Friday, June 22, 2012


A fellow writer & blogger, friend and all around great guy recently queried in his blog whether he had lost his pride at being gay because he hadn't realized it was gay pride weekend in his town. He shared some intimate parts of his life; he gets up, goes to work, comes home, eats dinner, watches TV with his partner of twelve years, goes to bed, gets up, goes to work.....the only difference between his life and that of his heterosexual neighbors, he points out, is his relationship with another man. Being gay is simply one facet of his multifaceted life. And he is proud of all his facets, not just his gay ones, and he is proud of who he is all year, not just that one weekend. A commenter made the same point regarding Black History Month; she's not proud of being Black only in February, she's proud of who she is all the time.
 (For his actual blog post, click on this link:)

As I look at my multifaceted life, I am proud of my facets, including my gay ones, whatever they are.  I am a teacher, a writer, an amateur photographer, I get up, go to work, come home, eat dinner, watch DVDs with my dog of ten years, go to bed, get up.....yet, nowhere in my life does any of that say 'gay'. Maybe the fact I am divorced from another man does. But, that is only one little facet, and it's becoming more of a fact than a facet as time goes by.

When I went to my first Pride Celebrations beginning around 1984, there were many organizations sponsoring booths for the community's needs: social clubs; counseling, legal and health services; and LGBT-owned and friendly businesses. (And the requisite sex/porn booths- Hug a Porn Star for a $1.00, a Kiss for $5!). And the media focused on the drag queens, the underwear-clad go-go boys and the leather crowd. The later '80s and '90s saw many of the same type of  booths but with a rise in those related to HIV/AIDS client-related services. The last couple of festivals I did attend seemed to be about the same, but I did notice a few more business-related booths not necessarily specific to the LGBT community, seemingly out just to make a buck off us.  The media still seemed to focus on the drag queens, the underwear-clad go-go boys and the leather crowd. And I look at Pride Celebrations and wonder is this what are we proud of?

(I confess to dressing in drag only three times, I have never danced in public in my underwear, and I do have some leather- other than just boots, shoes and belts.)

When I go to Pride Celebrations, I carry with me a history of my people. It is a very sad and tragic history but filled with moments here and there that began to turn our history around. There is the story of Alan Turing, the brilliant mathematician credited for breaking Nazi war codes and bringing WWII to an earlier end. He is also credited with mathematical formulas that later gave rise to the computer itself. Prosecuted for homosexual activity, he was offered the choice of prison or chemical castration. He chose the latter, and it is believed the chemicals drove him insane to the point he ultimately took his life in 1954. While saddened the world lost out on what more he may have contributed, I am proud we have come a long way since then.

Protesters a few days after the Raid on The Black Cat, 1967
I also carry with me the courage of my brothers and sisters who have stood up to oppression and intimidation, and I celebrate the Stonewall riots of June 27-29, 1969 as well as the lesser known Black Cat Tavern riots of 1967 in the Silverlake District of Los Angeles. It was from The Black Cat Tavern riots and subsequent civil demonstration that the Advocate magazine first began publishing. The Black Cat riots and subsequent raid in August 1968 on another gay bar, The Patch, in Wilmington, California were the inspiration for the Rev. Troy Perry to found the Metropolitan Community Church in 1968, the first organized church (to my knowledge) to actively reach out to the LGBT community. The Black Cat building still stands, is no longer a gay bar but still bears the Black Cat logo and has been designated a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument. The Stonewall Riots of 1969 were commemorated the year following with parades in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York, and in turn those parades gave rise to the parades of today. I'm proud of where we are now.

The Black Cat Tavern, known as Le Bar in this photo. The Cat is on the sign in the far right.

I'm proud of the contributions of many LGBT individuals over history; Michelangelo, George Washington Carver, Josephine Baker, Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, Bayard Rustin, and Harvey Milk among many, many others. I'm proud of our past. For without  the past, there is no present; and without the present there can be no future.

Yes, I am proud of the Pride Celebrations.

I am proud that we can gather to gaily celebrate together with the drag queens, the underwear-clad go-go boys, and the leather crowd, if only once a year.

But, I am proud of myself, my whole self, all year.

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