QueerBomb/Pride Roundtable: Extended Remix
Here is the transcript of the forum between members of Pride andQueerBomb in its entirety
Members of QueerBomb, Austin's renegade counter-Pride, and members of the official Austin Gay and Lesbian Pride Foundation board agreed to a sit-down together in the offices of The Austin Chronicle last week. This felt monumental. Last year, the relationship between the two organizations – as well as Austin Pride's with this paper, at various times – was contentious (to say the least). Trust always feels monumental when it re-emerges after a period of distrust.
My intention in gathering this group was not to find nirvana nor to sing "Kumbaya." My intention was not to create a be-all forum for each side to present its case nor to cover all turf. Trust me, I have tons of questions for both sides, were that the goal. The intention of this forum was to break the ice and navigate appropriate territories for understanding and possible future accord. That said, this group has agreed that continuing this conversation is a good idea. We will meet again, very soon.
For the sake of sanity (our darling interns Sara Reihani, Angela Garner, and Trey Gerlich took notes and transcribed), I moderated with set questions. I can attest that both sides were chomping at the bit to pose questions directly to the other. Yes, please. Next time!Each participant had so much more to say, and I am very grateful for their good natures and candor.
Is this the dawn of one big gay happy family for Austin's LGBTQ community? Members from both organizations seem optimistic. But truly, only time – and possibly Judy Garland – will tell.
In 1969, a bunch of queers rose up against institutionalized harassment and threw some cha-cha heels at some cops. It lit a fire that none have since been able to extinguish.
In 2009, President Barack Obama declared June as National LGBT Pride Month. For any person truly involved in the struggle, June is a very special month. On the eve of Austin's second annual QueerBomb, I hope the words and concepts exchanged herein begins a dialogue of how Austin cares for her LGBTQ community, how we care for one another, and ultimately, how we learn to love and care for ourselves.
Austin Chronicle: Hi, everybody! Welcome, members of the Austin Gay and Lesbian Pride Foundation and of QueerBomb; thank you for coming out to the Chronicle's new editorial offices for this roundtable. Our fabulous interns Trey Gerlich and Sara Reihani will be recording and taking notes. We have a special guest, activist, musician, and licensed therapist Joanna Labow. Joanna attended what is considered the very first Pride in New York in 1970 and has attended most Austin Prides since her arrival here in 1983. She is here to provide some history and context. Let's get started. For our transcriber's sanity, please state and spell your name, what group you are with, and what you do.
Joanna Labow: I'm just representing Pride in general, the Christopher Street Liberation, and a little history.
Rick Holmberg: I am on the board of the Pride Foundation, and I'm secretary of that.
Paul Huddleston: I am the vice president of the Pride Foundation.
Karen Thompson: I'm the president of the Pride Foundation.
Nathan Garcia: Do you want my real name or my drag name? [laugher] I'm on the board of the Pride Foundation and doing entertainment.
Silky Shoemaker: I'm here with QueerBomb.
Matt Korn: I'm also here with QueerBomb.
Beth Schindler: I'm here with QueerBomb.
Bobby Johns: I'm with QueerBomb.
AC: This is Trey, Kate, and Sara. The first question and the last question will be posed to each and every one of you, and I ask that you each please respond. The middle portion of questions will be open to whomever would like to respond. We'll start simply: What was your first public experience of LGBTQ celebration, whether it was a Pride or a march or a protest or a party?
Labow: Stonewall was 1969, and the first Pride march wasn't called Pride back then. It was Christopher Street Liberation Day, was organized through the year [after the riots at Stonewall], and happened in June 1970. I had just graduated from college. The U.S. had just invaded Cambodia secretly, so my college went on strike. A lot of Vietnam protest was happening. College in the 1960s was really pretty great. [laughter] No final exams; everything was canceled; classes were boycotted. It was a time of feeling involved in protest and really hopeful that things could happen, that you could have input into politics. So the first Pride march was June 28, 1970. It was also four days away from me turning 21, so I was a happy camper. I very nervously went to this march; I wasn't out to my family. We knew there'd be news media there, New York news, TV stuff, and the cops were very negative about it. We were marching down one lane of a major street in New York; there's traffic coming behind us down the other lane. It wasn't even totally clear on one side of the street – which was kind of a message: The cops would turn and put their backs to the marchers. It was crazy. But the little research I did shows there were about 5,000 people that showed up for the march. ["Wow"s all around.] When we got to Central Park, there were thousands of people there. Just thousands of them in the sheep meadow, what came to be known as "the gay-in."
Johns: You marched from Christopher Street ... what, down Sixth down to Central?
Labow: Yeah, Sixth down to Central Park, yeah.
Korn: That's a long march.
Labow: Yeah, I love me a long march. [laughter] We only had that one lane of traffic, and when you looked back, it looked twice as long as if we had the two lanes. That might have – unbeknownst to the people who were trying to mess it up – served a purpose. It was very nerve-wracking and incredibly exciting.
Shoemaker: Was it an unpermitted march?
Labow: Yeah. A lot of politics lead into it. It was mind-boggling. I'd just graduated from college, but in 1970, I could have gotten kicked out of college for being a homophile. I went to Douglass [Residential] College, the women's college at Rutgers University. In 1969, a homophile group had started; it was the second college organization to have anything to do with queers in the country. A couple of people would trickle into meetings on the Rutger's campus. It was mostly guys. It became – you know the name is kind of repugnant now, isn't it? "Homophile." [laughter] I so prefer gay and queer, but those words weren't even around at that point. It was a very different time; it felt very brave and courageous for people to be marching with media in the streets. I know for some people now who are just coming out, it's equally brave, equally courageous, but [this early era] was just unbelievable, and I did get on the news, but my mother didn't happen to watch it! [laughter] Well, until later ... in the bathroom at Bloomingdale's. That's another story. [laughter and whoops]
AC: Wow. I've gotta say I now feel that I totally front-loaded this thing and no one, including myself, is going to want to answer this question after Jo! Very intimidating. Not my intention! Please don't feel that way. [laughter] Short answers, long answers, all welcome.
Holmberg: I came out when I was 23 or 24, and we went to L.A. for their Gay Pride parade. And that was my first real experience.
AC: What year was that, Rick?
Holmberg: It was either '94 or '95. It was much racier than anything we see here today in Austin or Dallas or Houston. There were people on those big flat-bed trucks getting flogged. They had the hot wax [laughter] all over the person. It was my first experience with all of this; my eyes were huge. I was like, "Oh my god." But it was really cool, the whole "let everything go." They were just experiencing who they were on the street, out in the open. It was packed, there was every kind of drag queen you can imagine with the hair, the styles – the funny ones, the angry ones. It was very diverse. Obviously, it happened in West Hollywood. So it was a really cool, diverse experience for me for my first. It was a pretty amazing experience. Of course you don't see anything like that in Texas. Not even close. It was amazing.
