If you’ve gone into a big city in the last week or so, you may have noticed a lot of color out there, and a lot of men wearing a lot less than they might normally be wearing. You may have noticed a parade or two, and I’m almost sure you’ll have seen a rainbow flag or two. That would be because it’s June, which has become gay pride month.
I love gay pride, largely because I’m gay. I enjoy the over-the-top kookiness and glitz of the events, and I love living in a big city where it gets celebrated in high style. For the last few years, I’ve been unable to attend the big parade, as it falls on the same weekend as a Renaissance Faire I perform at. I contend that what I’m doing is just as gay as being at the parade, but it’s still sad not to be there, celebrating gayness with a big crowd.
In celebration of this most fabulous time of year, I’ll share some of my experiences and stories and give you my thoughts on where gay pride is going.
Something my Mom once asked me is why the celebration is called Gay Pride. It’s a question I’ve pondered over the years, and I think I have some answers.
It could be argued that being gay is not something one needs to be proud of. Well…I know a lot of fundamentalist religious folks who would argue that vehemently, but I’m not talking about them. I used to think to myself, being gay isn’t something I chose. Why am I proud of it? It isn’t like I worked at being gay and achieved something by becoming it. I think there are two reasons that the name works.
First, when we say Pride, we’re not talking about Pride as in the opposite of Humility. We’re talking about Pride as in the opposite of Shame. Despite what the Westboro Baptist Church would have us all believe, I don’t think being gay is something I should be ashamed of. I think of myself as, actually, a fairly spiritual person…I don’t say religious, because I feel that religion deals with the organized side of spirituality, and I haven’t found one that completely encompasses the way I feel. As a spiritual person, I don’t believe that a loving God would condemn something that was hardwired into 10% or so of the population. I’ve spoken before about the fallacy of Biblical translations and how certain words condemning homosexuality have been added by translators over time. So no, I don’t feel Shame over being gay. Therefore, it’s Pride.
The second reason the word pride works well: there are people who’re proud of all kinds of things that they had no control over, and it’s not untoward for them to celebrate that pride, so why not us? What is St. Patrick’s Day but a time to be proud to be Irish? I’m partly Irish. Did I have anything to do with being Irish? Nope. I was just born part Irish. So if it’s okay for me to be proud to be Irish, why would it not be okay for me to be proud to be gay?
So there you go. I’m Proud to be Gay.
I have great memories of going to various Gay Pride Parades. I remember the first time; it was mind-blowing. Because of my religious upbringing, I wanted so badly not to be gay. I had spent my adolescent and even college years feeling like I was the only one with this deep dark secret…or one of just a small group. Then I went to Pride.
Boston’s Gay Pride Parade draws a massive crowd. It snakes through the Back Bay area, ultimately ending on Boston Common, which hosts food, vendors, live music, picnics, games, and more. I loved that first year, and I wanted more.
I’ve marched in a couple of Pride Parades, usually adopted by my friend Chris’s MIT group. I didn’t go to MIT, but they never seemed to mind.
The most moving memory I have of Pride was probably the last time I was there. It was June, 2004. The previous November, the case of Goodridge v. Department of Public Health had been ruled in a way I never expected to happen during my lifetime. It had been ruled that to deny same-sex couples the right to marry was unconstitutional, and it had given a deadline of May 17, 2004 for the state to change the law if they felt it was necessary. Despite this, no change was made, and in May, same-sex marriages began to happen.
In June, 2004, we took up a spot to watch the parade that was across the street from the Arlington Street Church, by the Public Gardens. Every few minutes, the church bells would peel out in song, announcing that another marriage had just taken place. The bells were almost non-stop. In the parade, an elderly couple, looking smart in tuxedos, holding champagne flutes, had a sign that said “Together for Fifty Years. Just Married this Morning.” They looked so happy. I started to cry; I’m tearing up right now remembering it, honestly.
The world seems to go back and forth. Connecticut, DC, New Hampshire, Vermont, and, of all places, Iowa have all legalized gay marriage. This week, New York is debating gay marriage, and it’s surprising and a little sad to hear all the same rhetoric come out again. One of the big stories on CNN is how David Tyree, former receiver for the New York Giants, has come out against gay marriage. In his statement, he talks about how legalizing gay marriage in New York would be the beginning of the country’s slide into anarchy and how same-sex parents are poorly equipped to raise children of the opposite sex because “you can’t teach something that you don’t have,” a delightful statement that should have every single parent of a child of the opposite sex ready to raise some Hell.
We’ve had news stories this past year about bullying of gay kids driving them to suicide, and the reaction to this leading to the “It Gets Better” campaign. We’ve also heard about Uganda debating an anti-gay bill that would have made it punishable by death to perform homosexual acts. That bill was defeated, happily, but similar laws are already in force in Iran, Mauritania, Saudi-Arabia, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen, and Nigeria. Those countries are off my bucket list, it seems.
I want to look forward and see a future where gay people aren’t just tolerated but actually accepted. I want to tell you that I see a world where all gay people everywhere have the right to marry the people they love, just like anyone else. It can be hard. It can be discouraging. I know I’m incredibly lucky to live where I do. Huge steps forward for gay rights have been made during my lifetime, and I have hope for the future.
And I have Pride.