I saw Frank Perez the other day and said, “Frank, if you wanted to get people to take notice and read your piece “Fuck PRIDE” was the way to do it.”
It certainly got my attention. I’ve read his well-written column a couple of times now. As always, his prose is precise, on point, and well-written. He makes a strong point which interestingly coalesces with the idea of “A Community within Communities.”
The word “assimilation” seems to be a key word in his article. Let’s circle back, however, to the history that’s outlined in it. I don’t disagree with the major theme of the text . Also, I like Frank and consider him a friend and am very happy that he wrote this article. It asks some very important questions.
The historic record that Frank laid out was fascinating. I was unfamiliar with some of it, but the lament and history sounded oh-so-familiar to me. Yes, Stonewall has become a touchstone, like Rosa Parks or the Selma to Montgomery March, and has lost, perhaps, some of its rebellious nature.
In some ways, perhaps commercialization is an inevitable outcome of movements that seem to radicalize its constituency. Yet, within that process of “assimilation” there is still an edge. The edge is found in the moment. Two years ago, as the Pride Parade marched down Bourbon Street, some “Christian” haters started yelling their usual hate-inspired epithets. In response, a gaggle of clergy and supporters of “the movement” shouted them down with “Love wins.” No, that is not throwing hot coffee in a cop’s face, but the end result is the same, pushing back against errant authority and hate.
I was born in 1951 [keep your comments to yourself] so I’ve lived during much of what this discussion is about. I stood outside of many of the radicalized movements and inside some of them as well, like the anti-war movement (until I joined the Navy; yea, I know, right). It seems to me that while radicalization and forcefulness serve a purpose in time and place, “assimilation” is a goal and not a bad word.
Assimilation means to join a larger context. In our case, perhaps assimilation might mean to understand that being same-gender parents, like my friends Doug and Erik, results in a social yawn instead of social resistance. Perhaps assimilation might mean that corporate sponsors (yes, those evil capitalists) not only want rainbow dollars, but unintentionally make way for LGBTQ+ persons to move from the margins to the center. If “assimilation” means that drag queens can do story hour in a public library, then perhaps assimilation means a celebration of diversity within a larger context.
There is still an edge. Ask people like Fatsy Cline aka Zak who makes several posts that often start off with “This fag is proud and loud. I’m calling out the priest and Bishop! You better show up for PRIDE.” Oh, by the way, they did. “Assimilation” in some cases means that an institution that once was notorious for its homophobia is now fighting homophobia within a larger community that accepts all because, “Y’all means All.”
It means that, yes, an apology was made It means that anyone seeking Holy Orders is invited to do so in an equal way. It does not mean that the struggle is over because there is still resistance. But at least some battles are won.
I am sure that Frank and I agree, “assimilation” aside, that whatever the societal goals of the Community are, the war is not won until it is won for everyone. Perhaps that means some sort of economic upheaval or at least reworking of current systems. Perhaps it does mean more militant steps to retain and secure individual freedoms and radical inclusion of all peoples free from governmental insanity. Perhaps it means to unify into a Congress of Marginalized Peoples which would represent diverse populations like brown, Asian, black, trans, queer, questioning, etc. Perhaps it is the economically marginalized and, yes, that includes all of the communities that need to shake things up. No, Frank, I don’t disagree with your article at all.
But, I thought that PRIDE was terrific. No, I do not think it was a sellout to corporate America or “the man.” I do think that this year is a pivot point on the gaydar. That a societal shift took place. That less hate and resistance is evident at least during our walk together.
Sometimes what was radical is a victim of its own success. Sometimes even institutionalized radicalism loses its mission in its successes not as envisioned, not totally, but essentially. That is not to say that we forget or obscure our history; that is why we have people like Frank to remind us of that history.
That is not to say that any of us in “the struggle” have reached “the promised land.” No, far from that, but we are also far from homophobia being normative and socially acceptable, far from racism being completely acceptable and just part of it all, far from misogyny being allowed to have free rein. No, at least today, when these things are identified they are called out.
In the current political climate, like biblical prophets of old, we have an obligation to keep calling “it” out whenever we run into “it.” “It” is hate, fear, and injustice that is slowly losing ground. “It” will push back and herald voices that remind us of old dictators, haters, and violence seekers and then WE will push back.
It is almost impossible to put back into the closet the voices that now stand against “it.” Ask Zak and Zach (another friend of mine) what they think of homophobes. Both are young men with bright futures. Both will push back with a fever that might make even Stormé DeLarverie, the butch lesbian from New Orleans whose scuffle with the police was the spark that ignited the Stonewall riots, at least crack a smile.
There is work to be done. There is work that has been done. Pride was a success by most measures. Perhaps not the Marxist Anarchist success envisioned by some, but far beyond the vision of so many that remember the days when electro-shock therapy was used to fix people.
The times they are a-changin’. Do you think that you would have seen this ten years ago? Never forget. Never give up.