This week I have felt a vague sense of guilt that I planned my weekend such that I won't attend the San Francisco Pride parade today. As I have alluded to before, despite the serious critiques one could have of it, the event performs a vital function, and part of that means that heterosexual fellas like me need to represent. Part of the point of Pride, of taking the form of a parade, is having the community as a whole participate and show the simple but profound support of just showing up. That sentiment has a certain lefty-intellectual flavor, but I am a lefty intellectual, so there you have it.
Part of my Pride Failure this year was that last night, rather than toasting to the liberation of my GLBTQ brothers and sisters and less-tidily-gendered-siblings, I raised glasses of champagne in the company of friends with coïncident birthdays, Happily Birthdaying ourselves. A friend and I decided to walk back from that party to catch a late BART train.
The streets were alive with Pride revelers, most of them displaying one variety or another of Fabulousness. Inspired by this, my friend and I talked a bit about the magick of dressing and grooming as a gift to both the world and one's self. Then my friend — who has spent years running continuation schools, the place where kids go when they get expelled from high school — noticed a note in all the Fabulousness which I had only half-recognized until she named it. We had drag queens and drag kings and drag indefinably-regals, whole sleuths of bears and otters, graceful butch-femme lesbian couples, the campy and the elegant, the loud and the quiet, on and on in gorgeous variation. And as we walked down Market Street, our company became more and more composed of people bound for the BART station as we were, on their way home from the heart of the Castro or festivities elsewhere in the City. The note that my friend spotted as we proceeded was a whole other kind of fabulous: Ghetto Fabulous.
This crowd was young and drunk and happy and un-bourgeios, many but not all people of color, many but not all evidently heterosexual (though it was pleasantly hard to say for sure). I am way too White and bourgeois to describe Ghetto Fabulousness without sounding hopelessly square and risking lodging my foot firmly in my mouth, but I am able to recognize it ... and my friend, who encounters it every day in her work, has become a connoisseur of its charms and so of course recognized it before I did.
So these were not middle-aged lefty intellectual straights with windy explanations of why allies need to support a shared community space. These were cheerful bonehead straights who came to party.
I knew that we lived in a time when Christians came to Pride to apologize for the failure of Christ Love from some of their brothers and sisters in Christ. And I knew that we're cooking up some young people who lack the homophobic anxiety that was an unspoken part of the world of my youth. But I hadn't yet absorbed this, that the forgetting of that anxiety was already complete enough that — at least here in the Bay Area — we had a whole generation of straight kids so unaware of that anxiety as a possibility, without needing the huge doses of intellectualized queer theory that brought me to that place, that they would take the train to San Francisco for Pride mostly because it's a good party.
My friend whispered to me, “Look. Victory.”
I don't want to ignore the countless horrific ways in which of course the liberation which Pride symbolizes has not happened. The forces of sex and gender normativity remain powerful and their knives still cut deep. But the future is here, and queer, and we are getting used to it. The forces arrayed against that have already lost, even if they haven't stopped fighting. In my lifetime, I can expect to see Pride become as banal as St. Patrick's Day.
I am blessed to live in such times.