Baby's First Pride
I spent a lovely evening on the streets of Philly last night, dancing & drinking with the family. My new family. All of the queens and the queers who have adopted me in my new life. There was history in the air, and much joy. Fifty years ago my foremothers threw bricks at the cops who oppressed our people. Today we owned the streets of the Gayborhood, a haven of safety for our joy and pride, while the cops closed those same streets for us. So much has happened in those fifty years, and it is our responsibility to never forget.
For me being queer is at least as much about community as it is about sexuality. So I have poured myself in our history, our struggles. Mostly reading and watching things on Netflix. We have survived our oppression, made it through our apocalypse, and we are stronger, all despite the odds. And the children need to know their past, so we can ensure our existence into the future. My LGBTQ+ family is not going anywhere, at least not for now. But to know our history is to share our blessings with all of our brothers and sisters, to make sure we include all of us in the march forward.
I've been loving the series Pose (2018), which builds off the seminal documentary Paris is Burning (1987) to create a compelling vision of late 1980's ballroom culture. Here poor queers of color assemble to resist and rejoice in Harlem, far from the glitter and gold of Studio 54 and mainstream white gay culture. Transgender actresses play the starring roles, marking the distance we have come since the time of the show. I watch all this breathless glory and still muse sadly upon our transgender sisters that still are murdered in our streets. We have moved forward in exhilarating ways, but still have much room for improvement. (After all, RuPaul's Drag Race, a bellwether for mainstream gay culture, has only just recently allowed openly transgender women onto the show after years of exclusion and secrecy.)
I drank down the movie Moonlight (2016) and its tender, subtle narrative of the growth of Chiron, a poor queer black teenager in Miami. I shivered in emotion at his struggle to unfold as himself, and think of how queers of color are often excluded from white LGBTQ+ culture. The intersectional challenges of our world throws up barriers between our worlds and prevents us from fully uniting as a queer family. Too often we choose class as our defining identity and cannot hear how not everyone shares in those blessings. We suffer our own alienations and struggles to exist and perpetuate the struggles of others by ignoring their needs and respecting their differences.
A sense of history and community has brought this fledgling queer to respect the blessings that he possesses, the privileges I enjoy as a professional, white, male, butch, cis person. But the past teaches me that I cannot be complacent about those advantages I enjoy. That they mean little if I cannot reach out to improve the situation of my family who remain less privileged.
It may just be this baby's first Pride, but I have learned that pride means nothing unless every one of my brothers and sisters have as much to feel proud of. I saw too much pride last night on the streets of Philly to ignore the needs of my family. I must challenge myself to do more to help those less fortunate, to bring the children into the light of safety and respect and self-awareness. My community is only as strong and coherent as our weakest members. To be queer is to challenge the hierarchies that divide us, not just from the straight cisgender world, but the pressures of contemporary capitalism that thrive upon our discord and division. I have an opportunity to make this world better, and I'd be a selfish fool to ignore all that.
Next year's Pride will be even better. I will be stronger in myself, and work after changes that make my family stronger, tighter, happier, more blessed in our glorious difference.