Reflecting on Pride


By Josh Kilmer-Purcell

Last year was the first year I stumbled onto a pride parade. I was going to my monthly 'pancake party' for my 2-year-old goddaughter who lives across town. Since 2-year-olds seem to have a window of sanity that lasts from roughly 7 A.M. to 7:25 A.M., I try to inflict all my godliness onto her during those fleeting moments.

No, it wasn't the first pride parade I've ever seen. It was the first one I stumbled upon. As in I forgot to tell the cabbie to avoid crossing the park, and we wound up stalled in the flotilla of floats arriving at the parade's starting point. I had no idea it was pride weekend. None at all.

True, I hadn't attended a pride event in at least five years. But somehow I always knew when pride was occurring. Which made me sort of wonder if I was somehow less proud. Less gay, even. For God's sake'I was making pancakes for my goddaughter at the hour I used to be staggering home in pancake makeup.

At my first pride, I was a Log Cabin Republican's worst nightmare. I was the 30 seconds of 'perverted' footage on the local news that preempted the other 12 hours of PFLAG grandmothers, lesbian parents, Episcopal priests, and other wholesome examples of gaiety. I marched down the center of Peachtree Street in Atlanta in seven-inch heels and little else. My more sober friends called me 'the mess in a dress.'

Did I 'hurt the cause'? Was I 'nonrepresentative'? Hell, no. I represented all the freedom you could handle. And there's not a single gay person out there who can say they came out for any other reason than personal freedom. But as Donald Rumsfeld once said (yep, I'm quoting Donald Rumsfeld), 'freedom's untidy.' And the biggest responsibility that comes with freedom is allowing all others to have it too. Even the ones in spandex rainbow hot pants.

If I accomplished nothing else with my bewigged jigs, I'd like to think there was at least one shy young sissy boy watching the evening news with his parents who thought, Wow. I can come out now. I sure as hell can put together a classier outfit than that.

Back then pride parades were my civic duty. I was illustrating to other gays the lengths of freedom one could go to without being arrested. The parades are not, as some assimilationists would prefer, meant to set a shining example for straights. Good God. Why would I want to be 'accepted as their equal'? I spent the first 20 closeted years of my life undercover in their midst as their equal. I was the sheep who chose to paint himself black.

I don't know who inspires assimilationists. Who are they proud of? It doesn't take any sort of personal strength for a man not to walk down the street in a dress. I can't think of a single homo role model who didn't have to get a little messy sometimes. If your philosophy centers around disappearing into a crowd, it's hard to make much of a dent in the world. So each time I hear GL people (the B's and T's never seem to be so uptight) gripe about the Dykes on Bikes and assless chaps, I encourage them to start their own assimilationist parades, with khakis and Toyota Corollas as far as the eye can see.

But what happened to me? When did I become more Mrs. Butterworth than mincing gutter filth? Like a good athlete, I'm going to have to say that I bowed out when I reached my personal best in that particular contest. I'd inspired my quota of closeted freaks to come out; it was time to pass the falsies.

So even though I don't fit into any of my old costumes, I resolve to spend this year's pride weekend getting noticed in another way. I'll do missionary work. Pride weekend 2007 will find B. and me in a quiet town in rural upstate New York where we recently bought a small farm. And I promise you that we'll walk down the street in the nearby village holding hands. It'll be a short parade'the village is only a block long'but perhaps I'll tear a little hole in my back pocket to let some ass shine through.

The local newscast is dreadfully boring.