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Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Parade Passes By

I re-post variations of the following bit of grousing more or less every year on Pride Weekend. Last year it was published in the afterglow of the Supreme Court decision to mandate marriage equality in all fifty states and in the aftermath of the massacre in Charleston. And this year the devastating mass shooting in Orlando is casting its shadow over the festivities, systematic white-supremacist police brutality and terrorist violence stratifying once again any easy legibility of meaningful pride celebration for lgbtq folks of color and all queer allies and fellow-citizens in our vital cities, our fraught refuges, our diverse havens...

As regular readers of Amor Mundi know, my partner and I have been together for over fourteen years now. But we aren't gay married because we disapprove of marriage as a vestige of human trafficking and as an irrational acquiescence to damaging Hallmark card fantasies of romantic completion. And yet we both fought for marriage equality and are cheered by its successes because our exclusion from the institution damages the lives of queer folks who feel differently than we do and because that exclusion long remained an injustice enabled other worse exclusions and injustices, and also simply because it seems more forceful politically to oppose norms from which you are not already excluded and the refusal of which costs you something.

Appalled by the deathly demoralizing anti-democratizing energies of corporate-militarism as I am, I grasped nonetheless the indispensability of ending Bill Clinton's gargoyle "Don't Ask Don't Tell" and the ban of queer folks from serving openly in the military for reasons similar to those that make marriage equality victories good -- but, again, I cannot say the jingoist cadences inevitably framing the victory felt particularly enlivening to me personally here in the belly of the beast of the imperialist abroad police-state enabling at home endless War on Terror. Ending employment discrimination against queer folks seems to me a more substantial goal that will help many truly precarious people in this country while imposing a constraint on many truly pernicious people in this country -- and hence I cannot say that I am surprised to find it the assimilationist goal that still most stubbornly resists accomplishment, year after year after year. I don't like kids enough to wallow in gay adoption victories, and while I am all for Families We Choose, I wonder why the Chosen Families we celebrate must always be so drearily conventional.

But even if, as I say, I fully recognize the indispensability of demanding the availability of legibility on conventional institutional terms, lest illegibility marginalize so many of us in ways that literally ruin and end lives, I personally believe that a life more fully lived demands selves made of both prose and poetry, freedom requires both answerability before the eyes of power as well as the questionableness out of which different worlds are made (I recommend you read Fanon if that doesn't make sense to you).

Yes, all told, I am one of those grumps you hear about who think that celebrating Pride as assimilation to the institutional norms of reprosexual corporate-militarism is nothing to be Proud of. While Pride originated in the righteous impulse to defy the hurtful shame imposed on wanted queer lifeways by mean, fearful, ignorant majorities, I think there is plenty to be ashamed of in the complacency, conformism, and consumerism our new Prideful majority celebrates.

Especially now that I'm past fifty I find that I more or less want Pride to get off my lawn. It is like a crowd of vacant consumers and squalling kids hard to distinguish from a food court in a Tornado Alley suburban mall even with the interchangeable shirtless guys and sequins shorn of their magic by too much sunlight. I do know that there are plenty of older folks who draw a real measure of strength and support from Pride, and yet I do think Pride is something youthful at heart, and in a way that registers both the fabulousness and foibles that can characterize youth in dumb overgeneralized stereotypical ways I won't make many friends getting into in any depth. But the hazy ambivalent fondness I still feel for Pride, while feeling at once quite contented that Pride is no longer the thing for me, is something like the hazy ambivalent fondness I feel for my own time of youthful adventuring.

I marched with my friends in Queer Nation in the Pride Parade in Atlanta half a dozen times at least, in the early nineties, and that really felt like something. Perhaps it was because we didn't seem quite as respectable as the Pride tag insisted we should be aspiring to be, for one thing. I marched in San Francisco's Parade just once, the summer after I moved here, in 1996, and it already felt terribly belated and pro forma. I wasn't really part of any movement anymore, and that left me feeling like I was at a County Fair cruising a loud crowd for dick and funnel cakes. That's, gosh, twenty years ago now! Now I see on my tee vee that queers march behind banners designating the tech companies they work for. I must say I felt quite a lot of sympathy for the Occupride moment in 2012 -- but I heard about it on the news after the fact. There was some political alchemical spark there, some joyful noisy resistance, some futural opening onto elsewhere that felt truly queer. To connect with that kind of queer futurity, I might even drag my tired old unrepentant queer ass onto the street again one day...


Anonymous said...

Interesting that you did not openly mention or take a stand against the Muslim Jihadist that murdered and injured all the LBGT brother and sisters in Orlando. Is it because you don't say a peep about Islam for fear of reprisal? If so, I can understand given that my partner and I live in a community surrounded by Muslims that appear questionable at times. Some are good friends while some scare the hell out of us. I gather from reading your blog on and off that you are a more peaceful personality that believes that any violence of any kind is unconscionable. As for my partner and I, we both know how to shoot.
We make no apology if we defend ourselves if attacked. This is the world and reality we all live in. I wish it was otherwise.
And yes, we are Lesbo Demos.
-- Katie L.

Dale Carrico said...

I kinda sorta just expect people to assume I'm against mass murder. As a rule the only people who make me fear "reprisals" are the sort who brag about having guns they like to shoot. I don't know many people like that, which I am sure is my loss. I am very glad to hear that some of your best friends are Muslims or however you put it especially given all the many scary ones who surround you. I didn't ask you to apologize but thanks for clearing up that you don't intend to. And, you know, Happy Pride.

Anonymous said...

I would have absolutely no problem with the gay crowd, if it wasn't for the goddamned gay parades. And as someone classically educated, I can't possibly see how you could defend the depravity on display on any given gay parade. If you must do them, then don't act so surprised when people despise it.

Anonymous said...

Ps: basically good for you for finally having second thoughts, you are just too milk or kind - I don't think most gay dudes or dodge totes realize the level of disgust gay parades election from the "breeder" crowd. Or, maybe they do??!?

Dale Carrico said...

Not sure what you find so depraved about Pride Parades -- in my dotage I find them tiring but don't begrudge the joy of those who enjoy, and as I said the corporate sponsorship grosses me out, tho' no more than its suffusion in pretty much all public spaces and events nowadays. Given the subject matter of quite a lot of the Greek and Roman texts central to a "classical education" on most construals of that phrase I am a bit surprised you would find a Pride Parade particularly extraordinary frankly. I blush to think how you feel reading Petronius.

Dale Carrico said...

the level of disgust gay parades election from the "breeder" crowd

I daresay, from the closet cases at any rate.

Anonymous said...

The rare Onion article that is actually an astute observation about reality:

"Gay-Pride Parade Sets Mainstream Acceptance Of Gays Back 50 Years"

"I'd always thought gays were regular people, just like you and me, and that the stereotype of homosexuals as hedonistic, sex-crazed deviants was just a destructive myth," said mother of four Hannah Jarrett, 41, mortified at the sight of 17 tanned and oiled boys cavorting in jock straps to a throbbing techno beat on a float shaped like an enormous phallus. "Boy, oh, boy, was I wrong."