This weekend was the first time I ever attended a Pridefest. Typically, I shy away from large events because they always seem to be out in inclement weather and I tend to get rather tired of crowds and negotiating them relatively quickly. All of that aside though, attending Pride has always been on my list of things to do (and as my eyes are always bigger than my stomach, I was looking a little beyond Iowa for my first one). Enter St. Louis Pride.
First off, the event itself was absolutely amazing. The myriad of people there served as a microcosm of what the modern America really is. There were families and pets galore and both straight and gay people joined in a celebration of individuality. Going to something like this in a large metro area really changed my perception of how far our country truly has come and grown in just my 22 years of existence.
Everything about Pride got me thinking about what exactly it is to not only be a proud individual and member of a community but also what it means to be an American. You look around something like this and realize that even though your second grade teachers fed you this crap about how “the melting pot analogy of America is racist and wrong,” it really isn’t. I can remember a whole day in that class when my teacher went on this huge deal about how “America is a beautiful mosaic of so much diversity. We cherish diversity and that is why we should see it this way.” Sorry, but sometimes Politically Correct is a bit wide of the mark. What I saw over the past two days was an American culture; a culture of celebration of individuality AND banding together with everyone else. What I realized, standing in the crowd watching the parade, was that America is where you don’t have to worry about being beheaded because you are gay (among many other things). Yeah, we have assholes out there that are closed minded and so afraid of what they cannot comprehend that they feel the need to oppress those different than them through use of the government. There are even people who make death threats and incredibly dark remarks to/about homosexual individuals. What is awesome about our country, even as we work through what is hopefully the last big stretch of a transition into a culture of acceptance, is that those dickbags get to say what they want and we get to have a party and celebrate being who we are (note: “we” is not gender specific nor is it exclusive to one “sexuality.” The people I went with are straight, married [but more importantly, in love], and have an awesome young son and they were as much a part of the celebration as anyone else there).
Of course there were some, um, odd (?) sights too. You had the people in underwear and angel wings, the “master and slave” (funny thing is that the second day, after they realized this was a family event, they lost the spikes, collar, and leash), and lots of glitter. Many, many opponents of equal rights cited the over sexualization of “gay culture” as a huge problem. These people claim that events like Pride are inappropriate for children and families. Those people are blind, deaf, and/or stupid. Helen Keller would probably be all like “WTF bitches? REALLY?!” But joking aside, what is so amazing about “gay culture” (which is much more than fashion, drag, and Lady Gaga) is that the “culture” itself is so over the bullshit against it that it has become one of the most open “cultures” in existence. (I say “gay culture” in quotations because most cultures have certain boundaries that make them exclusive. “Gay Culture” is different in the sense that sexuality is not a prohibitive factor to it. Many straight people are heavily involved with “Gay Culture” and hold it very close to their hearts as something they believe in. If I had to actually define it, I would say that “Gay Culture” is more synonymous with wide-sweeping acceptance than it is with any one particular trait, at least in the modern form it has evolved into). Yeah, there was some suggestive stuff out there but honestly, you cannot expect me to believe there aren’t straight people out there who have a bit of S & M gear and who wouldn’t wear it if they were given the chance. In a lot of ways, the entire “culture” is freeing. It seems that in response to the stuff people say about homosexuality and homosexuals, “gay culture” has openly celebrated what others dare not. I think Margaret Cho said it best when she said, “If you are hated for who you like to fuck, then when it happens oh boy are you gonna kick up your heels and FUCK.” In all honesty though, the “oversexualization” argument is relatively a moot point. At least in St. Louis, Pride is a family event. There was no nudity, very little swearing (I know, how I survived is fucking beyond me…), and aside from the one tent where the guy gave me the “You know… you could be in movies…” (Ask me and maybe I’ll tell ya the story. It was funny and about me being oblivious), it was totally PG and MAYBE PG-13.
When I looked around, I saw families, friends, and normal AMERICAN people. I didn’t see labels stamped on anyone nor did I see one particularly well established stereotype that fell over the entire crowd. The parade had Drag Queens and Kings, Go-Go dancers, Priests (sorry, Catholic church, but these are the real ones who love people and not the ones who have “special bible study sessions” with the little boys of their congregation), and what looked like the Hell’s Angels. There were businessmen and women, athletes (and damn were some of them fine), musicians (St. Louis has a Gay Marching Band that had better articulation and balance than most college bands… and it was NOT a small group either), dancers, along with a menagerie of what some consider “normal Americans.”
