I don’t usually make a point of acknowledging Pride month, or the various events and parades or anything, because for me it would feel performative. I’m about as boring and mainstream a gay man could be1Without being a billionaire or a repressed congressman who works against civil rights legislation, of course., so it feels opportunistic to be taking attention away from the people who’ve “earned it,” either through activism, or through a lifetime of being bullied just for not conforming.
But the older I get — and, paradoxically, the more mainstream and unremarkable it gets to be A Boring Gay — the more it feels urgent to call attention to it and celebrate it.
It’s not hyperbole to be extremely concerned about the corrupt minority that’s currently working to roll back all the progress in civil rights we’ve made over my lifetime. The most worthless Supreme Court justice has already felt empowered enough by the new stolen court seats that he’s threatening to overturn the last couple of decades’ worth of progress. You know the one — he’s the one whose marriage to a blatantly traitorous asshole was guaranteed by a court ruling exactly like the ones he’s threatening. And I’d hope that anyone with an ounce of empathy who’s still calling for restraint and moderation would recognize how tirelessly the Republicans have been working to make trans people’s lives miserable.
But Pride is an invitation to take a brief break from a life that’s always spent having to be on the defensive. It’s an opportunity to celebrate. Back when I was deeply closeted, my first reaction to talk of “pride” was the predictable “what’s there to be proud of? It’s just the way I am and I can’t do anything about it.” It took me an embarrassingly long time — and it’s probably an indefinitely ongoing process, in reality — to fully accept that there’s no need to “do anything about it.” It’s an assertion that you don’t need to answer to anyone but yourself.
A couple of weekends ago, we went to an event for Pride month at the Hollywood Forever cemetery, where they were showing But I’m a Cheerleader. I could’ve sworn I’d seen it before, but it turns out I never had. But I wish I had, because I loved it and had never seen anything quite like it. So much of the “LGBT-themed” stuff I’ve seen is either about surviving through a repressive society, or stridently overcoming it by asserting your uniqueness. I loved seeing a movie where it never even occurred to the main character that she had anything to be ashamed of.
The screening was packed with people of all different types, so just being outside among other people was like getting a tentative peek at life after COVID. But more than that, it felt to me like the first “gay event” where I didn’t spend any time thinking about whether or not I fit in, or who in the crowd I did or didn’t identify with. We were all just a bunch of very different people who had one thing in common: we were there to see a movie.
And I don’t tend to think a lot about “safe spaces,” not because they’re not important, but because I rarely need to be that concerned about it. But it was just comfortable being able to turn off any sense of anxiety for the night. It was nice to be solidly in the in-group for a change, and know that everybody there either identified as LGBTQ, or was completely on-board with the idea. I lived in the Bay Area2And came out in the Bay Area for 25 years, so it’s not as if I’ve ever had to feel like I was in hostile territory. But still, it was nice to have it set aside as a big, shared space, where I didn’t have to give a moment’s thought to the other thing that most of us all had in common.
Which is why the increased level of acceptance across the US is undeniably great, but it doesn’t negate the need for Pride. I spent a long time wishing for the day when I could just be normal and fit in. I’ve been more or less enjoying exactly that for the past several years. But I’ve finally started to realize that the key to happiness isn’t just being comfortable and normal, but being comfortable with not being normal.
- 1Without being a billionaire or a repressed congressman who works against civil rights legislation, of course.
- 2And came out in the Bay Area