Huddleston: My first experience would have been when I was 16. I went to my uncle's drag show and the next day marched next to him in Gay Pride in Dallas.
AC: What year was that, Paul?
Huddleston: That was in '97. We marched with PFLAG [Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays] in the parade. It was great.
Thompson: My first public celebration was here at Pride in 2002, and it was a family affair for us. We marched with Metropolitan Community Church of Austin, and both of our older kids played instruments in the band. Our youngest one was in a stroller, so we took the whole family to Pride that year.
Garcia: Mine was in 1991; I was part of the crew that started Gay Pride with the Lesbian Gay Pride Commission of Austin. With Kip [Dollar] and Toby [Johnson of Liberty Books] and Pat [Kramer] and all them. It was pretty much marching up Congress, which I thought was pretty awesome, because we made ourselves very well known. After that, we had Pride at Waterloo Park, so everybody marched from the Capitol after the rally to celebrate there. I thought that was convenient!
Shoemaker: [See "Pride Piper," June 4, 2010.] Well, I grew up doing musical theatre. [laughter] But I came out when I was 16, and we started a gay-straight alliance in my high school. That year we went to the Pride festival in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, which was near the small town where I'm from. It was then a really dumpy little festival, you know? It was free to go, and it was organized by community groups and activist groups. There were people tabling and raggedy drag queens performing. Yeah, and people protesting, lots of Christians with hateful signs. That was my first Pride. And even though it wasn't much of a spectacle, I hold Pride really dear because of that kind of thing .... It was so inspiring to be from a small town and to go there and feel that there was all this authentic, sincere excitement about being gay.
Korn: I came out when I was 16 – this was in '98 – I was really lucky I was in a high school that was very, very accepting. Some kids had come out before me; I had a blast in high school being gay. But the first time I was really with a bunch of other gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender people was when I later ended up working at this coffee shop. I remember a friend of mine was in a little league team called the Flamers. [laughter] Don't ask me why they named it the Flamers. [laughter] So I put on this Flamers jersey he had given me as a coming out present and went down to Coffee Cartel, where a lot of the gay youth in St. Louis hang out. My experience in high school had made me already accustomed. It didn't feel weird. Being young for me, and being gay in St. Louis felt totally normal.
Schindler: My first experience with gay celebration was really, really early. I was raised here in Austin by cool hippie parents. I was raised by a lot of drag queens, also. My mom was a single mom in the beginning. She was friends with lots of homos; she worked at Charlie's and was a waitress. So, it was really, really normal at my house to wear lipstick and nail polish and to also have a penis.
AC: Oh, god, did I hit on your mom? [laughter]
Schindler: As far as a Pride celebration, the first real one I went to was in San Francisco about 12 years ago. That was mind blowing. I mean that's some other level shit that none of us can ever aspire to. No matter what you're into, regardless, there's a march for you, there's a parade for you. You can watch it or participate in it. It's beautiful. It's awesome.
Johns: I, too, came out in high school when I was 16 ....
Shoemaker: New Wave! [laughter]
Johns: My sister would say, "He's not gay; he's new wave!" [laughter] 1988 was my first Pride, and it was at Pease Park. I'm not sure if it was the festival itself or if it was a barbecue or something like that for Pride. I was really lucky I was out in school; I was out to my family. I was there in '91 [referring to the march Nathan Garcia discussed], walking up Congress. Something resonated in me, that in a capital city to walk up Congress is really, really important, especially to a kid who wanted to feel like I was with my people. I celebrated a lot at the Boathouse when I was 16. That was a lovely place, to anyone who might remember!
Garcia: Ten-cent well drinks!
Johns: Ten-cent drinks on Fridays. It was crazy. Since then, I've been to Chicago, San Francisco, New York, and a few other Prides here and there. I've been in the San Francisco parade a couple of times, which was the most mind-blowing experience. I love New York because it's rooted in so much history, and it really was emotional for me. But in San Francisco, to be on a float .... It takes nine hours to get through this parade, and every time the float stops to turn, you just yell at a group of people and get this wave screaming back at you. It was one of the most powerful experiences I've ever had. I was with a Western lesbian band called the Country Cunts. [laughter] I was very at home. [laughter]
Schindler: Your people!
Labow: I'd like to read the proclamation for the first Pride [agreement all around]. Okay, so this was from the people organizing the National, or Regional, I'm not sure which, Conference of Homophile Organizations out of Philly, and they were wanting to have what they called an annual reminder of the Christopher Street riot. Quote: "That the annual reminder, in order to be more relevant, reach a greater number of people and encompass the ideas and ideals of the larger struggle in which we are engaged, that of our fundamental human rights be moved both in time and location. We propose the demonstration be held annually on the last Saturday of June in New York to commemorate the 1969 spontaneous demonstrations on Christopher Street, and this demonstration be called Christopher Street Liberation Day. No dress or age regulation shall be made for this demonstration. We also propose that we contact homophile organizations throughout the country and suggest that they hold parallel demonstrations on that day. We propose a national show of support."
Johns: That's amazing.
Garcia: That organization was out of Philly? Is that what you said? Wow.
Labow: Yeah, yeah. Philadelphia had it going on back then, a lot of gay groups meeting there, and the Oscar Wilde bookstore had just opened.
AC: Next question: As you all approach planning these upcoming celebrations, what does community mean to you specifically with regard to gay politics/gay celebration/LGBTQ togetherness?
Johns: I don't speak for everyone at QueerBomb .... For us to have four people from QueerBomb is very peculiar, because QueerBomb is an open forum for anyone who wants to be active. That's a way that we define our community; it's a collective of people. We disagree with each other constantly, and the beauty of it for us is that because of that, we challenge each other constantly to morph into a greater sense of a larger collective. [Addressing other QueerBombers:] Am I off base there? [Back to the larger group:] That's what really inspires me, and that's why I'm involved in QueerBomb. It is so interesting to be a part of this huge group of people where it's all opinions, all in. That one person in the back of the room that says, "What about this?" And you're like: "Wow! I didn't even think about that! That's awesome!" I love the collective. That's important to me.
Garcia: Last year – I don't want to rehash whatever .... But for me, sitting on the outside and actually liking the Pride side, because I've been on that side and liking the QueerBomb side, having friends on both sides, for me it was kind of troubling. I really wanted to see everybody get along, just like in '91; everybody was together. And I said, "You know what, if you don't like something, do something yourself." And I've always been that way, if you don't like how something is, do something yourself. That's why I did drag; that's why I put on art shows. The opportunity is there for everyone to do it, but I would really love everybody to be together because I'm old school. I have my transgender friends, I have my crazy African-American friends, I have my regular lesbian friends who have families and stuff, and I would like for everybody to feel like they're under one umbrella, per se, and still be recognized for their individuality. Even here in Austin, as weird as it may seem, I used to get kicked out of Oilcan Harry's for being in drag, back in the day. And just as recent as last year going to Sister's Edge, they discriminated against me for being a guy. "Wow, still?" Within the gay community, there's still a lot of discrimination, which I am just not a gigantic fan of. And I don't think any of us really are.
