TMI Questions: Happy Pride 2014!
TMI Questions: Happy Pride 2014!
Wow. My attitude towards Pride has changed quite a bit over the years. I used to be ashamed of it and denigrated it whenever someone brought it up – pointing to the usual arguments: too many drag queens, too many circuit boys. But now? I’m thinking we deserve our parade. Gay people put up with a lot of shit. We are one of the few segments of the population that the 'those who aren’t' still feel it’s okay to openly discriminate against, deride, make fun of, and talk shit about.
Yes, we’ve come a long way, baby… but our tits are starting to droop while we wait for the rest of humankind to catch up.
I’m starting to understand the need for polarizing political action – you know, the kind of activism that make those who don’t want to rock the boat nervous? It’s easy to get frustrated, when the arguments used against us continue to be the same lame ass lies they’ve been spouting for years.
That’s why I’m out at work. I figure, why let all these white collar types feel all safe and sound as they toil away in one of the most homophobic counties in Minnesota? But I lead by example… by acting with integrity in an effort to show them that being gay doesn’t mean what they have been indoctrinated to believe it to mean.
So, I have Pride every day, in the best way.
For me, Pride is no longer a once a year thing. For me, it’s a daily demonstration that is both subtle and powerful.
Questions designed to reveal Too Much Information
TMI Questions: Happy Pride 2014!
Tell me about your first Pride.
1998. Fairly unmemorable.
I was working for a non-profit at the time and did a shift at our booth. Afterwards I walked around with my boss to take in the sights. I had my baby boy with me, Beau, a six-month old Chihuahua that I had recently rescued from in front of a Menards. He was adorable and seemed to attract a lot of attention. I remember being amazed by all the leather dudes and the granola types with their outlandish hair and piercings. My own freek flag had yet to unveil, so I was a bit taken aback. We only stayed a couple of hours. It was really only memorable because of Beau. And my boss. She was a sweet woman whom I have lost touch with.
The fair itself seemed smaller back then and more open, more grassroots, less commercialized.
What did that first Pride mean to you?
Honestly? That I was alive and free and open.
It was my first time back in the cities since I totally came out – as in, at work, with my family, etc. I had just recovered from a rather serious illness at the time and was getting my life back together. Discovering all sorts of things. I remember Madonna’s ‘Ray of Light’ CD being a big influence in my life at the time. It was the beginning of my obsession with dance/club music. Everything felt different, but in a good way – like my skin had become newly re-sensitized.
Because the life I had built in L.A. had been so devastated by my illness, prompting my return to Minneapolis, I was concentrating on appreciating little things: dog ownership, playing in the park across the street of my apartment, buying furniture, meeting people. The internet, and, in particular the sites that promoted gay men meeting one another, were new in my life. I was going on actual dates with people; coffee, movies, dinner. It was very refreshing being so honest about who I was and where I was coming from. I just remember being extremely grateful. For the opportunity to live my life openly. I was frightened, but energized, intrigued, and… happy.
How many different Prides have you been to?
Only three. Duluth, Minneapolis, and Madison, WI. I blogged about all three. They were very different experiences, but fun. I have never seen the Minneapolis Parade, except for those clips they share on the news. Missed the Duluth Parade. I did sit through the Madison, WI. Parade (three times!). I’m not much of a parade goer. But I like visiting other places for pride. It really makes me grateful that I live where I live.
Do you fly the Pride Flag and/or stick it to anything?
No, I don’t feel the need to. I am my own flag, albeit a much more subtle version, but I get the message out there. People know what I’m about and what I stand for. I hide very little of myself – except for that which is NSFW.
Do you still celebrate Pride? What does it mean to you now?
I do celebrate a little. It’s more fun with a friend. I have a friend from St. Paul. He drags me to all sorts of things and was the reason I went to Duluth and Madison for Pride. Madison was a gas, even though he sort of cramped my style. I enjoy being from out-of-town and viewed as ‘fresh meat’.
What does Pride mean? Now, it means acceptance. It means responsibility, too. I worry about the younger generations not learning about or appreciating what the generations of gays had to go through so they can kiss and carry on in public. It’s that struggle that is rather lost on them, as they tend to think that it’s all a given – this newfound acceptance gay people are recently experiencing. I know they see the discrimination still be experienced around the world, if they are politically/globally aware at all.
Pride is also an opportunity for us as a community to acknowledge just how far we have come.
Does Pride need improving? If so, what changes would you make?
Same old complaint… the media’s coverage could be more… balanced. I get tired of seeing the circuit boys, club kids, and drag queens being the only groups represented on the evening news.
I understand that the commercialization that’s taken place over the past fifteen years is a sign of growth and acceptance: businesses now want to be a part of Gay Pride – which is amazing to me. But it makes me uncomfortable when Sam’s Club – a part of the Walmart Corporation – is part of something they do not support. So I have mixed feelings about seeing them and other companies that are less than ‘okay with gay’ hawking their wares, giving out stuff, and promoting themselves on the back of something they do not politically or socially support in a more meaningful way.
And not to be ‘that guy’, but there seems to be an awful lot of focus on alcohol consumption and the bar scene. I wish it was more about community building/creating a higher profile, activism, and political and historical awareness. But, hey, it is a party and some people need to blow off steam or get smashed in order to dance their asses off, I get that. I have never viewed Pride as a vehicle for that type of behavior, but it’s a big world… to each their own. I guess that’s why I always leave early.
How do you give back?
I volunteer my time and give money to appropriate charities. I educate people at work, those that will listen. I am active in my LGBT organization at work. I man booths at the Pride Fair – usually as related to where I am working. All three of my employers during past sixteen years have had booths at Pride. That is pretty amazing. I also have a friend that has a small home business. I help him set-up and break down after the event, and man his booth as needed (so he gets bathroom breaks and something to eat).
I don’t get involved with the actual organization that puts on Pride, because it is no different than any organization – there is lots of drama, people feel entitled, people feel threatened, and people tend to be protective of their turf. I don’t have the energy or patience to battle institutionalized stasis/lethargy/bullshit any more. And I guess, you could add that to the things that I would change about the event. I think there should be more new blood, than old. But then, that is me, speaking from a very uninvolved distance.
What kind of trouble or embarrassing moment have you had during Pride?
I hate meeting exes at Pride. It makes me so uncomfortable. Also tricks whose names I don’t know/can’t remember. This usually happens when I’m manning a booth, so it’s not like I can walk away. When they stand around and attempt to make small talk and ‘catch up’ I just die inside. Typically, I am polite and smile a lot, without volunteering a lot of information about myself (which is typical of me all the time). This is because what I really want is for them to move on. That said, I would much rather have them stay and talk to me than for them to see me and then look the other way. That happens too. And that kind of pisses me off. We’re supposed to be this brotherhood, right? So get over yourself.
But the absolute worst? Seeing a trick with his partner! There is that sideways eye thing that always happens and it cracks me the hell up. Usually they’re embarrassed because I (used to) make a point of asking whether someone has a partner or not. Being caught in an obvious lie and watching someone squirm a bit? Priceless.
What musical acts you have seen live at various Prides?
Kristine W. (twice)
Happy Pride Everbody!
Be Safe. Enjoy.