, which is ironic because I was always the one who actively fought for equal rights between the two of us. Last year was even worse because we actually had a float for the first time in the parade which I specifically said I wanted to be on and I still had to work. This was the middle-finger equivalent of sticking a thousand dicks in my eye. Well this year was different because I was in charge, so I finally got to celebrate Pride, which is an annual event that is very important to me. Leading up to the march I found myself hearing people saying things that really surprised me when asked what they were doing for Pride. Stop the turnip truck, because when someone says “I don’t think Pride is necessary anymore,” I take issue!
For the sake of argument I am going to refer to this evening I spent with this one guy a “date”. This someone was, for all intents and purposes, a bad Joan Rivers act incarnate. He was from some hee-haw state that I didn’t commit to memory. He was the type of person who explains retail experiences with rude customers and how clever they were when they were rude back, in a show of “aren’t I a bad ass?!” chest-beating. His sense of humor was very angsty, he complained at one point that New Yorkers were “idiots” who didn’t think he was funny, but insisted that he was actually hilarious and stated “If my friend from back home was here we’d show everyone! We’d show everyone here that my jokes are actually funny!”
As my eyes were rolling across the floor he continued to make a fool of himself, but I was nice about it because it was clear that he had a very strong sense about himself based on a whole lot of nothing and it would have been mean to point it all out to him at once. Kinda like how you don’t wake up someone who’s sleep walking.
I had to interject, however, when I asked him what he was doing for Pride weekend and his response was:
“Oh, I don’t believe in Pride. I’m a proud person all the time, I don’t need it. And I am strong, and I feel like those people who are weak need Pride, but I don’t need it anymore.”
I like when people say things that are outlandishly stupid so nonchalantly.
I carry a fortune-cookie paper around in my wallet that reads “Only fools and dead men don’t change their minds. Fools won’t and dead men can’t.” I won’t say that it makes me mad when people take this stance against Pride, but I will say it is irritating, and furthermore frustrating at how many gays actually do hold this opinion and stick to it. I can only explain why it is important to me and hope that others take a moment to examine their own opinions.
When I was 16 my mom came to me and told me that my dad had been going through my sent e-mails on AOL (LOL @ AOL). He found what you would expect to find in any hot-blooded gay teen’s outbox (a whole lot of “Can we meet so you can stick it in my outbox?”). I went to my dad and simply said “I heard you were reading my e-mail.” Immediately he got angry and flustered and all he could say was “If you are gay, just don’t ever tell me” and left the room. It was then that I realized I would never be able to truly talk to my dad about my life because he couldn’t even discuss a factor of myself without completely shutting down. Being a huge loner as a kid I thus had nobody to talk to, and for a long time wondered if taking my own life would be the solution. Fortunately I am a pussy when it comes to pain so I never attempted anything, but the same couldn’t be said for my younger sister.
As I left first period in high school one morning I saw my sister’s friend carrying my sister in her arms towards my class. “She just showed up and collapsed!” she told me, and handed her over to me. My younger sister’s body was shockingly lifeless and light, it didn’t feel like there was anything inside her but air. I ran to the nurses office where we summoned an ambulance and left for the hospital.
They made her drink several large cups of charcoal to flush out her system. The nurses explained to me that it had been a suicide attempt and that my sister had taken a massive overdose of my mother’s anti-depressant medication. She was going to be ok though.
I sat by my sister’s hospital bed while she was slowly coming down off of the high. She was conscious now, but very stoned, and couldn’t stop telling me knock-knock jokes. I smiled and laughed because it’s what she needed, and frankly it’s what I needed too, but as she told me these jokes I looked at her and felt a tremendous amount of guilt. My sister was obviously a lesbian and was bullied at school on a daily basis like myself, but I had never reached out to her to talk about it. I had basically closed off to her the way my dad had to me, and worse I had taken a lot of my baggage out on her. I felt, for the first time ever, like a horrible person.
My sister survived and to date we have a very strong relationship. She is actually coming out to visit me in September from Los Angeles. She got her act together and now is a very strong person with a very nice job that she is great at and lives a very free lifestyle as an open lesbian.
Pride is a lot of things. It’s a celebration, a statement, a distraction. It is one of the only parties out there that is focused on being all-inclusive. You’ll see every type of person either in the march or watching it. People from all walks of life come together and line the streets, all supporting the same message; “We are proud.”
When someone tells me that they don’t think Pride is necessary, I can’t help but believe that they go through life with tunnel vision. I live in New York where for the most part I can walk around being a big ol’ queen and I’ll make it home alive, but there are people who live in places where they can’t. Even here in New York you’ll get called a faggot from time to time by passing cars or groups of punks, and even here in New York I hear stories of people getting the shit kicked out of them just because they were gay.
When I first started The INQUEERY I read two articles, two months apart, about two separate boys, both who had hung themselves because of anti-gay bullying. One was 11 years old.
The article revealed some very sad statistics:
Nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT youth (86.2%) reported being verbally harassed at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation, nearly half (44.1%) reported being physically harassed and about a quarter (22.1%) reported being physically assaulted, according to GLSEN’s 2007 National School Climate Survey of more than 6,000 LGBT students.
In most cases, the harassment is unreported. Nearly two-thirds of LGBT students (60.8%) who experience harassment or assault never reported the incident to the school. The most common reason given was that they didn’t believe anything would be done to address the situation. Of those who did report the incident, nearly a third (31.1%) said the school staff did nothing in response.
Pride represents people being comfortable in their own skin, what ever skin it is that they choose to wear. It is a symbol across the nation to people of all ages that it gets better, and that there are other people like you. Pride for many LGBTQ youth is a symbol of hope — a yearly event where they know they can go and walk around being themselves and not have to be afraid of the consequences. Pride is important, even for people who are strong and comfortable in their own skin, because for some people it’s all they have — your body in a crowd, your face in a photograph, your cheers on a TV screen.
So yes there are twinks walking around in their American Apparel briefs, and there are thousands of men in drag and make-up. You’ll see bears in chaps and dykes-on-bikes, but you’ll also see plain clothes persons of various colors, gender identifications, and ages. You’ll see straight allies, proud parents and siblings, couples with children in love who want to get married. You see people from all walks of life, walks that you may not interact with, who have all come together for this one day to fight oppression with celebration.If that symbol were to only nurture one person and save only one life, wouldn’t that still make it worth it?
When I go to Pride, I don’t see weak people. I see warriors.
What do you see?
*Several photos courtesy Krys Fox Photography