Korn: What's so important about community is having a place where you can go and express yourself however you want, to be whomever you want to be, and to know that people will accept you unquestioningly because they know that you're part of this wonderful .... Obviously, I'm talking about LGBT people; I don't want Nazis to be accepted or anything. [laughter] Also that group you're finding acceptance from can support you, and we can all support each other. Not just in the sense of how friends support each other during troubled times, or whatever, but I'm also talking about the bigger political picture. I got involved in QueerBomb last year late in the game. The reason I got involved was because we – I'm also a member of the International Socialist Organization – were invited in: "Hey you guys want to bring some politics in and bring your message?" And I thought, "Man, that's great!" We have never been invited to come in and bring radical politics to the floor, to say what we want about the way we think this society is, and how we should change it. It was so refreshing to be asked to do that. We've had an open forum to do that, and the same goes for everybody. Pride has, in so many ways, lost this liber- .... It's not called liberation anymore. Correct me if I'm wrong [looks to Labow], but there was a conscious choice in the '80s to say, "We're not about liberation anymore," and, "We don't want to rock the boat too much." That was one of the biggest mistakes our movement ever made – to silence ourselves, to ever say that any facet of our community should not have their voice heard and should not be allowed a platform. And also, honestly, to rely on other social forces – and I'm not talking about straight people here. Absolutely, straight people have to be brought in as allies, as one of the same as us. That's another thing about QueerBomb, we don't really think about who's queer and who's straight. We're all together. What I'm talking about .... Well, I'll just use the example of the Democratic Party really being such a big force in our politics, in our community, and really just selling us down the road every single time. But here's the opportunity to just have different voices. I'm not saying that groups like Equality Texas or allied organizations don't have their place. I'm just saying that we have a place now where every political voice can really come to the fore, and I believe that's essential for any strong movement that's actually gonna win the things we want.
Thompson: May I ask a question? Because I agree with so much of what you just said, Matt, and I find it fascinating. All of us here are hoping to embrace community, diversity, all of those things. But there's a common element in the question when I ask: You said, and you said it glibly, but you said, "I don't want the Nazis." There are people in our community who don't want this or who don't want that or who don't want everything. It's a very difficult but necessary thing to try to find out how to honor it all – when we hold our positions so very strongly. We're learning how to do that. The question I want to ask is: How do we find each other? And how do we make ourselves known to each other so that we would even know to invite the socialists. Because we looked for what we knew. For example, one of the things that was troubling to us last year was that we didn't have people of African descent represented fairly. We continue to look at that. We don't want to force people, we don't want to minimize people and have them fill a quota or a number or anything. We want to reach out and reach out widely. How do we find each other? How do we open ourselves up to each other?
AC: That Pride is saying that out loud – or you, Karen, as the president of Pride saying that out loud – is worthy of its own discussion, but let's table that just for the sake of getting through the questions? Thank you for bringing that up. Anyone who would like to stay beyond ... is that cool? We do have people who have to get out by a certain time.
Shoemaker: The idea of community is such a broad concept, it's hard to speak to. But I do want to try because community is something that's vitally important to my life, I know that. When I think of community, I think of my queer family, and when I think of my queer family, what that means to me is that it's rooted. It's a family that – I don't feel I have a blood family that sets an example for me in a linear ancestral way, in the way that these are my role models. I do find that in the queer community, and I find that in queer history. Looking back, that's why things like Stonewall are so important to me –these mothers and fathers and mentors. A part of community for me is fundamentally rooted in that idea of the radical lineage of all of these amazing creatures that have come before and paved the way. Now, I want to carry on that spirit of celebrating deeply who we are, and there are things that I [believe to be] slightly inherent in being queer: Like loving Judy Garland or uh ... [laughter]. Just kidding. I mean there are things that I love that are cliché and gay. It's about celebrating all our vibrant facets, and it ultimately comes down to loving each other and accepting each other for who we are without shame, and shame can take a lot of different disguises. It can sort of cloak itself in a sort of selling out or compromising a little bit of ourselves in order to please someone else – that might allow us to smooth into the mainstream a little more. Community is about being who we are and respecting and loving each other in that, and finding ways to support and build each other up, in temporal ways that don't necessarily build institutions, but that come together and form these structures that morph and change and allow people to weave in and out.
Johns: Community, if I could address the big gay elephant in the room, is all-inclusive. And to answer your question [to Karen] a little bit, even though I know we're tabling that, is that I hope that today we will eradicate any sense of us-versus-them, QueerBomb-versus-Pride. We don't think that it exists, we don't want it to exist, and I know that y'all don't want it to exist either. A good example of that from our side is in picking the first Friday of June, not Saturday, when the bulk of all of the festivities for Pride happened. We did that because we didn't want this to be "You have to choose between these two groups." Now, granted, we know there are events happening on that Friday, but we thought let's make it inclusive, so we last year directly attacked Pride. There's no question about that. Our mission statement directly attacked Pride, and it had everything to do with comments that were made that were against trannies and drag queens – that's why we got pissed off.
Thompson: From whom? [voices rumbling]
Johns: Chad Peevy [president at the time of Pride, 2010, Austin Gay Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and AGLPF], last year. Allegedly Chad Peevy last year ....
Thompson: "Allegedly ..."
Johns: Allegedly. And this caused a stir, and it came from [the notion of] "family friendly, tone it down." Whether or not this is true, we have no idea, but a bunch of us got together and said: "There's something to be said about this, because if we're not being all-inclusive to our people, then there's something really wrong in our community here. Let's do something about it." So we set out to make a statement, and we did. And we something fantastic, and now we don't want to attack those people that are doing something great, so we changed our manifesto this year.
Thompson: Well, I appreciate that. I wish it hadn't gotten [to that point] last year. Many of us, definitely myself, had no idea that there was a big elephant anywhere, and this is the first I've heard that there was a definite change in your mission to come against us. I'm really really sorry that, first of all, those comments were made by anyone, anywhere, and also sorry that they were alleged and as alleged comments were responded to. I wish we could have found each other then. I will tell you in all honesty, we wanted that. We didn't know where arrows were coming from, if you will. Just literally didn't know, and there are groups that we represent, that we've reached out to that found us that y'all might not know exist. So, I was over at the recent Going Up day of volunteerism, and one of the people there was from the Get Equal Now group. There are groups that we're reaching out to and we know exist and want to bring in. The same as you are. We're back to that place, but I applaud your honesty, for saying that, and I will tell you right now, we speak with one voice. We want all the community – your community's important to you; my chosen family is important to me. I move in lots of circles. I move in a Christian circle that is not the hateful Christian circle. You know, and all of these communities. Absolutely what we want. I hope we spend all our energies from here on making that happen.
