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Monday, June 27, 2011

Proud Mary Keep on Turnin'!

What a weekend in NYC!!! Just when I thought all we were waiting for was a decision on whether or not the senate was even going to vote on the issue of Gay Marriage - midnight struck and they had not only voted - but voted in favor of it! Wha??!?! This should not come as a surprise to me as it most certainly should have happened before all of the other states but, well - almost nothing comes as a surprise to me these days. All I know for sure is that I really know nothing for sure. What was most delightful is that this influential decision came at the start of NYC's Pride Celebration Weekend! I was scheduled to work some events during this weekend's festivities and couldn't have been happier that I was going to get paid to go and celebrate on such an exciting weekend in history.

Now, I have been living in NYC for 9 years and out of those 9 years - I would say I might have missed 3 or 4 parade celebrations. I have a gaggle of close gay friends who I was giddy to go out and support for my first few years in the city. Then as I started to pay some closer attention to politics and the issue of gay marriage started to become an even bigger issue - I found myself really taking notice and getting involved. The parade for me as always been about the celebration of a movement that started on June 28, 1969 with the riots at Stonewall. It is many things to many people: a time to drool over all the hot bodies, a time to get naked and don as much glitter as possible, a chance to walk in shoes and outfits no sane person should be able to stand straight up in, and for many - the time to gawk at all of the above - either with pride, envy, or embarrassment. But through it all - at it's heart - are the couples you see proudly holding hands, many of whom have been together longer than most heterosexual marriages. Through it all it is about how difficult it shouldn't be for couples just like them all across the country to be proud of who they are and who they love. Through it all it is about the movement that began in 1969 when they just weren't going to take the abuse anymore and began to fight for their equal human rights.

Just a few short years ago after I had attended some rallies in support of gay marriage in Queens and the city, after I stood out in front of my local representative's office to show that he did not currently support the gay marriage bill and urging him to do so, after years of doing whatever I could to support this movement - me - a "straight" girl...had a startling realization. I was hanging out with some of my close friends - you know, the same ones I had gone out to support and love with every fiber of my being. We were sitting next to an older gay gentleman who brought up the subject of gay marriage - and Prop 8 - as it was all so HUGE in the news at that time. I was excited by this stranger connecting on this issue and wanting to discuss it with us. They seemed mostly irritated by this older gentleman that, perhaps, might be hitting on them. Worse-they seemed unimpressed or moved in any which way. It was as if they hadn't been aware it was even happening. My heart sunk. Why was this more important to me than it was to them?

Going to Pride with my friends always meant drinking in the bar at Stonewall until the parade was over-then hitting a few more gay bars-and most often hanging out until each of them hopefully found someone to go home with. How was this different than what we did when I'd visit gay bars with them on any other night? It wasn't. The fact that 6+ years of this along the idea that they were generally missing the actual significance of the day or those fighting for it = me opting to avoid the hot sweaty/shirtless crowds of the village in recent years.

This year wasn't supposed to be any different -but then I got scheduled to work in the parade. This sounded all the more fun when things went so well in Albany. So I donned my glitter and off I went!

While walking the route with 4 straight men - 3 of which who happened to be topless and hot - our lack of samples to pass out resulted in something strange. First off-I had a conversation with one of them that was eerily similar to one I had just the night before at a bar. These talks consisted of me claiming the importance of the day and them insisting that no one was going for those reasons but purely to see naked men and freaks-and to find someone to "freak" by the days end. These were straight men who insisted that they "have no problem with gay people and (insert weak proof here)."-but who continued to scoff at my notion that this day actually meant something serious to anyone. To say that these conversations bothered me is to say that I saw nary a nipple at the parade (lies...all lies!). By the time I had this talk with my coworker a few times IN the parade I decided it was futile and I would not waste more energy on it.

Unfortunately we ran out of samples to pass out, which sucked, but then something AWESOME happened. I walked half of the parade making as much eye contact as I could with everyone in the crowd as I wished them a Happy Pride - and blew kisses, slapped high-fives, gave a hug when arms opened up-screaming until I thought I lost my voice (something I usually don't allow to happen as a singer). Every so often we were getting verbally abused for not having free samples walking in the parade-but mostly-I connected with people receiving my wishes and my love. I saw the gratitude in their eyes and I knew they instantly felt how genuinely happy I was about it and I often forgot I was there to hand out chips. The best part was-I think many of them did too!

In a time when we are celebrating the victory of NYC finally making gay marriage legal-the fact remains that those marriages still aren't recognized in 40 other states. Living in NYC it is easy to imagine that everyone is open, accepting, and in support of human rights for all. But even right here in the city I continue to experience these politically correct stock responses which clearly do not reflect their truest feelings/assumptions. It's like when people used to say "I have no problem with black people-one of my good friends is black!". If this exists in Nyc-what is it like in the other 40 states?

