In New York City the last Sunday in June is Gay Pride. This always brings up interesting questions for me. How am I going to choose to show the world that I am proud to be a gay man? I don't feel like I really need a day or a weekend or even a month especially set aside to express this. I'd like to think that I walk with my head held high everyday, proud of who I am, of what I am, a one man parade. The truth is, however, that without feathers and confetti it's hard to get noticed for much of anything in New York City. Even if I were to stand out as being overly effeminate or if I wore only fetish-y leather clothing my guess is that the attitude of the majority of people would be "So what? Get over yourself. What makes you think you're so special? look at that guy." This is one of the reasons I love New York; Everyone is pretty much accepted as being a part of the diverse landscape.
That being said, I do think it is important for the gay community to show the world that we are very present, we are your neighbors, your co-workers, indeed your family, we do not apologize for who we are and we are not going away. In this political climate, where we are looking at such issues as change in legislature to recognize same sex marriage, parenting and spousal benefits for couples of the same sex, I wonder if it is really the best choice to express our pride by donning a dress or a spangled jock strap and hanging off a float as it makes it's way down Fifth Avenue.
When the Gay Pride parade is reported by the media it is always done so with images of half naked leather men or drag queens. If, as a community, we are trying to show the rest of the world just how similar we are to everyone else, how "normal" we are, should we really be giving the media another opportunity to present us as deranged gender confused clowns and sex crazed fetishists? Although there are certainly many opportunities to see gay church groups, PFLAG members, SAGE members, groups of gay doctors and other professionals, the media will always focus on the more sensational and provocative.
There always has been and, I suspect, always will be a great sense of fun and freedom at the parade. It's an opportunity to embrace being different and rejoice in being accepted despite those differences. I am proud that I am a part of a community that is so diverse. No other marginalized group counts it's members from every race, culture and tradition on the planet.
I had an upsetting moment at the parade last year. I was feeling happy, even proud, enjoying the eye candy and saying hello to friends and acquaintances when a float passed by with big, oiled and gyrating muscular porno boys on it wearing only thongs and posing straps. Along the side of the float it read "rentboy.com" right after that came the Smirnoff vodka float with more semi-naked, steroid infused, gyrating hunks. All of a sudden I wasn't proud anymore. I became, actually, very sad. My proud, compassionate, accepting and diverse community reduced to and represented by whores and booze peddlers.
I don't wish that my opinion on the super sexualizing and the over commercializing of the parade should diminish the good that is possible through the visibility of proud gay people. One only need look at the faces of young, gay, out of towners there for the first time to realize the importance of this display. By shear numbers alone it says to those who have been marginalized, outcast and isolated: "You are not alone. You are fine just the way you are. No matter what your church or the people at school say - you are a person of worth."
The question remains: How can I best serve myself, the community and, ultimately, the world by being a proud, openly gay man? I haven't yet found the answer.
Several years ago at the parade I saw an elderly woman on the side lines. Not marching with a group, just by herself, a spectator. She held high a home made sign that read: "I love my lesbian granddaughter". She beamed as she held her sign and waved at the passers by.
That made me proud. That's what I want to see on the evening news.