Shoemaker: May I ask a question? I was wondering what the policy is this year about people from the leather community and different sex clubs? Is there? Because last year, there was a ....Was it a rule about no leather or no vests were allowed?
[Thompson and Holmberg saying, "No rule."]
Holmberg: I was in charge of the festival; I was a co-chair. We definitely did not have a rule. It was on the Web. Anyone who wanted to download the application, fill it out, and send it in, came in. We actually extended the number of booths we had. We were going to stop it at 100, I recall. We ended up moving it up to 120 a day or two before the festival. More people came at the last minute and said they wanted to be a part of it. The only thing [discussed along those lines] was Fleshjack – that I knew about anyway. As I said, I was one of the co-chairs of the festival. The Fleshjack people wanted to have a booth at the festival. We also have a children area at the festival, too. We talked about how to keep those two areas apart. You don't want the kids walking in on the Fleshjack models. We talked about putting up a black curtain and some type of barrier to seal up a "18 and only"-beyond-this-point area. Then Fleshjack said: "You guys are doing a block party? How about if we just do it there?" Okay! That was the only conversation about booth environment that hit my radar.
AC: We can do a lot of he said she saids. Ze said. Queer said. We said. Let's perhaps address this in the aftermath.
Holmberg: Or maybe it's not important if we move on from here? [Talking over Kate] I can tell you what I always [unintelligible], and what I know, and to be completely honest with you guys – no reason to lie or anything about anything. It is what it is.
AC: That is a great intention. However, part of what I've learned as a person who's observed 20 years of Pride and 20 years of reactions to Pride is that intentions are fabulous, and people have an idea of what they intend. But the reality is that things get said. And the things that get said, the things that get heard, the things that get reacted to, and things that get acted upon are often very different from intentions. So, my purpose for wanting to pursue more of this later is to explore that notion more in depth. It would certainly be valid to revisit.
Thompson: And now that we know each other face-to-face, perhaps we can assume best intentions and act upon that.
AC: Exactly. Next question. I don't care what you want to say about the way things are, but non-gay and non-gay-allied people often define us by our sex and our sexuality. That said, let's take into consideration a little bit of Thompson's question – "How do we all invite people into our different ways of being?" – within this framework. One of the feather-rufflers on both sides is this: What is the line between family-friendly – and I bet everybody in this room has a different definition of what that means – versus freedom of expression and expression specifically of gay Pride. What is that line, where is it, and where is the community at with that?
Thompson: This is very important to me. Most of the parameters around the parade are gonna be set by what's legal. I mean it's just what the city will allow and what can happen. We don't have on our mind that "this is pornography, and we'll know it when we see it." There's nothing like that. We want the community represented. All that that means, but I want to just address the "family-friendly" very quickly, there is a whole group of our community that is not being given the respect that they deserve. Parenting children as a gay couple, however that happens, or as a single GLBTQ person is one of the bravest things that a person can do. You don't not come out. You don't become who you are once you introduce a child into the picture. There are grandparents, or there aren't; there are aunts and uncles, or there aren't. And that's a coming out and a "here we are." We all know that our community, they're adopting all the children that are unadoptable. I want us to find a comfort place and a place of celebration also for whatever family-friendly means, if that means your pets, especially if that means your kids and your children. I want the families that have those to feel like they're welcome and they have a place. And here's the other thing, we are raising those children. What a tremendous opportunity. Sort of like your [addresses Schindler] upbringing, where it's free, and it's real, and it's authentic, and they don't know things about hate and prejudice. We're raising those kids I say, everyone we can have influence on.
Holmberg: As a community right? As a community we support them. Not as a facet of our community or a part of our community.
Thompson: I hope.
Holmberg: Right. Exactly, that's the goal. To Kate's point: How do we bring that in? There's other facets as well. As I mentioned the first time, I went and saw the parade, [and] there were people flogging and hot-waxing. Well, how do those two worlds get put together on the same stage? Other cities have done it, and the kids were okay with that and they made it work. And we are in Texas. That's the other side of that, too. Are we ready for that here? We kind of have to look at that, as well, as a community, not us, not you, all of us. And of course, laws dictate some of that. We have tried to be as open as possible. We didn't tell anyone: "No you can't come as far as I know. Because of whatever affiliation you might have." We were completely open, and that was our goal and that continues to be our goal. How do we make those two worlds coexist and anger the fewest people? Because there are going to be the family people perhaps that get upset when they see the Fleshjack people there, and the Fleshjack people saying, "Why do you have kids at our event?" You know, you're gonna have that, and we're kind of caught in the middle. Well, I want you both to be a part of this, because you're both a part of our community. There's different facets of the community, so how do we do that? Last year, we wondered, "Can we have an area that's a little bit different and set expectations within the event and have adult-only areas or not." We struggle with that a little bit, we haven't run into that yet this year, but we've got a couple of months until the festival, and I suspect we're going to run into that again. We'll have those discussions, because we'd like to support everyone in our entire community, not just a piece.
Johns: This is how we need each other and why we need each other. It is not ours to decide; it's the parents to decide how they want to parent their children. If you want to shelter your child against seeing a butt plug at a festival then you should absolutely do that. If you don't, fine. Educate your child on: That's a butt plug. [Butt plugs are] a stupid example of what's happening, but this is why we absolutely need each other. And I'm not saying that one is better than the other. I'm saying that we coexist in the sense that we're offering something that is – help me out with the words .... The diversity we offer, first of all, is a given because we're a nighttime event. We happen late in the evening; nighttime things happen in the night [laughter]. We offer a certain element that will feel a little bit different. And although our rally and our march are all-ages, and that's very important to us – we had a lot of families marching with us last year with their kids; it was beautiful – we want to offer a different perspective on what is queer. We're only in our second year, and maybe it's still a bit narrow as far as what that is, but that's how we exist together. Truly.
Schindler: That's basically what I was going to say, that our community is us having these separate events. That can totally happen. I fantasize about one day if I was ever going to get married: How would I have that party? That sounds impossible, because I would have to have QueerBomb, and then I would have to have my mom and weird aunt there or something [laughter]. How do you do that? It would be a really hard thing to fathom and to make happen, and I don't know that it's entirely possible. I really don't. And I don't know that I would want to go to that party [explosive laughter]. I don't want to have to try to figure out how to make that work for kids. I don't want to worry about them, and I don't want them to worry about me. I like the idea of there being parents being the ones who get to choose what their kids are exposed to. I had a very specific childhood, I was exposed to a lot of stuff growing up, and so it wasn't weird to me. But if you've got a kid who is suddenly 8 and you show him all these crazy things, it might freak him out; whether or not he's cool with it or not is the point. It's really beautiful that we exist and that you exist, too. We complement each other really well in this way, as long as we can squash this beef. Whatever the issue is, we represent everybody, and you guys can represent everybody, and everybody can pick and choose. "My family" cannot just mean "my kids" – which I don't have – it can mean my friends, like how we participate, whatever it is. I want to want to go to your Pride. I want to want that. I want to support you guys; I want you to be really successful. That's really important. I believe it can happen.
