July 28, 2012

Civil Rights: A Review of Gay Pride Weekend

Now add another decade and realize how things haven't changed.

I hope one day gay pride parades, festivals and celebrations don't exist anymore. At least, I hope they don't exist because they won't be needed to bring awareness to the gay community because gay people aren't seen any differently anymore.

I had a discussion the other day with a rather conservative family member about Pride, which was last weekend here in San Diego, and we discussed mostly why they felt like they needed to have a parade and why they needed to be so overtly sexual (paraphrasing... can't remember the actual words used) with their displays during the parade. (For the record, this person knows full well of my support for the gay community and was probably trying to instigate an argument, not necessarily be enlightened to another viewpoint.) I offered that maybe it was because doing so would not only bring up the subject of sexuality and the gay lifestyle and encourage people to talk about it, which would hopefully eventually get people to realize gays deserve the same rights as everyone else, but also makes the argument that sexuality, even gay sexuality, is not something to be ashamed of. By parading around (punny pun pun) in booty shorts those in the parade were not making any apologies for who they are. And that's kind of the point of gay pride weekend, I think. We have gay neighborhoods, gay bars, gay clubs, even a gay brewery now so that gays have a place they can go and be themselves and among like minded individuals without worrying about offending someone. Isn't it the same reason people go to sports bars? All that hollering at the TV, jeering with total strangers, and ignoring almost everything else going on would be offensive at another bar or establishment.

I also pointed out that "the way times used to be," as I too often hear older generations talking about, probably wasn't all it's chalked up to be. Human beings have likely always been this way, we maybe just didn't talk about it as much (which this particular relative sort of agreed with, and then said that it's more decent that we don't discuss it). And now that we're OK discussing our sexualities and the so-called weird things that we do, which are only weird because we have a sense of self and guilt that many other animals don't have, now that these things aren't as taboo as they once were, some people consider our society to be degraded. I just think we're getting to the point where we won't have self-imposed guilt anymore for living our lives the way we've lived them for generations. In fact, from a feminine standpoint, I'm pretty glad things aren't "what they used to be" because if my husband cheated on me it would have been my fault for not pleasing him enough, having a job would have been classless and not having kids would have given me an unsavory label. And if we go back further, I would have been sold by my father to the highest bidder. No owning property, no voting, no speaking out of turn, no leaving the house without a male relative to escort me, no rights or individuality. Just a walking pair of boobs that might entice a helpless man if someone isn't there to protect me.

Maybe gay people feel different-in-a-bad-way too often. Sure they can't marry the person they love or even provide that person benefits no matter how long they're together and in many places cannot adopt a child, but that's a federal issue. Maybe it's less deep than that: maybe gay people feel the need to function in a straight world where their individuality isn't celebrated in the same way as others' is. And maybe Pride weekend is an outlet. Maybe those participating in and watching the parade last weekend aren't all flamboyant and overtly sexual and slutty, but maybe it's about fitting in, being noticed for being different, or even just proving a point.

Speaking of which, my whole point was gays might not feel the need to have that outlet or create that awareness of gay or straight didn't matter. There was a time, long before I was born, where people were campaigning for a right I now very much appreciate. Had my boyfriend and I been born just a few generations ago it would not have been appropriate for us to be seen together, much less date. It would have been illegal for us to get married, and our kids would have been ridiculed, having no place to belong. Fortunately, we were both born long after those civil rights were obtained and now it's not unusual at all to see us walking down the street holding hands; no one would bat an eye at  our wedding, and our kids would be welcomed into any group. Watching the parade with him made me realize in a tangible way that this civil rights fight is exactly the same as the one we're benefitting from: it might not be unusual for a black man and a white woman to walk down the street holding hands, but a lot of people still feel uncomfortable seeing two men holding hands or two women stopping for a quick kiss. Those couples have to deal with that discrimination (even when it's not blatant) every day. They might be in love but feel like they aren't allowed to express it. They might want marriage and kids like most people do but the government, and plenty of their fellow citizens, don't think it's a good idea. Actually the government and many Americans think it's a very bad idea, and one that would directly contribute to the downfall of our country. Just like they once did when the idea that races could intermarry and *gasp* have mixed children (the poor things!). 

I know deep in my heart that a generation or two from now all of this will be in the past and my grand nieces and nephews will ask questions about it, wondering why it was such a big deal. I won't know what to tell them, but at least I'll be able to say I didn't agree and did what I could to change things.

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