There were signs that said “Love needs no laws,” and “The day is soon coming,” that made me realize how lucky I am to be alive and just coming into my own right at the pivotal time for this movement of Equality and Acceptance. I was thinking about how hard it must have been just two or three decades ago and how much farther we all still have to go when the “Growing Our Youth” group rounded the corner where I was standing. Up until then, the largest and most energetic groups in the parade (excluding the band… I was going to make a “blowing” gag but that might disrupt the sincerity of this whole thing) were the Casino group and a group for one of the gay bars.
Then this WALL of over 150 young kids (literally, high school and middle school aged kids) came around the bend. There were guys holding guys’ hands, girls holding girls’ hands, and guys holding girls’ hands. As I was shouting (legitimate Kinnick Stadium Touchdown shouting) out of sheer happiness, my friend turned to me and said, “This is how I know this crazy shit that is going on right now will NOT last.” She was totally right.
The youth of America are, for the most part, becoming more and more “color-blind” each successive year. They see Americans as people no matter gay, straight, Christian, Atheist, Islamic, Jewish, Black, White, Asian, Hispanic, etc etc etc. The people spewing the hate, for the most part, are OLD. They are stuck in their old ways and horrified of things they simply do not understand. As with all things though, there is an expiration date for that line of reasoning and whether that means the people who press this issue pass on or, what I would personally love to see, a huge surge in 18 year old voters in the next election standing up and saying “Stand aside, old men and women, and get with the times or get the fuck out!” That date is quickly approaching and it is that group of 12-18 year olds who will realize the work that the 60 and 70 year old homosexual couples sitting in their lawn chairs fought so long and so hard for and that is proof to me that acceptance is generational and genetic, just like sexuality. And the best part, right behind that group was a group, equally as large, of parents of LGBT Youth. Fucking right! To the parents, thank you for giving us all the strength to stand up and sing, dance, shout, and celebrate who we are. To the kids, thank YOU for simply existing and for not being silent. I’ve said it before but you are the future and holy fuck is that one beautiful future.
This entire event was proof that all the bullshit people say about what they do not understand is infantile and stupid. Referencing their beliefs or faith is one thing but rather than responding to all of the Bible verses people spit at gays how about spitting one back? “When you worship or pray, do so in private so that it is pure and true.” (Don’t ask me to quote the book or verse… I don’t remember). Whether you believe some of the things written in the Bible or not, suck it up and keep your issues to yourself. Not everyone believes everything and like it or not, our culture is going a different way than the book of Leviticus (which, was written by a HUMAN, as was the entire Bible… read the Gnostic Bible as it is a collection of the books that were rejected for inclusion in the Bible) said it would. Deal with it. Every other argument out there is baseless and, as shown in NYC just a few days ago, is crumbling faster than shitty, month-old bread. These I PEOPLE I saw this weekend are good parents, friends, and family members. They are good pet owners and kind hearted individuals. WE ARE NOT DEMONS, CESS POOLS OF DESEASE, OR REJECTS OF SOCIETY by any stretch of the imagination.
I could go on and on but I guess I should be wrapping this up. I have never felt genuinely LOVED by people I have never met like I felt this weekend. America is America. It is a unique and beautiful country that has blended every aspect of HUMANITY together into a culture and it is a fucking beautiful thing. We are all AMERICANS and at the end of the day, who we are and who we love is just part of this fucking brilliant culture.
“No matter gay, straight, or bi, lesbian, transgendered life we’re on the right track, baby, we were born this way… I’m beautiful in my way ‘cuz God makes no mistakes. I’m on the right track, baby, I was born this way.” – Lady Gaga, “Born This Way”
You better believe that I am jumping on every fucking float I can find next year and belting that song out until my throat goes hoarse.
And you know I couldn’t leave this without a Sci Fi reference so here it is, from the pen of Steven Moffat himself:
“Now Richard, Canton just wants to get married. Hardly a reason to kick him out of the FBI.” – The Doctor