by: Elyse Dawson
Pride. It’s one of the seven deadly sins. I’ve seen it played out as such along with it’s six siblings more often than I’d like at numerous Gay Pride festivals in different locations. I’ve seen multiple violent physical altercations, an entire patio pepper sprayed and a higher concentration of public intoxication than St. Patrick’s Day, Mardi Gras and every dreaded family reunion combined.
When I came out and started going to these events, I was over the moon to feel a sense of enormous community for a precious three days out of the year and to be open and accepted for who I am. This excitement has deflated over the past decade as I’ve seen so much shameful behavior during a time that I had originally understood was intended to be a celebration of individuality and uniting against adversity. At the beginning of this year I decided that I would give Pride one more chance. Maybe I was simply being too negative and not making the most of these festivals. I’ve lived in Boystown for the two years I’ve made Chicago my home and am about to switch neighborhoods (in no relation to my feelings about Pride) so I want this year to be an exception. So, here are some of my ideas to have a Pride to be proud of.
Pride is a wonderful time to celebrate all of the wonderfulness that is you! You can wear whatever or what little you want to. You can dance away all of your bad breakups, hateful slurs, and the mournful loss of your favorite hat at Hydrate. However, this is not solely your party. The point of Pride is to come together as a unit, not a violent Big Bang of Bawdiness. Be aware of your surroundings to avoid plowing over someone who may not be as outgoing. Be polite. There are a lot of communities being represented that are often divided. Take a moment to start a conversation with someone who may belong to a group you don’t normally interact with or know much about. DO NOT make snarky comments to your buddies as they pass by. There is far too much hate from outside sources toward the LGBTQ(etc) community to foster hate within.
If you are an ally, don’t use Pride as a sideshow event to bring your friends to see “How insane/fun/weird/bizarre/exciting” all of your “other” friends are. That does not make you an ally, it makes you an enabler. Pride can be an invaluable way to start a dialogue and inform unfamiliar folk about a rich lifestyle! Side note: PEOPLE BRING THEIR CHILDREN TO PRIDE! Please don’t inspire an Applebee’s incident by sloshing your Long Island into a stroller.
Arm yourself with all of the safe sex accoutrements you need before heading out on Halsted. It can be easy as the day progresses to get caught up in the free love flowing from the hot bods around you and take someone home or wake up in a foreign bed covered in glitter and boa feathers. This is only amplified by alcohol so slip a condom or six into your back pocket or even in the case around your phone to condense. Numerous booths and bars in the area will have free lube and rubbers so there’s no excuse not to wrap it before you tap it. Also, street fests are a perfect time for pickpockets and late night attacks. Make sure to keep tabs on your material goods and your even more indispensable friends. If someone is getting aggressive, they aren’t worth your time, move along.
Remember why we’re here!
Looking back, I think that maybe part of why I’ve had such a problem with Pride is that it is another way to point out our “otherness.” Instead of embracing the festivities, I’ve always juxtaposed the one weekend of freedom with the shame that is experienced behind closed doors the rest of the year. Watching people fight, vomit in public, trash the streets and, sometimes, be carried away in paddy wagons is upsetting. Just because we can have Pride now doesn’t mean that we don’t have a long way to go. In fact, a lot of people have fought very hard for a very long time to get us to a place where we can have Pride at all. The losses and hardships throughout the years can very get easily lost in the merriment. I’m not suggesting that Pride should be a solemn occasion. But as with any culture, there is a vast history to be mindful of. I’m part of a rather lazy generation. I feel a lot of guilt for not knowing more about Stonewall, the celluloid closet and the gay civil rights movement. Take a pause from your romping to gain or give some knowledge about experiences that brought you here today.
Maybe I don’t feel like I’ve earned my share in the gay community enough to deserve the party that is Pride. Therefore, I’ve made my goal for this weekend to learn more about how we got this far and what steps I can take to help with forwarding the movement. Before the parade passes by. And I hope this year’s Pride will be one of seven sparkly wins.
Elyse Dawson is just working to afford her acting habit. A graduate of Wright State University, she moved to Chicago post graduation to see how the other half lived and liked it better. She occasionally dabbles in her blog as American Psychette, (http://americanpsychette.blogspot.com/) and often charades as an Administrative Assistant. Her main sources of sustenance are pizza and puns in mass quantity so that she can maintain her bubbly and dark personality. And she can totally whoop you at Sega Genesis.