July 05, 2006
INSIDE THE PRIDE
Another June has come and gone and another Gay Pride Week in New York City has gone with it. It's a big event — really big. I'm happy to say it gets a bit bigger every year. It's especially relevant in a time when The Religious Right, and their puppet George W. Bush, want to write us out of the U.S. Constitution. And it's important for all of us, gay and straight alike, to take a good look at the power of our numbers.
Our detractors, for lack of a better word, try their best to isolate us. It's a re-tread of the old "divide and conquer" routine oppressors have used against minorities forever. It makes their mission of degrading our basic human rights easier if we can be viewed as misfits, or outsiders, trying to sneak our way into the society at large. The sheer volume of the participants in this mega rally makes it clear to everyone that we are everywhere.
Furthermore, we're here to stay. This is our time to stand up and be counted. We may come and go from favor in pop culture, but there's no doubt that we are a major civil rights force in America. By the way, the vast majority of straight people adore us, contrary to what the rednecks in the Red States say.
Okay, enough preachy stuff. The Gay Community knows all too well the seriousness of our predicament, as do our friends and relatives. I think it's always important to look back for a moment to the first Gay Pride Demonstration in 1969. It's also known as The March on Stonewall because 37 years ago, NYC cops raided the famous gay bar of the same name on Christopher Street. It was common practice back in those days: apparently it was a crime to be gay and congregate with others. So, if you think we have it tough now . . .
Anyway, the cops picked on the wrong queens on the wrong night in the wrong city and a veritable riot ensued. Other members & supporters of the community joined in and voilŗ — the Gay Rights Movement was born. On our long and fabulous journey, we've encountered a major pothole in the form of the current administration, but we've come a long way, baby!
Now, the biggest event is the Pride March from Fifth Avenue and 52nd Street down to The West Village. Remember all those years when Cardinal O'Connor, in full regalia, would stand on the steps of St. Patrick's spewing fire 'n brimstone? He's probably shoveling coal in hell these days. I, personally, never even looked in his direction — I was too busy checking out the windows at Saks across the street. But I digress. It's the parade that gets all the national attention — it never fails.
The media air multiple images of the more "gregarious" in our ranks, while the tens of thousands of average folks go largely unnoticed. I guess it's human nature. I tend to photograph drag queens and leather daddys over suburbanites and Wall Streeters myself. It's the Diane Arbus in all of us. My point is this: the vast majority of gay people just want to live their vision of The American Dream.
It's great to see so many gay parents turning out in recent years. Do you know how many unwanted kids could find loving, secure homes with gay partners who wish to start a family? That would involve things like marriage and legal adoption. Both prime examples of the basic civil rights we are still denied in this country.
We aren't exempt when it comes to paying taxes — including a hefty school district portion to help fund education for other people's children. The military doesn't want to know about our existence but you'll notice they don't hesitate at put gays in the front lines in Iraq. The most predominant symbol seen in Pride Week is the rainbow flag. Designed in 1978 by Gilbert Baker it represents what we stand for: openness to all and strength in our diversity. What a shame America no longer shares those ideals.