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    Ann Rostow: Pride and Prejudice

    By Ann Rostow

    Pride and Prejudice

    The spirit of Pride is under debate. In Texas, where the legislature has passed a bill that allows adoption agencies to impose religious tests on prospective parents, the Houston organizers got some blowback after announcing that this year’s Pride theme will be “Wonderland!” Writing in the Houston Chronicle, local activist Andrew Edmonson reminded his community that Pride parades began as protest marches, noting that Texans have every reason to protest this year and that glitzy party themes clash with the current environment. (Texans will still have to beat back a bathroom bill, which is one of the items on the agenda for a special session next month. I don’t think it will pass.)

    In Los Angeles, organizers dropped the floats and turned the annual parade into a Resist March on June 11, a date that was observed by Pride groups in many other places around the country in a national show of GLBT anti-Trump solidarity.

    While no one can take the fun out of Pride after all of these years, it looks as if Pride festivities have a new edge in 2017. We may have taken our post-marriage victory laps a little too early. When you take ten steps forward, it’s disconcerting to take two steps back, and it’s appropriate for our annual demonstrations to reflect this unfortunate reality.

    But there’s also another phenomenon in play. The veterans of the old Pride parades are a small and shrinking contingent. For most people, Pride weekend is synonymous with party rather than protest. For many others, it has never been dangerous or scary to attend. These annual events have increasingly become less political and more generic. In last Sunday’s New York Times, one writer bemoaned the blandness that has increasingly diluted the queer flavor of her first Pride back in 2003.

    “Who is Pride really for these days?” asked the author. “Queers who are proud to be queers, of course. But it’s yet another place that straight white people now feel 100 percent welcome, even though they feel perfectly at home in any public space. Having allies is wonderful, but sometimes I wish they could be allies every other day of the year, and let us have a party as gay and naked and radical and un-family-friendly as we queers might like.”

    I can’t help but remember one of my first Pride Parades in the early 1980s in New York, accompanied by my straight white male best friend at a time when I still worried that my parents might see me on TV at this event. Yes, it was exciting. But there were also people screaming on the sidewalk and holding nasty signs and jeering. I appreciated Gerry’s support and I’m not sure I would have gone alone. It wasn’t a hundred percent fun.

    “We see you, Miller Lite, with your oddly wholesome, rainbow-spattered ads,” continued the Times essay. “Where were you before it was in your best financial interest to be accepting of queers?”

    Um, both Miller and Budweiser supported the GLBT community and Pride throughout the 1990s at a time when it wasn’t that cool. I know, because I remember the ad space they both bought in the San Francisco Bay Times and other gay papers, as well as the flack they took from the right wing for sponsoring our community. Was it profitable for them? Perhaps. But don’t call Miller Lite late to the party.

    As a matter of fact, let me raise a rainbow flag to all the Fortune 500 companies who have worked on our behalf, most recently by boycotting North Carolina, but also by lobbying state legislatures against anti-gay bills and by expanding their employment policies to protect gay and trans workers. We have a great deal of corporate support, and some of the biggest companies made the strategic decision to back our civil rights—not just out of self-interest, but based on their own institutional philosophy.

    I suppose my point is that things aren’t so simple. No, we’re not a despised minority anymore, but yes, we still need allies of all sorts. No, we can’t party like there’s no tomorrow, but yes, we’ve succeeded beyond our expectations. We have to keep fighting, but our battle lines are no longer on the margins of society.

    The glue that holds our community has always been the shared experience of discrimination. This glue dissolves the more progress we make, and there is less and less of it to connect a young gay teen in Mississippi to a middle-aged lesbian in Maine to a rich man about town in Manhattan to a queer activist in San Francisco. But for one weekend a year, we are still reminded that we’re in this together. That’s a reason to party in my book.

    That said, my book has a party scheduled for most days. Hey, I just realized it’s Thursday!

    La La La La La La La

    Do you know why I just spent nearly half my column meandering on about Pride? It’s because I’m in a news-avoidance mood, a period when I just want to stick my fingers in my ears and sing nonsense syllables. Headlines swirl along my peripheral vision, but I turn my head the other way. I see that Trump’s judicial nominations are the worst in years, threatening civil rights for decades. Moderate drinking leads to brain damage. (Luckily, I’m a heavy drinker.) Dozens die in fires. Sailors drown in their berths. People are shot at baseball practice. Others are killed by a crazy former colleague. The Senate’s screwing with health care. I squeeze my eyes shut.

    There seems to be nothing good happening out there. Usually, there’s a bit of a mix. Drinking is bad, but five cups of coffee adds ten years to your life! Trump endangers the post-war world order, but three kittens were rescued from a sewage pipe! Lately I’m not seeing that balance. Caffeine causes strokes and the kittens are dying.

