Jul 1, 2017
Gay Pride Has Changed
I was in the first ever to be held in the state of Iowa, in June 1981.
When I lived in California and New York, from 1985 to 2001, I marched almost every year, either with the Metropolitan Community Church or with the gay synagogue.
It was the biggest event of the year: we spent months deciding which group to march with, working on banners and floats, charting out the route, making plans to meet friends afterwards, at the festival.
It was fun to be walking down the streets we drove down every day, with a wall of spectators on all sides, more gay men and lesbians than we ever knew existed.
The hetero screamers, outraged by our existence, with their signs saying we were going to hell, were confined to a small area next to the Rage, where we could ignore them easily.
Then came the festival in West Hollywood Park: 20 or 30 booths from every gay organization you had ever heard of, and some you hadn't: Dignity (for gay Catholics), Frontrunners (for runners), Gay Fathers, the Gay Asian-Pacific Alliance. A few food carts, whatever vendors were brave and non-homophobic enough to come, selling ice cream, corn dogs, and Thai food on a stick.
A huge crowd of gay men and lesbians, some you would never see anywhere else. A chance to catch up with friends you'd lost track of.
Acres upon acres of shirtless musclemen. Nonstop cruising: it wasn't a successful pride festival unless you got at least three phone numbers.
Hetero screamers milled about with pamphlets about how we were going to hell, so the rule was: never accept anything someone tries to hand to you. Representatives of gay organizations will sit at their booths with brochures for you to pick up.
At work the next day, you could always tell who was gay: they were sunburned.
In Florida I didn't go, and in 2005 I moved to the Straight World, where Gay Pride was a small, understated affair. A barbecue in the park for about 20 people. A parade with about 20 banners but no floats that marched down one side of the street, the other still open to gawking traffic.
I haven't been to a big-city Gay Pride for 16 years.
Last weekend I went to Minneapolis for Twin Cities Pride. Due to a GPS problem, my wisdom tooth extraction, and oversleeping, my friend and I missed the Parade, but we went to the festival in Loring Park, near downtown.
1. It's not Gay Pride or LGBT Pride, it's just Pride. It's rather annoying to be erased from your own festival.
2. Instead of 20 or 30 booths, there were over 200. Most were not gay-specific. Banks, credit unions, colleges (not college LGBT groups, just "why you should come here"), sheets and towels, a service that would clean your rain gutter.
Instead of two or three food trucks, there were about fifty. No longer do the organizers have to scrounge around to find enough vendors willing to be seen with us.
3. The rule about not accepting anything someone tries to hand you was gone. Everyone tried to hand us something: beads, buttons, bags, brochures. I didn't take anything -- force of habit.
Fortunately, I didn't see any screamers.
4. But the festival wasn't for us anymore. Over half of the crowd consisted of male-female couples, often with kids in tow, and most of the rest were groups of women A scattering of gay men.
5. The acres and acres of beefcake were gone. Very few of the men were shirtless, and very few were buffed. At least I can say that I have a better physique than 99% of the men at a Gay Pride Festival.
6. The cruising was gone, too. The few times I got cruised, it was by a woman or a teenage boy. I get more action at the doctor's office.
They were half a mile from Gay Pride. They didn't know, or they didn't care.
"Gay Pride has changed," I told my friend.
"For better or worse?"
"I'm not sure."
Some things don't change.
This post with nude photos is on Tales of West Hollywood
See also: My First Gay Rights March