Our town is having its first Pride celebration. I’m delighted since I’ve always* lived in cities that celebrated Pride in some notable way: with political fervor in San Diego, debauchery in San Francisco, awe in Sao Paulo, Brazil, community in Tucson, enthusiasm and drag in DC and with families in Baltimore.
Here, planning has been a grassroots movement; recruitment and publicity took place nearly exclusively on Facebook and listservs. As I see how many businesses are involved and how many supporters surround the event, I feel comfort and welcome in a more overt way than usual. This is a good place and it’s undeniably a home.
There’s another side to this (always is, isn’t there?). As with any smaller community, there are bigger groups of allies. I feel obligated to cherish those individuals, since they are a critical part of improving my life; fighting with me for rights and serving as activists in their daily lives. And I love them. But I wish, sometimes, they had more awareness.
Witness: A woman, who I don’t know and I don’t know why that’s important, but it is, RSVP’d that she couldn’t come to pride but that she was excited to send her (male) fiancee. Exclamation points!
I tried to tone down my initial fuck you (which was strictly internal thankyouverymuch) by reminding myself that she had the best of intentions. Because she isn’t the only one who sees this as a block party. A carnival. A place to go and say, “Look, I went to gay pride! I am so open-minded!” We do need her. We need her to vote with us. But we need her also to not dangle her rights while speaking about our celebration. It’s easy. “I wish I could be there!” Or, “Can’t believe I have to miss this – so proud of our city!”
Where the problematic part lies (and that word is loaded, isn’t it?) is in her assertion that while she can’t come (which, given the 700 confirmed attendees, we didn’t need to know) but that she presents as straight (mention of her male SO) and that she’s engaged to be married (which is a privilege not available to the people who are throwing the party).
She didn’t mean it that way. But, it’s hard to see how your own privilege impacts other people. I don’t find it insulting as much as it is unaware and uninformed. I also know she’s not alone. Just as with all the other Pride celebrations I’ve attended, there will be allies and anti-allies (protesters? maybe not.) and it will all be family. Because that’s what we are right? We’re Family. And the guests at our party are also family. The aunt who means well but doesn’t get it, the brother-in-law who drinks too much and gets handsy, the cousin who harbors barely concealed prejudices and the sister who loves us, the brother who supports us and the extended relations who vote for us. That’s the bottom line isn’t it? It doesn’t really matter if you slip while aligning and supporting. It matters that you vote for us.
*I suppose the city I lived in while in Africa didn’t have a Pride celebration but I choose to forget much of those two years and so I don’t chalk it up to a loss.