Austin Pride turns the tide
All across "gay" Austin, "queer" Austin, LGBTQ Austin, conversations are happening. Discussions, arguments, Facebook fracases – all about the nature of gay community. What makes "community" out of a shared human rights struggle? How does community emerge from a political movement that makes strange bedfellows, if you will, out of subcultures that often have little in common, save for the mainstream's disdain for our status as sexual outlaws?
For the past few years, Austin's annual Pride Festival and Parade have been the flashpoint for some of these conversations. It's too mainstream! The night parade doesn't cater to families! The day parade doesn't cater to the service industry! Why do we have to wear clothes?! Who the hell books the entertainment?! It's too folky! It's too local! It's too expensive! It has nothing to do with Austin! It's too freaky and doesn't represent my suburban lifestyle! We here at the "Gay Place" have certainly contributed to the noise. But, lez be honest, noise is good when it comes from community – especially one as cobbled out of as many disparate parts as ours.
Now there is a big difference between lazy complaining and sharing input. No one is saying "shut up." But if you have concerns and suggestions, consider directing them to someone that can make a difference. Opinions really are like booties. They are best when bounced. The other option is to start your own thang, and if you take a cue from QueerBomb, you'll have a deep and profound effect on your community's conversation.
There's been major movement in a number of local LGBT-focused community groups this year: Both the Austin Gay and Lesbian Pride Foundation and the Austin Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce have logged in serious successes. Coincidentally, both have seen shifts in personnel. AGLPF has presold Pride tickets to the tune of over 1,300 goers as of press time. The parade, moved back to nighttime for 2012 (IMHO, where it belongs) looks to be one of the largest in our history . The AGLCC is launching a new publication (with yours truly at the helm and in collaboration with The Austin Chronicle) and they resurrected their ailing membership from 15 members in December, 2011 to a remarkable and healthy 180+ today.
Changes have been afoot in the boards and hierarchies of a number of LGBT-focused groups: Project Transitions, Out Youth, Equality Texas, and, "aGLIFF is becoming Polari." All of these changes can thank community involvement and yes, at times, disagreements and internal political struggles for their growth.
We are a factious bunch, Austin's LGBTQmmunity. But, ultimately, we are family. Tell it, Sister Sledge!
Truth be told, I cannot purport to stand up for my rights as a member of the sexual minority and settle for anything less than full equality for my bros, sises, and sissies across all the letters of gender expression – whether I hang out with them or not. And that means first and foremost that we hang together (or, you know, that whole "hang separately" thing, goddess bless Ben Franklin).
Do yourself a favor. Go to Pride. And shut the hell up – ha ha, j/k – ummm, no, don't shut up. But go with an open heart; go and observe first and comment later. See what this year's Pride has accomplished thus far. Then contribute to what success it enjoys come Monday. Because, honestly, Pride is what you make it.