As I went home. Drained and worried I lost my voice, I also couldn't stop worrying about whether the arguments of those two straight guys had more truth than I had imagined. How can anyone gain a different opinion of this community when many of them appear so blissfully unaware of their own movement/history? When a huge percentage of them are still fulfilling the idea of the "careless homosexual" that so often puts themselves and their very own community in danger.

Perhaps when you are so much a part of something it is hard to step out of yourself and see what is right. Like the feeling that "Well, I've already cheated on my diet-there's no saving me now-may as well eat more." Or, "I am so in debt I may as well max out this credit card because I can't imagine being able to fix it." This can be the only reason I can come up with as to why some folks prefer to remain uninformed and uninvolved while often perpetuating the old stereotypes.

I used to pay little attention to some of these matters and I imagine plenty are still doing the same. I don't always stay involved. I often get discouraged and ignore things for a minute. But I always find myself inspired to some type of action again. I can only hope that you do too. In a world that has this many uninformed people, why not pay better attention and continue being inspired to do something as we celebrate this step so that we will continue to have something to be Proud of?

4 comments :

Mark said...

You echoed a lot of thoughts I've had about the culture, the parade (I used to go w/some lesbian & gay friends, too), the younger generation who didn't know anyone who's died. Being a theater geek, I knew too many (I'm dating myself here) who died at 21, 24. I still have a friend who's somehow survived from 1990 infection.

But everyone today, w/the meds and such, continues the "party must go on" mentality while not addressing the real issues or even caring to take care of themselves or their fellow participants. I saw "Normal Heart" and it brought it all back to me so vividly and sadly. The people I knew one day and who were gone the next. I worked at a hospital as a supervisor and one of my floors was the AIDS floor. I'd see people come in, leave, come in worse, leave - they'd say they'd be the first to beat it - then come back and die. It's why I had to leave that job.

And the people like the ones in the article you cited had no idea because it's not popular to educate kids about HIV/AIDS (or birth control or condoms or any practical truth in life) and the abhorrent treatment it got for the first 8 years of it's existence. And they perpetuate the myth that it's somehow manageable illness when, in the end, if it doesn't kill you, drug effects or things the drugs can't handle, will. And Ronnie Reagan was a "hero," after all. Revisionist history keeps all that truth from being known or exposed. It's sad. I'm glad some of those kids are seeing/understanding part of their history. And at the same time, there will always be those in ALL cultures who will live the "lah-lah, lah-lah-lah, let's live for today" mentality and can't be bothered with anything real. Chosen ignorance, chosen "bliss." The people who watch reality TV and never the news... Etc.

JM said...

Thanks again Mark - for reading this - and for understanding where I am coming from. I am still a little scared some of "my gays" may read this and be hurt or offended - but it has been on my mind for a long time now and it is so great to know you understand my point. Thank you thank you!!!!!

JM said...

p.s. - I NEED to see The Normal Heart before it closes! It is eerie how it can still have such intense meaning - with an uneasy twist these days.

tangent said...

dear baby arms mama...

i hear what you are saying loud and clear and also know this to be true in the community.. i think NY State validating our relationships is a game changer.

i've heard friends say "i wonder if i'm the marrying type?" and i've witnessed couples breaking up as NY got closer and closer to making same-sex marriage legal because those couples all of sudden realized they wouldn't want to marry their current significant other.

not everyone wants to get married.. i mean what's a piece of paper anyways? for those that don't want to marry - good for you i agree.. for those people that have families, children, sick partners or other things where the legal world comes into play.. congratulations.. the state now recognizes you!!! (insert tearing up here)

so i came out around.. 1993ish maybe.. and since then.. i've picked girls up at the gay bar.. gay bar.. gggg.. gay bar.. (see link for reference - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tw7EJ_mTmdM)
where else was i supposed to go to hookup? since then i've heard various friends complain that the bars were the only place where you could find another gay (softball too hehe) .. i think this is where the culture was pushed.. we were pushed into the corner.. into the corner gay bars.. where we could dance and kiss and grind.. people hooked up.. maybe they stayed together for decades maybe they had kids.. but mostly from my experience.. it was kind of a party scene.. and i never imagined i would think of getting married or that my friends that had been together for decades would get married.. wha? marriage? same sex marriage?

my thoughts are a lot sporadic.. hard to even wrap my head around the right that has been given to me.. i think that the parade will morph into a higher level of gay culture, a reason to be proud and to remember all of the people that are not here to experience this event.. the friends and family that were beat to death or raped.. the gay couples that lost children, houses, everything after their partner left or passed away.. the huge number of people that couldn't visit their partners while suffereing from AIDS .. these people.. the ones that didn't have the freedom i have.. these people should be thought of and honored at each parade everywhere around the world..

the change has already started.. this year at the parade.. did anyone notice what the press covered? does anyone remember an image in a paper showing the most fantastic and outrageous drag queen or other fabulous extremes? i can't remember seeing any.. this year the papers covered the parade.. and they showed pictures of you and me and families..

we all breathe the same air.. i'm happy to see the NY State Senate agrees.. it's about time..