Monday, June 08, 2009

Gay Pride Month at Our House

While exploring the little coastal communities along Michigan's Thumb yesterday we happened to see a rainbow flag hoisted above a cottage. Fellow Traveler laughed as I gave it a jaunty salute.

"It's Pride Month," I noted. "What are we going to do to demonstrate our pride?"

Fellow Traveler became thoughtful. "You know," she responded, "as far as I'm concerned every day is Pride Day for us because we refuse to be anything except who we are."

I thought about this later, and it's so true. I remember the constant anxiety -- about what, I wonder now -- of living in the closet, even when I was single. I was so afraid of people's disapproval. Every day was like that scene in All That Jazz where Roy Scheider as Bob Fosse, looking into the mirror in the morning, throws his jazz hands into the air and proclaims, "It's showtime!"

The show is now over for me, and it has been nothing but a relief. And, a few awkward moments here and there aside, we've been amazed at the degree to which people, even in our small town, simply accept us. Because we share a common first name, a lot of our friends -- people from church, people with whom we do business -- know us as a unit, as The Lutheranchiks; as one of our Amish neighbors exclaimed after I showed up at her door to special-order one of her children's handicrafts, "Oh -- you're one of The Lutheranchiks!"

Believe me, I understand the value of the gay community periodically gathering in public, as both affirmation and as a counterpoint to all those who would chase us back into the shadows of secrecy and shame. But as for me and my house, we find that the best way we can live into the promise of a just and equitable society that includes us is to simply do that -- to be The Lutheranchiks on the street, in local businesses, in our church, on the road; no excuses, no lies. In our cultural milieu, it's as radical a thing as we can do. And that's where we, as a household, find our pride this month.


PS (PSanafter-thought) said...

Perhaps a new abreviation: GFY, Good for You!

Tom in Ontario said...

I have a bit of a problem with the Pride celebrations in our area (I'm talking about Toronto). They've take "Gay" right out of the title. It's just called Pride Week or month or day or parade or whatever but it's still Gay Pride, not Muslim Pride or Jewish Pride or Black Pride or Straight Pride. But that's not my problem with it.

The problem is mainly with the parade. I'm guessing there might be some perfectly normal and tame stuff going on, but you get clips on the news that verge on the pronographic. If straight couples dressed and acted and paraded through the city the way some of the gays do at that parade they might just get arrested. But since it's the Gay Pride Parade the mayor rides along on the first float in the parade and people are afraid to object to anything because you might be branded homophobic.

My personal experience and acquaintance with queer folk is pretty limited, my father's even less. So when discussion came around to the church being welcoming to gays his first image was to guys walking in the parade in leather thongs sticking their tongues into each other's mouths. I just said that there's a good chance they wouldn't be the ones really wanting to come to our church.

Happy Pride month to you. I salute your flag.

LutheranChik said...

Thank you. And I feel the same way about the acting-out antics at some Pride events. Honestly, when I was first coming out to myself, looking for affirmation and role models within the gay community, I'd encounter stuff like that and become depressed to the point of despair: Why would I be proud of that? Then I read an article by, I think, Andrew Sullivan, where he noted that he and his partner avoid the wretched excess of Pride events for the same reasons. Then I spent a lot of time being angry at the revelers for hurting the cause.

Really, thinking about it, it's like stereotyping heterosexuality on the basis of spring break in Daytona or other bad behavior among straight people, or stereotyping Christians on the basis of nutty televangelists and the Religious Right; it's unfortunate that these images are the ones people with minimal exposure to the gay community have impressed in their minds, but they're not normative behavior. I also like to remind people that the media is always looking for novelty, for sensationalism; the other night on the news we saw as story on same-sex marriage being legalized in the state of New Hampshire, and both FT and I noted how, after panning out across a room of very conventional, middle-class-appearing supporters of the bill, the camera zoomed in to do a close-up of a butchy woman with a shaved head and multiple piercings/tats. There's a real compulsion in the visual media -- and once upon a time I was a communications student, and know the process involved -- to stereotype because "the picture tells the story"; in the (tiny) minds of some photojournalists/editors, if the story is about the gay community, they need to find a visual representation of that that they think will communicate "gay" to the equally lazy people at home on the sofa; so instead of someone who looks like a grandparent or middle-manager or clergyperson they're going to find someone who looks like a character in a Village People tribute band.

And I know it's not PC to "go against the family," but I think it was Larry Kramer or another activist during the heyday of ACTUP who noted that a community has not reached maturity until it has the self-confidence to critique the bad behavior of its own members. (A good benchmark for religious organizations, too.)

toujoursdan said...

A big part of the more extreme parts of gay pride parades revolves around liberation from sexual and social oppression. It's hard for many of us who are white and middle class, living in this day to understand the fear and conformity gay people had to endure as recently as 30 years ago.

Even in liberal inclusive Canada, it was within my lifetime (1969) that Everett Klipper was sent to prison for life for merely telling a cop he was gay.

Listen to this: CBC Archives: NWT man jailed for being gay This was only 40 years ago.

While we don't live in those dark times anymore, there are many people in Toronto, Montréal, New York and other places that come from religious, ethnic and immigrant communities that are every bit as oppressive as they were for all of us 30 years ago. These parades are their way of breaking through that oppression and letting off steam. It's part of self integration and my hope that many move on to form healthier and more responsible relationships as they mature.

It's hard for people who are watching TV to fully understand why people act the way they do, but this is just the most visible part of a long journey many people are going through.

PS (PSanafter-thought) said...

Your comment about the nutty TV evangelists really paints the right picture. I was stuck in a hospital bed a few years ago and turned on the station with a supposed worship service of that wing of the Christians. Yikes....Big hair, big makeup, angry mouth shapes...yelling, screaming...When I got home, I emailed them, saying, "Why do you look so angry?" I didn't get a reply.

When we watch the news, I suppose we should say to ourselves, "If it doesn't look real, it probably isn't real."

Joan of Quark said...

As it says in Ecclesiastes, there's a time to pray, and a time to dress up in leather thongs and stick your tongues in each other's mouths. OK, I'm misquoting just slightly...

I think part of the attraction is probably the exuberance after having to hide for so long, and at feeling the streets are theirs for one day. Straight people can go a lot further in public displays of affection than that, still, today, and carnival atmospheres always have an air of transgression and pushing the boundaries about them.

LutheranChik said...

Dan, it's funny you should mention that because I was on the Facebook page of the Michigan Womyn's Festival, reading the "What to expect" advice for newbies, and they said pretty much the same thing regarding festie behavior. I understand that. But, again, the media isn't going to spend any time asking "why" questions, nor are casual infotainment consumers going to do a lot of "why" analysis themselves -- even to think that, well, maybe it's like buttoned-up businesspeople going a little wild and crazy during a convention in Vegas (or, more culturally relevant to where I live, otherwise conventional men engaging in backwoods bacchanals during deer camp, while their equally conventional wives are getting trashed on mojitos and stuffing bills into Chippendale dancers' thongs during Deer Widows' Night at the casino.;-) (We hear things from the straight people.)

angela said...

I just started reading and I had no idea. But, how lovely. Just the ideal.

And I really like your comments--to the point that I think they deserve to be re-visited in your blog (please?) so that I can quote you in mine when I finally explain to the Christian right side of my family why I support GLBT and marriages of every type.

LutheranChik said...

Oh, certainly, Angela -- feel free to quote me!