Phoenix held its Gay Pride Day Parade last Saturday, an event that I was not particularly interested in attending, one that I have not witnessed for over a decade and not walked in since the 1979, tenth anniversary of the Stonewall Riots and the birth of so-called liberation. An event that I expected to be much like the East Coast and what I have come to regard as a Gay Shame Fest. An orgy of the pinned and pierced, tattooed and tied, the barely clothed and decidedly unclothed, the painted and plastered, the dancing, cavorting and carrying-on in celebration of … what? Pride in what? The inability to comprehend that, unfairly as it may seem, the majority voting block is the last stalwart of civil rights and these annual festivals provide ample ammunition for those wishing to paint this minority community as every parent’s nightmare? I recall that the 1979 Pride was 90% Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Sailor … we are just like everyone else, and that was the marching point, and 10% those driven to be flamboyant. But, then it evolved to be more the arithmetical opposite. Unrecognizable, rudderless, pointless and with its roots invisibly distant. Gay men playing roles and not being themselves.
But, perhaps those walking in this South West “pride parade” are different and things are now calmer, more mellow, smarter and more intuitive? Well, for a start … openly Gay Cowboys courtesy of Charlie’s Bar and Arizona Gay Rodeo. http://www.agra-phx.com/ Who knew? A Stage Coach and ‘four-in-hand’ horses. A small contingent of Apache Pride. A long session of classic cars and local state representatives and those wishing to be. Lynda Carter as Pride Marshall and alias “Wonder Woman”. Definitely not New York nor New Jersey.
And then the surprisingly large group of singing and chanting, gay youth, that throws your perceptions into the twenty-first century and reminds you why it’s important to be visible. This is not the generation surviving in denial in a distant, depressingly masculine world where women held bank accounts only at their husbands sanction, same-sex liaison were furtive and guilt ridden, where homosexuals were documented, disdained and in danger. A small pride and excitement creeps up through you and reminds you that every small progress is one less youth contemplating suicide and every exposure is worth it. And this is tomorrow’s world. A community that should not be judged by its ‘vulgar fraction‘, its lowest common denominator.