Stop being afraid, stop being apathetic, you NEED to go to a Pride party (that goes double for the straights). This is the start of Pride season, which is the LGBT annual family reunion, bar-b-que, concert and fashion show in one. This means it is the time of year when gays and lesbians reflect on where we are as a community and when Conservative and Evangelical Christians pray for the floats to catch fire. It is also when 90% of straights receive their annual impression of what “gay culture” must be about: drag queens, dykes holding dildos and assless chaps.
There are two truths about the LGBT community: we regularly squabble and backstab each other and that we will overcome our differences. Being gay can sometimes seem as if you are stuck back in high school, where who talks to you is determined by who you are willing to be friends with. First, as the anthology Sister & Brother brings to light, while gays and lesbians have a lot to learn from each other, they tend to not mix. Within the groups of gays or lesbians there are subgroups, jealousy, spite, fear and distain. In one city I lived the monthly lesbian get-together had two tables, one for the “regular” lesbians, and one for the “feminist” lesbians. Lesbians, as the 14th annual protest at the Michigan womyns festival highlights, tend to discriminate against MTF transsexual and intersex lesbians. And now, with the new documentary, Boy I Am, we see the articulation of the growing fear/discrimination toward lesbians who become FTM transsexuals from other lesbians (since as a femme, and often viewed as “less empowered” by most of the lesbian community, my reaction to the worry from butches that they will lose dominance if some butches transition to male: boo-freaking-hoo). And if you want to know about exclusionary bitterness, talk to a bisexual, as bisexuals are viewed with distrust by both gays and lesbians. But you know what, families are like that. There will be bumps as we educate and learn from each other; learing to love and accept people, even if we don’t always agree with them.
The question is: will straight people join us? We have seen multiple decades where straight society tried to force, threaten and deprive LGBT people into, if not being straight, then at least pretending to be straight. And quite honestly, it hasn’t been heterosexuality’s finest hour. In 2004, on valentines day, gay marriages were bursting out all over, 4000+ just in California, it looked like things were changing. Within a few months, over a dozen states were changing their state constitutions to ensure that gays and lesbians would never have equal marriages as their straight counterparts. Some states like Virginia were enshrining official discrimination and since then, organizations and States, including the Federal Government have removed LGBT discrimination protections. When the president of the US says publicly that YOU and your partner’s desire to marry is a direct threat to the American people, it is hard not to take it personally.
This is nothing new. In 1958 Mildred Jeter married Peter Loving in the District of Columbia and returned to live in Virginia. They were arrested and in October sentenced to one year in jail each. The crime: A violation of Virginia code 20-59 - Mildred Jeter was black and Peter Loving was white. To remain married they accepted a 25 year exile from Virginia imposed by the court and sought, through legal means to have their marriage recognized. It took nine years later in 1967 and a trip the US supreme court before they were a legally married couple in all states under the decision “Marriage is one of the "basic civil rights of man"”
The truth is, we need straight people to stand up for all minorities, including LGBT people. LGBT people will always be a minority of the population, and thus, always be at the whim and potential bigotry of the majority. My partner and I are legally married in Canada. Canada, whose population apathy is often mistaken for tolerance, can, just as easily in some right wing future, pass a law and strip that away from us. There is no universal justice, or “fair play,” there really is only you.
Which is why I ask and urge all straights to come to Pride; to come and get to know us. Pride is about diversity and acceptance, so I am certain we can squeeze in a few more straights (as long as you aren’t clutching your bible and/or leaflets on SIN). Pick up your handy spotters guide, “From Leather Daddies to Bears, Diesel Dykes to Goddesses”, and take your kids to the face painting. There is plenty of eye candy for people of all orientation, plenty of free stuff (don’t forget to pick up your gaydar whistle) and lots of cool things to see and buy (love the lesbian-goth leather wear!). For a day or a week it’s a party and we try to remember that whatever our disagreements and internalized homophobia, we are in it together. Whether you like it or not, we are part of your community, so why not come and try to be a part of ours?
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