Shoemaker: I hate it, and I think it's really sad when the term "family-friendly" is used to instill a fear or some kind of reaction from the larger world – or from within our own community – because I believe it's totally possible to be ourselves in every way that we want to be, in all our facets, and have that be really good for kids. I don't think "family-friendly" should only mean about kids. There are elements of celebrating queer lifestyle that don't need to involve kids. But to the extent that it does, It's totally possible for parents to raise their kids in an atmosphere where we're remembering that now, gay parents can raise their kids out in public because queens were rioting in the streets, queer hookers were throwing shit at cops. All of this radical, sexual, crazy stuff has brought us to a point where we're allowed all of these liberties that we take much more for granted now. So, yeah, I hate it – I hate it when kids are used as an excuse for conservative-izing us. My friend, Katy Koonce brings... they [Koonce and wife Paige] bring [their son] Waylon to everything. They just took him to [GayBiGayGay]. He's there every year. And when something's inappropriate, they take him somewhere to hang out for a while. It's totally possible to talk to kids and raise them and have it be really family-friendly.
Labow: This is such an important, ongoing question. As I recall, it was the second Christopher Street march ... I don't know if all of you remember or have heard of a group called NAMBLA, which stands for North American Man/Boy Love Association. Not high on my list of what feels great in my community, right? And they wanted to march in the parade. I wasn't a therapist yet, and there wasn't as much talk about sexual abuse and stuff like that then, but it just felt so icky to me. They were talking about young boys, too. And I bring that up just as an extreme example, but it's this issue of: We are so diverse, how do you make room for all of it? I'm thinking of the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, too, and how they have different – when you [Holmberg] were talking about different areas, there's a camping area for people into S&M sex and a quiet camping area and an area without any alcohol [and] a camping area with alcohol but no drugs. It gets very complicated – and people like to make fun of it – but the notion itself, of trying to make things safe for everyone and every element of the community, is so beautiful. I love that about the gay community, that we try and do that. I don't know that it's completely 100 percent possible, but the effort to try is beautiful. We all need each other, and there's room for all of it, and it doesn't have to be oppositional. As you [QueerBomb representatives] say, "We'll do this nighttime thing, and there'll be things that happen in the night." I also agree that parents should get to choose what they want to expose their kids to. We might all have our own philosophies about that, but parents get to choose that, and we can provide lots of options for the choices to be made. It's an old issue; it's never going to go away at some level. How to have room for it all, I love that we consider that.
Korn: I want to pick up on what [Holmberg] said about this being Texas and what that really means. That [statement] is often used as a trope to say, "Oh, this is the most conservative state in the Union," so we have to tone everything down and be very conservative. But we have to remember: This is Texas. This is a state with a lot of people who are in the closet in small towns and they come to Pride – and not just from the small towns, in the big towns, too. They come to Pride as a place where they can be who they want to be, for one day out of the year. That alone is a reason to say: There should never be a time where you're told you can't take off your shirt or you can't do this certain activity that's completely within the bounds of the law, out in public. This speaks to .... I mean, I'm fighting for sexual liberation. To be able to make choices about what sort of sex you want to have and with whom you want to have sex, and to not feel shamed for those kinds of choices and to feel that this is a dirty thing or feel that this is a thing that shouldn't be talked about. Our community in many ways has been Will & Grace-ified. We have ceased to be gay because we have sex with people of the same sex, or we have gender variants, or we have any number of ways of messing with societal norms about sex and gender; we are gay because we're effeminate, and we like musicals, or we're a butch dyke and we ... you know, short hair, it's like, whatever ....
AC: Careful. [laughter]
Korn: We are just like Kate. [laughter] I'm just saying that it's become about appearance, and what you do on your off-hours ....
Schindler: And what you buy.
Korn: Yeah, what you buy. I do want to start talking about corporate sponsorship at some point in this conversation. But I don't want to bar people from .... Really: We're gay because of our sexuality. We're queer because of our sexuality. That's not the only thing we're about, obviously, but there's nothing wrong with talking about it or bringing it into the picture. And if people want to see it: showing it to them. I totally agree that it's up to parents to raise their kids however they see fit and expose them to whatever they want in a public forum, and I don't think you need to segregate it. Other cities have been doing this for many years, and they do it well. They don't practice – that I know of – any form of segregation, like, this is the adults-only area and you have to show an ID to get over here. Again, it's something that you can bring your kid around to or not bring your kid around to.
Holmberg: And that's the key. You want to let those parents make informed decisions so they know if they want to see – to your butt plug example, whoevers buttplug example – you want to let them know, "Hey, around this corner is a butt plug." [laughter] So, take your kid there or not. That's our responsibility: Not to say, "Yeah you can," or, "No you can't." But to say, "Hey look, over there, this is what's going on, make your informed decision as a parent," and allow them to be a parent. I don't think it's our job to make that decision for them, but give them the ability to make that decision and set that expectation. Say, "Look, you know this is an area where some things are going to be going on," and let you make your choice. It's our responsibility as organizers of these events to give them that ability and not have a drive-by of a butt plug by 3-year-old, and the parent never wanted it to happen. Well, you know, maybe that is gonna happen, you know? But if we could give them that ability to make that parenting decision, we should do our best to do that. That was kind of our thought.
AC: Paul Huddleston is mysteriously and very obviously silent. I want to hear from Paul a little bit. Not to put you on the spot, but are you ...? I kind of saw your eyes go a little bit.
Huddleston: I do want to touch on that. I don't have kids, but my partner's sister got a divorce, and she's moved into our house with her 5-year-old. And he's at an age where he is questioning everything, and he is repeating everything, to the tune of him sitting at lunch in school saying "Shit shit shit shit shit!" because he heard me say "shit." What happens if he does come to the festival and does see a butt plug and goes to school the next day and calls his teacher a butt plug? He's gonna get in trouble! I'm not even a parent, but I would like to have that choice of saying, "I know that this is going on this area, and I know that there are Fleshjacks or butt plugs or dildos or whatever you want over here," and I know not to bring my kid in that area. I know not to bring him over there because I know he's going to go to school the next day, and he's going to repeat all of those words because he's going to say, "What's that, what's that, what's that?" And he wants to touch everything, and then you've got some reporter somewhere with a picture of a 5-year-old throwing a dildo around his head. So, that is why I think it's important to have that area where parents can make that decision, and not to say, "You can't go there," but give them that option to make that decision for themselves. Or even have an area in the festival where parents can say, "You know what, there's kid-friendly stuff over here; let them go play in the bouncy gym or whatever," and the parents don't have to worry about whether or not they're going to run into Fleshjack models walking around and then say, "Mommy, what's that?" while pointing up to his crotch. You know?