    Normally this isn’t a problem, but I’m supposed to immerse myself in GLBT news, and that forces me to open my eyes. And the gay news isn’t that great either. Trump’s education department has dumbed down Obama’s gay and trans friendly policies and is scaling back the case load at its Office of Civil Rights. The Commerce Department “accidentally” dropped sexual orientation and gender identity from its annual “Statement on Equal Employment Opportunity,” although it put these categories back in the language after an outcry. Six out of 21 members have resigned from the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS citing the administration’s complete indifference to their mission.

    Let’s just say that I’m overdue for Pride. And I’m talking about the dancing and drinking part, not the high-minded activism.

    Make Mine a Gin Belt, Straight Up

    By the way, apropos of nothing, what’s with the unshaven look that has persisted for several years now? It was kind of sexy in a rugged way for a little while, but now this manly presentation has become outdated. And since it’s no longer chic, it just looks like a mess. I’ve even seen some guys keep bristles all over the front of their necks, which is truly disgusting. Clean it up, fellas. (For the record, this tangent was provoked by a car ad starring the insufferably pompous Matthew McConaughey.)

    And speaking of car commercials, I’m annoyed by the Buick ad where the husband tricks his wife into thinking the dog escaped in order to have an excuse to drive the car aimlessly around the neighborhood. Why can’t the guy just tell his wife he feels like driving the car around? He loves the car. He’s going for a drive. Period. Only a madwoman would object to this, and yet some creative director thought the husband’s gratuitous subterfuge was not just logical, but charming.

    Here’s a news flash. The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Russia’s four-year-old ban on gay rights speech, aka “propaganda,” violates the guarantee of freedom of expression under the European Convention on Civil Rights, and discriminates against gays and lesbians. Although Russia is a signatory to the convention, it’s not clear that Putin will actually shell out damages of roughly $48,000 to three men who sued after they were arrested and fined during a protest.

    And speaking of harsh regimes that muzzle citizens and the press, a lesbian consultant has been appointed Prime Minister of Serbia by President Aleksandar Vucic, although the press reports that she might have a battle for confirmation. I’m not sure how these things work in Serbia, but I do know (vaguely) that the country has yet to meet the requirements for EU membership, in part, due to media repression. As for Serbia’s gay rights record, it’s not good.

    In another positive development, California and Oregon have added a third sex category for driver licenses, “non-binary” in California and “not specified” in the Beaver State. I’m all for this expansion, although I still oppose adding letters to our classic “GLBT” community abbreviation.

    I was just rethinking my stance on this. Perhaps we can craft an actual acronym were we to come up with a few vowels. I like GOBLET, for example. Okay, I just wasted ten minutes on mental acrobatics, so let’s return to this challenge another day. (If we added Intersex and Nonbinary, we could begin the acronym with GIN and extend it into the name of a new community cocktail.)

    Brown v Bored

    Here’s a nice one. The National Organization for Marriage held its annual rally for traditional marriage in front of the Supreme Court the other day, and managed to drum up a group of maybe 50 people, tops. This appears to mark a new low for Brian Brown’s crowd numbers, although Brown said logistical snags played a part in the sorry turnout.

    “We are on the side of truth,” Brown told the small assembly. “We are on the side of true human rights, we are on the side of true civil rights. And in every fight for civil rights, it took a creative minority who were willing to stand up and speak truth to power, no matter what the cost. And you know what? There may not be thousands of us here today. It doesn’t matter. There were only a few that stood with William Wilberforce when he stood up and said ‘no’ to the slave trade in England. He was mocked, he was derided, he was laughed at. We remember him as a hero now, because ultimately his life’s work was successful, but it wasn’t successful in his own lifetime.”

    Now that takes a little chutzpah, don’t you think? Comparing opponents of marriage equality to abolitionists?

    And speaking of opponents of marriage equality, it’s a little jarring to see our old foe Jay Sekulow representing President Trump in the Russiagate/obstruction inquiry. Sekulow has long been one of the top lawyers for antigay civil court actors, whether it be a fight for marriage equality or a case against a Ten Commandments plaque. It’s as if Evan Wolfson or Mary Bonauto joined Robert Mueller’s special counsel’s team. I enjoyed watching him bark at the various Sunday talk show hosts in such a nasty manner the other day. We’ve always known he’s an unpleasant character. Now everyone else can see it, too.

    Vamos a la Playa

    Finally, gay conservative Chadwick Moore told Tucker Carlson that New York gun control activists hijacked a memorial gathering at the Stonewall Inn that was meant to pay respects to the victims of the Pulse shooting one year ago in Orlando.

    “Most gay people aren’t political,” Moore told the Fox host. “Most gay people, you know, they care about pop music and going to the beach. They probably don’t know what the Second Amendment is. And so they show up to be together, to celebrate the community, to mourn together, and instead they are fed this anti-gun nonsense.”

    Subsequently, in the midst of the hoopla that greeted his generalization, Moore tweeted: “It’s a family show, so I couldn’t say “dick and meth.”’ Hmmm. I think the aforementioned “glue” of shared discrimination that holds our community together no longer adheres to Mr. Moore. However, he can console himself with our shared community-wide appreciation for going to the beach.

    arostow@aol.com