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.