Garcia: The dildo-toss booth. [laughter]
Huddleston: Exactly. And I'm not saying we don't want those things there, because we should be all-inclusive and have every facet of our community represented at a Pride festival. And that's part of why I got involved in the first place, last year, you know – I was getting very disheartened with the way our community was going. There are so many groups that just don't get along. And I hate to say the kumbaya effect but, we are all gay, and at some point, we have to say: "We all want the same thing collectively. We want our freedom and our rights, and we want the right to marry and the right to march down Congress in our leather chaps and vest if we choose to, in the parade, and that's our right that we have as a community." And I had to get involved, because last year it just felt that it had come to a head, that the community was dividing and separating. I travel quite a bit, and I'd go to all these Prides, and I'd see how everything is so inclusive; and I look at Austin, and it makes me sad. It makes me very sad.
AC: This issue plays itself out in every city that has a Pride. Some city's parade and party traditions were originally born out of exactly this type of struggle – whether it's dissension or someone simply saying, "Hey, I have an idea, and I want to do something different."
Huddleston: I've been to San Diego, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Seattle, Orlando, Miami – those Pride festivals and those parades and whatnot, from what I've seen and experienced, you have the guys marching in leather, dripping hot wax, next to PFLAG. It can be all-inclusive, and they have been able to do that. And to come back to Austin where we're not 4 million or 10 million people. We're still a close-knit community here, under a million people. And to see other cities like New Orleans, for instance, who, I mean, come on, it's debauchery all the time, right? They're able to come together, a city that's half our size was able to come together and open their own gay and lesbian center. As a community, we have to come together. As a collective: Gay and lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, however you identify yourself, come together and say this is who we are; we should come together as a community and work together.
[Beth Schindler and Bobby Johns both have hands raised.]
AC: Beth and Bobby: Arm-wrestle! [laughter]
Schindler: I was going to say .... Actually, I might get this one!
Johns: This is how we work together. I'm thankful that y'all do worry about this [where to put butt plugs, etc.]. I'm a part of QueerBomb because we don't worry about this. We offer this: Come and be whomever you are. I want to steer away from talking about butt plugs and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, because that's not what this is about. It's about being whoever you are. I'm really thankful that y'all do have this as a topic of conversation and that we don't. And this is why I'm on this side, and you're on that side. Fantastic, we live in this world together. I will speak for myself and not for QueerBomb: The reason why I got involved in QueerBomb is because for me, assimilation equals death. And I saw all of this – and it wasn't from Pride; it was from several media sources here in Austin that were pounding this message of assimilation into the gay community. "Buy the things that straight people buy, dress like the straight people dress, be like the straight people, and they'll like you – they'll be more accepting of you." This is what I saw, moving to Austin after being gone for a really long time. It's like, "What year are we in?" This is ridiculous! We've all rolled over and are just digging our own graves right now! That's why I, personally, got involved in QueerBomb. So, I do actually celebrate the fact that we both exist. I really, genuinely do.
Schindler: The one thing that I wanted to address that hasn't been talked about is the class issue. That feels like a huge division between QueerBomb and Pride. For me, that was one of the major issues [that determined] why I joined up with QueerBomb. I felt this huge division that had nothing to do with me being gay or not gay. It had to do with the fact that I didn't have money, and I didn't look a certain way. I didn't assimilate in this certain way. I could be straight-acting, I guess, if I didn't hang out with certain people. But that was a major issue for me as to why I didn't feel accepted. I'm not rich, white, and straight-acting. I don't know how to fit in here. That was a big hurdle. I participated in the last three Prides; I was in the parade – well, not last year, but the years before. And the whole time I felt like a sore thumb. I was, like: "Where are all my freaks? Where are my people?" I do want us to work together. There are some things that need to be addressed, maybe on the sidelines.
Shoemaker: Yeah, um, I first got involved with Austin Pride when there was that thing about, "There's not going to be any freaks and things you see on TV."
AC: That was the Austin Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce's first parade in 2002, the first in this era of consecutively annual parades. [See "Gay Prude Parade," News, June 7, 2002.] AGLCC started it. Equality Texas, which used to be the Lesbian/Gay Rights Lobby of Texas, did the festival for years and years before that, but not a parade.
Shoemaker: A representative said in an interview in the [Austin American-]Statesman that "It's not going to be like other cities, we're not going to have freaks and things that you see on TV, it's gonna be a family-friendly event." And I went without my shirt on, and they said, "This is family-friendly; you have to put your shirt on," and it was a big ordeal or whatever. I didn't feel represented, at all – let alone, it was a lot of money to be in the parade. I hadn't paid, however. I like that about QueerBomb, that anyone can be a part of it. I love the idea of people getting along. I don't necessarily feel that we as a .... Communities have lots of different goals and motives. I don't think that we are at odds, QueerBomb and Pride. In other cities, it adds to the month of Pride, to have all these different events growing out of each other or in conflict with each other and figuring out ways to make everyone feel that they have a part of it.
Korn: Yeah, I want to talk about corporate sponsorship as it relates to class and [festival admission] charge. First of all, I've done QueerBomb; I've done a ton of different conferences; I've organized marches and stuff. I know it costs money. I know you can't do this shit for free. And I know that you have to find ways to make money. But something that I know raised all of our hackles and really is a problem for a lot of people in the LGBT community is corporate sponsorship. Some of the worst corporations on Earth are often represented. I know last year 3M was a sponsor of Pride in Austin.
Thompson: I can tell you they won't be this year.
Korn: That's good. I'm glad to see that. Coors beer, which, there's the Harvey Milk connection: Harvey Milk organized a boycott of Coors beer. They still give money to superconservative organizations. They want our money, but they also want us to be second-class citizens. [Many] corporations are involved in busting unions, breaking strikes, involved in environmental devastation [and become Pride sponsors]. We need to think about how it looks for our community to be inviting these corporations into our events and giving our endorsement to them. And even after we raise all this money from some of these worst corporations in the world, we still charge people to get into Pride, and we still charge ...
Schindler: ... community organizations to set up a table.
Korn: And correct me if I'm wrong: Was it $125 [to set up a table]?
Korn: That may seem like chump change to some of us, but to organizations that run basically on no money, that's a lot of money. You'll see Honda is selling their new subcompact, and they're trying to sell you on biofuels, and you then still have to pay? It's like: "Didn't you suck in all this [corporate] money? Isn't there some way you can at least make it free for those who want to participate?" I know there's no way of getting around money. We've found a lot of common ground with this conversation. We want to be all-inclusive, and we want to make sure everybody can participate, but that also means making it accessible for people, financially. Not allying ourselves with people who very much don't have our interests at heart, not just as LGBT citizens, but as workers and as people who have to live in this environment. And we have to keep these considerations. And for the trans community: There is a community with well over 50 percent unemployment. The average income is something like $10,000 a year? That's a huge set of people that not only are excluded politically so much of the time, but then financially excluded, as well. That has to be one of the immediate goals for our movement: To include the big "T," and all the letters of the acronym. Money has a lot to do with making sure that happens.
