Saturday, May 08, 2004

What Does It Mean to Have Pride?

Last Saturday, May 1, Charlotte, North Carolina held Charlotte Pride exceptionally early. Going on downtown simultaneously was "Taste of Charlotte" an outdoor food festival where numerous restaurants and chefs from Charloote shared their wares for partiers. I'm not sure if there was an intentional connection, although certainly Pride is a very particular taste. A salty and slightly bitter one if I'm to understand correctly.

Charlotte has not had a Pride event for many years; in fact, this was the fourth annual Pride. The Charlotte community is to be commended for starting one up and having it be so successful. A nice aspect of Charlotte Pride was the holding of free educational seminars. I'm not sure how many Pride events have those, but I think it's a wonderful idea.

What was interesting to me, however, was mostly the conservative nature of the attendees. I'm not being critical, just stating an observation. I showed up in khaki shorts and a white t-shirt with an embroidered pride ribbon. I thought I was being very conservative myself, but found that almost nobody else was wearing any pridewear other than volunteers. No "I'm not gay, but my boyfriend is" t-shirts, no dykes on bikes, and a surprisingly low number of people who don't know when to keep their shirt on. There were three leather men strutting about, but that was about it for outrageous. Normally I would ranting about how the media only focuses on the most outlandish people who attend Pride, but none really existed.

So, as Pride season typically does, I began thinking about if Pride was needed any more and if Pride has value or serves a purpose. We've come a long way, baby; we're days away from the first full blown, legally recognized gay marriages. Sodomy can no longer be used as a legal means to discriminate against us or lock us up. Many major companies offer domestic partner benefits. Even the universities I have worked at in the South have domestic partner benefits, although being state institutions, they're limited to what the university itself provides, rather than the state (ergo, no insurance or medical/dental plans, etc.). So, really other than knocking down DOMA laws once and for all, what's left to do? And although I'm not a fan (nor am I necessarily an opponent of) the more outlandishly or skimpily dressed Pride participants, if we're all just walking around Pride in every day casual dress with nothing at all to identify us as lesbigay and proud (like even dressing the same as your partner), then what's the point?

The point is that I still think that Pride is a wonderful place to experience the diversity of the gay community. For people just coming out, or still in the closet, it's a wonderful opportunity to realize that, hey, there are people who are gay and like you or, hey, there are people gay and very different from me. For the non-gay person, it shows them that actually it's hard to stereotype us. You can't, for the most part, tell the gay people from the straight people at Pride except for who is kissing who (and that's not necessarily telling either). We're all different shapes and sizes, of various dispositions and personalities, of various levels of hirsuiteness, of diifferent tastes in clothes, of different faiths, of different ethinicities and different ideas of fun. Gay people are as hard to characterize as straight people. We're, well, we're all the colors of the rainbow. In other words, we're like everybody else: different. And I'm proud of that.

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