Thursday, June 26, 2003

"You going to pray?" a voice nearby said.
(Gosh, do I look that bad? I thought) "Huh?" I replied to the man unlocking his bike as I unlocked mine.
"Are you going to the parade?"
"Naw, working during the day Sunday, maybe catch the end of it, or at least the fireworks"

Gay Pride. Hmpff. This year, I'm working, so I'll miss the parade. Not the first time it's happened, (there's the year I got dumped on Gay Pride Sunday, but we're not gonna talk about that again) but it still bums me out. Not in the oh-my-god-what-will-I-do way, but still, it's something I've enjoyed to varying degrees for 20 years now. If I play my cards right, I might be able to run to the West Side just as the last few floats get to the West Village. And I'm already seeing the usual "been-there, done-that" "it's all just so commercial" "too many muscle queens" "why do they all have to act that way", etc., comments. Well, that's too bad. I don't deny that all of that is there, and probably not just here and the other major American cities, but perhaps smaller cites as well. But somehow, overall, it's such a great day to hang out, and see all the other queers (and "supporters"), and pardon the cliche', Celebrate Our Diversity. I laugh at it, but I mean it. Despite the commericialization, I always manage to notice those cute hand-made signs, the bad but joyful dancers, more and more obscure professions with offical Gay Clubs, and of course, the cliche'-bashing realization that most of us are tacky dressers. I love it all.

I've been reading lots of discussions of gay rights, gay community, the meaning of the sodomy statutes on our lives, and lots of disagreements about who "we" are and more so, who "we" ought to be. Gay Community - what the heck is that? Most gay men I know seem to take some cynical steps away from that - "I'm not like those magazines, that TV show, those AOL profiles" - I just happen to like sex with other men. And really, what more is there to being homosexual than the desire for same-sex sexual activity? Well, shared oppression I suppose is what we have in common, and that's probably about it. Otherwise, homosexuals, who can be of any nationality, culture, age, denomination, race, (etc - I'll spare you the litany of professions and lists of "we are everywhere" that was de rigeur in most 70's lesbian politcal books) really don't have much more in common. And this vast diversity of our "community", while perhaps its greatest potential strength, is most often its biggest obstacle. Think about it. We all grew up in a world, to varying degress, hostile to homosexuality - and most of us grew up in this environment long before we had any consciousness of actually being gay. Our affinities are probably more based on the class, race, religion we were raised in; and then sometime later in life, a vague distance from those groups, but a hesitancy about this new thing, sexual identity. Even when we do eventually (hopefully, in my opinion) "come out" it is often coupled with a lot of distancing from what is perceived to be the "homsexual lifestyle" - "why are they so pleasure-centric?" is one remark I hear a lot lately. Hmmm, I don't pretend to know a lot about psychology (oppressed individuals must seek outlets for their frustrations), or how to compare gay people in our culture with non-gay people (str8's by and large forego pleasure, while gays just can't keep it in their pants, or shop a lot in order to control their sexual feelings and/or frustrations?), but I guess I have to wonder, um, what is wrong with pleasure?

I don't think its enough to do my knee-jerk reaction (they have sooooo much internalized homophobia!), but since the only thing that distinguishes us from non-homosexuals is a particular variation of a form of pleasure (sex-discordant sex vs. same-sex sex), and the prohibitions and prejudices associated with this difference, how can the "gay-lifestyle" be anything other than pleasure-centric? In its broader sense, it really is about being left alone to makes one's choices about what makes me happy, right? Dick-sucking, whale-watching, file-sharing, cookie-eating, who cares? Our real problem lies in our problems as a culture (perhaps most 21st Century cultures? I don't pretend to know) with sex itself. That some people feel that sex should only be enjoyed in a certain way (to make babies, to make God happy, in a monogomous relationship, with love, on a rooftop, in front of my video camera, arranged by my parents) and not in others, denies all of us that chance to find out for ourselves - with all the mistakes, and pain and disapointments; but the joys, and little surprises, and quiet intimate moments and loud shouting releases that sex with another person can bring. The most intimate, scarey, wonderful thing one can do is share your mind and body with another person; and how someone does that ought to be left up to that individual. And if gay people choose to fool ourselves that it's not about sex, I don't know what sort of freedom we could actually achieve.

Yes, perhaps I'd like it if there were no such thing as pro-war gays, or Log Cabin gays, or racist gays; but I don't get to decide who's in this club - it's all about self-identity - and so I need to look elsewhere for support for the other things on my personal-political agenda. But I would like to see more unity around a basic principle of respect for other people's personal sexual decisions; and renewed advocacy for the freedom to pursue those sexual decisions without qualifications (skip the gay-marriage shoehorn for respectability, forget the "won't those barebackers behave, they're ruining it for the rest of us"); you have to want this freedom for everyone, without deciding who is, and who isn't, deserving. Otherwise it's not freedom, it's privilege.

So when I find myself in that horrible crowd of people on Greenwich St after the parade this coming Sunday evening, with Sausage Vendors and t-shirt vendors and Black Bronx Dyke Moms, and keychain give-aways, BikerBears, Gays-For-Patsy-Cline, and muscleboys bumping into me without noticing me - I will quietly remind myself that what I share with these people is probably no more than the desire to make my own decisions, to be free of interference in that regard, and to occasionally come together to celebrate our individual and collective efforts to that end. And I don't think that's such a bad thing.