AC: I'd like to pull this together a bit because we have a short amount of time; people have to get back to their jobs. Let's have a show of hands of people who need to leave in 15 minutes. [Four to five people raise hands.] Okay, that's significant. Let's wrap it up. This is one that I'd like for everyone to answer: If you are representing Austin Pride, please reflect back what QueerBomb is. And if you are QueerBomb, please reflect back what Austin Pride is. What do you think it is?
AC: Please be as honest and frank as possible. Bring up anything challenging, anything you can commiserate about across the tables, and please feel welcome to consider aspirations and future goals. That's fine, too. My purpose of this entire forum is not kumbaya. My purpose for this forum is that you guys figure out kumbaya whenever the hell you want, I don't care. It's better news for me if you don't.
[riotous laughter and near riot]
AC: That's a joke! Joke! Relax! It's a joke! Here we go. What is QueerBomb, Rick?
Holmberg: Okay, here we go. I'll try to do two minutes or less. I felt, last year, blindsided by you guys. I didn't know who you were, to be honest. I didn't know who this was, but I had heard that we had reached out to you. I had heard secondhand through Chad and a couple others. I was very frustrated. We heard all kinds of negative stuff, that we were "heteronormative" or something like that, and I'm sitting on the other side saying, "Anyone who wanted to be a part of the parade or festival or events was completely welcome." So I felt completely blindsided. I was like, "We did not exclude anyone." I was seeing and hearing, "Oh, they're exclusionary; they're only catering to a certain crowd." And I'm like, "We did not say no to anyone!" And the flip side of that: I didn't go out and solicit from anyone either. It's on the website: We advertise to everyone; we're more than happy to have everyone who wants to come. So, it was really frustrating and disheartening for me to see that and not to be able to do anything about it. I didn't know what to do; I didn't know who to talk to. I knew what we were doing, and I knew what our intent was, and it was not aligning with what I was seeing being put out there by – not just you guys, but organizations, other organizations. What we believed, what I believed, and the whole reason I'm on the board, was not what was being represented in the media about what we were doing. I was very frustrated and disheartened. I did toy with getting off the board. I thought: "There's nothing I can do. We did the best we could." I get nothing out of Pride. Zero. I don't put it on my résumé, because we still live in an environment that it could be held against me. So I have to exercise a little bit of caution there. I get nothing out of it, we're not getting paid, and I worked my ass off putting this all together as a co-chair. You know, we did it at the Long Center, and a lot of work happened there. I was just very, very frustrated. Fast-forward now, and we didn't have this discussion, or maybe I've been doing the talking, giving my opinion, I'll let [the other Pride representatives] speak for themselves, but we have been seeing a shift in the QueerBomb messaging. Moving forward, it does seem that they're being a little bit softer. Our goal, we talked about this: How do we reach out to them and work with them? I'd like for us to be working together and not against each other. I don't think we ever worked against you, I did feel you guys worked against us, but I didn't know how to take the next step. I had no idea. But I did feel, over the last couple months, that that has changed, so that was really – and I made that comment in our board meetings – it seems that things have gotten better. I don't know what we did any differently. It looks like things are changing for some reason.
Johns: I can tell you one thing ....
Holmberg: Oh, okay. So ....
Schindler: What are you talking about?
Johns: Chad Peevy.
Holmberg: So, I was frustrated. But I do have a very good feeling moving forward. I do think there is common ground. I do firmly believe that we are one community, and we can find a way to make this all work.
AC: What is QueerBomb?
Holmberg: QueerBomb is a group of people, a part of our overall community, that are a community in and of themselves, that feel that they were not represented or could not be represented somehow in the existing infrastructure that we had in place. And the part I was confused about is, I don't know how we did not support that. That's where my baffling confusion and frustration was.
Schindler: Matt [Korn] showed me some direct quotes on his phone just now, from people who ....
Korn: Do you want me to ...?
AC: No, a back-and-forth is appropriate right now in this particular forum. When we're done going around the room, anyone who would like to talk about intentions, please stay. So let's continue? Thanks. We'll go to Bobby Johns.
Johns: The question is what I think Pride is. I think Pride is absolutely 100 percent necessary. You're not going to make everyone happy. We're not going to make everyone happy. That's why it's great that we both exist. My biggest criticism of Pride is [that Pride is] preaching to the choir. I came back to Austin six years ago. The fact that the Pride march is down Fourth Street is ridiculous in a capital city. It should be on the steps of the Capitol. It should be loud. It should be louder. Marching down Fourth Street is supporting the bar industry that, yes, is a big part of a lot of peoples' lives as far as coming out and celebrating themselves. But for a lot of us who live queerly, all the time, 100 percent of our lives, that doesn't exist for us. It is important, especially in a city where the good fight needs to be fought in Texas. You have to march to the Capitol. It's not easy [getting permits to have a march or parade roll to the Capitol], because we [QueerBomb] tried, and we couldn't get it either.
AC: What is Austin Pride?
Johns: One-hundred percent necessary.
AC: Thank you. Nathan Garcia, what's QueerBomb?
Garcia: What is QueerBomb? Other than fabulous Beth [Schindler] over there? To be perfectly frank, QueerBomb is half of me. I totally relate to these guys [QueerBomb], and I totally relate to these guys [Pride]. And that's why I love and loathe being a Pisces. I can see both sides. How to make this work? Swim over here! Swim over here! And that's half the reason why I got involved with the board. I was there in 1991. We marched to the Capitol. I'm a firm believer in exactly what [Bobby Johns] said: We marched to the Capitol, not to the bars. I could take my car and turn on Fourth and go to the bar. I don't take my car to the Capitol, because they don't let me in. That's just how it goes with the new gates. But we should march to the Capitol. We just did the Harvey Milk march. You were there [nods at those of us who were]. We marched to the Capitol. I'm a combination of both of these people or sides or groups. I was there last year. I was a little sad I couldn't get [into the QueerBomb party], but I was happy because it was so busy. So I went to Cheer Up Charlie's and hung out for an hour, went back, couldn't get in, went back, couldn't get in [laughter]. So one of my reasons for joining the [Pride] board, again, was – I don't want to say I am this bridge – but, I wanted to bring a part of this element to this and to make Pride feel more accessible, that it appeals to you guys, because I am all of this, and I don't understand division because I'm a Pisces, and it stinks sometimes. I want everybody and everything together. So that's my answer: QueerBomb is half of me.
AC: Matt, what are your thoughts on Pride?
Korn: Austin Pride is – I'll second what I said earlier – so necessary for people who sometimes have no other opportunity to be who they are, to express themselves. That's why I've never wanted to be in competition or make people pick and choose between QueerBomb and Pride. It is a continuation of a long tradition of us. I seriously tear up every time I think about Stonewall and the movement that was launched there. Pride still stands in that. I will say – this didn't come up, but I will say I'm really concerned about moving it to September. It's kind of like [saying] we'll just leave Stonewall behind. I don't think it's just a symbolic thing. That's so a part of who we are. It's not the beginning of our movement, there was stuff going on before that, but it means so much to people. This gets to my next point about Pride: Pride is a marketplace. Pride is – you go, and you're around a lot of other queers and that's wonderful, but the main thing you have to do is go and buy a Fleshjack or get a subprime mortgage. The first Pride I went to in Austin, this guy was selling me really hard: "Get a mortgage! You won't have to pay rent anymore!" I was like: "What? I'm here for Pride, not to buy a mortgage! Seriously!" But it's primarily what there is to do there. There's some entertainment, and a lot of times it's really a lot of fun, but you're there to buy stuff and to be sold to. You're there as an economic unit and the politics is sometimes totally gone, or it's represented by ... well, that's why I brought up the Democratic Party or Equality Texas and those sorts of organizations. That's all that you get, to be a part of any sort of politics. Pride: I want it to stay; I want it to change. I hope that our dialogue can make us – I don't want to fold into each other or necessarily make kumbaya. We both have something unique to offer that we should both treasure. We should tell everybody to go to both. But I would like both of us to learn from this and to change and be more open. And not just be open, but encouraging. That is so important. Encourage you to bring your sexuality, encourage you to bring your family, encourage you to bring your politics, and make it not just an open forum but something where we are actively seeking, really reaching out and never ever making statements that anybody is not welcome at either of our events.
AC: Paul, what is QueerBomb?
Huddleston: QueerBomb .... First let me say that I joined the [Pride] board this year. I was actually in San Diego last year with their Pride, so I got a lot of education from a lot of people about what happened last year. I heard from people on the QueerBomb side; I heard from people on the Chad Peevy side and Pride side. I got all these different stories of everything that happened. To me, it seemed that QueerBomb was a faction – one of the factions of our community that were just upset with the way things were being handled and wanted to separate and start their own thing. That being said, what we talked about earlier – their message has changed, and they're not really against Pride, and we want to find a way to work together. That's great; that's fantastic. I would love nothing more than to open it up. I am so on the wavelength of having the entire community represented, coming together, because all of our voices collectively are louder than one of us screaming at the top of our lungs. We as a community are so much better than just, "Oh, there's this, and there's this."
AC: Silky, what is Austin Pride?
Shoemaker: Pride is everyone's to own, and I mean that as the concept and literally as the celebration. Everyone can have Pride. QueerBomb is Austin pride for me. In terms of the Pride Foundation ... what's it called this year?
Thompson: The Pride Foundation.
Shoemaker: It's a responsibility and an honor to choose to represent the queer and gay community in any city. When I think of Austin Pride, I've thought of it as a group of well-intentioned and a group of business-motivated people that have come together often because they have economic resources, and they choose to represent the LGBTQ people in the city. It's totally necessary and important for everyone to feel that they can access Pride; the Pride Foundation is available to a lot of people, in a way that QueerBomb is not, maybe yet. Pride is more mainstream and more immediately available, but I do think that it's been pretty motivated by business interests as it is in choosing as representatives both on the board and in community activists that are working to better the lives of queer people. I'm really hopeful for what this year's Pride is going to be and its changes. I've felt bitter animosity toward Pride before, and this year I don't. I'm really excited to see how it's going to change, and I'm really hopeful that it's going to represent a lot of the community interests and not business motivations.
AC: Karen, what is QueerBomb?
Thompson: First, I'm going to say that the Pride Foundation is not Chad Peevy, and lots of things happen. But I want to say that I'm part of this because of Chad's vision and his energy. I thought he was someone who was going to move us toward – and I didn't know any backstory at all – but I thought he was somebody that had the energy and ideas and resources to bring this community together as we've tried and failed to do so many times, and I want to honor that. Chad literally got me involved, and I know he did some good things. I think QueerBomb is our energy and our growing edge. You said it very well: We have access to certain things and we are trying to appeal to a broad demographic, and you people remind me of the politics. I know to boycott Chick-fil-A; I don't know to boycott 3M. I listen to your fire and your passion. Those are all part of me, but they're manifest in a different way. They are part of this whole group – as Rick said, we don't make any money, and I don't know about the rest of them, but I don't have any money. That's not what it's about. I have very high aspirations for us. I want us to – and this is just the truth – I want us to change the world. I want the rest of the world to look at us and say: "Here is a group that doesn't just talk social justice but that does it. Here is a group that will talk about sexuality because the world won't [talk about it] in any healthy or open way, and it's a wonderful gift." I want them to look at us and say, "They have found out how to find their common ground." And this very corny, but: Become the salad and not the soup. Don't lose your individual textures and colors and flavors. I think y'all are important, and you inspire me; I think there are times when you will embarrass me and my children. [laughter] But you keep calling me out. And I just want to say, don't let what you see fool you. My partner and I have done things in the corporate world, where we've pushed limits, and my personal experience has been in a church. I was willing to stand before the Presbyterian Church and say, "This isn't right." I'm celebrating now with things that are changing. We need to appreciate that it takes all of us. Sometimes I'm very disappointed in myself that I don't have the fire. I mean, I'm a professional lesbian, but I'm not as out as y'all are, and I'm a little bit sad about that. But we do need each other, all those things. You're exactly right. I would love it if people who are not allied with us would read about us and say: "Oh my god, they're getting organized. What's going to happen when they're all together? How many of them are there, really?" Just like, "Wow." Let's take notes. So, that's what y'all are, in there.
AC: Beth, you're wrapping it up. What is Austin Pride?
Schindler: Austin Pride, to me, sincerely, is the dawn of a new era for you guys. I feel more optimistic about what you're going to do this year than I ever have before. Every time I've participated it honestly has felt very commercial. I've been to Prides all over, and we [motioning to Shoemaker] went to Houston Pride together, and it was a whole bunch of banks and beers, and we were just like, "This is the saddest Pride ever!" Austin is a little bit better than the Houston Pride. But it's a really great opportunity for us. In September – you have some months out – we will gladly give you our resources, show you examples of how to do things cheap, like the way we're doing all of our tabling is completely free. We're charging nothing at all, and we can show you how to do that, how to give all the communities resources and not charge them. This is going to be great, these are ways that we can definitely grow from each other and teach each other things, and I look forward to growing and learning from you guys, as well. I'm excited; this is going to be good. So what Pride is to me is something that's new and exciting and something I can be proud of.