After a Fashion
In the afterglow of Austin Pride, Stephen implores us to 'keep our dicks in our pants'
SNIDE PRIDE It was during last Sunday night's Tony Awards that I really began to think about gay pride. There on the telecast was the ol' battle-ax Liza Minnelli herself belting out a song, and I marveled about how long she had survived her mother, Judy Garland, and how much longer Liza's career had been. I remember hearing about 47-year-old Judy Garland's death on Rona Barrett's Dateline: Hollywood one hot summer day in 1969. I knew instinctively that this was history happening before my eyes, but how was I, a little boy at Jackson-Keller Elementary in San Antonio, to know that a few days later in Sheridan Square in New York, the patrons of the Stonewall Inn (who were already unhappy about St. Judy's funeral), a gay bar, revolted against patterns of police harassment and laid the groundwork for the celebration we call Pride? Few singer-actresses can claim that they have inspired such a reaction. And so it was Judy, through Liza, who reminded me of Pride ... interestingly enough because I had virtually forgotten about it this year. While it's true that I've been embroiled in my own affairs, I just didn't hear about Pride this year like I have in years past and had no idea when it would occur. I was proud to appear in the parade last year here in Austin, but I'm just as proud to have been to early-Seventies gay Pride parades in Seattle as a teenager – just a few years after Stonewall. My dear friend Bettie Naylor and I were both at the very first Pride parade in Houston in the mid-Seventies, though we did not know each other at the time. Since then, I've weathered the parades in San Francisco, New York, and L.A. but essentially became disenchanted with them over a lengthy period of time. The in-your-face righteous anger that informed the movement originally seemed to have taken the back seat to a drunken party atmosphere that was celebrating exactly what? What we do with our sex organs? Because many of the displays I've seen celebrated little more than nudity and public sex (though Austin's parade is considered tame compared to parades in other cities). I just wasn't sure exactly what message we were sending out. Wasn't the message supposed to be about acceptance and pride? And yet, coupled with bare-breasted women on motorcycles, go-go boys in leather jockstraps, and drag queens showing far more than is palatable, the message was not a metaphysical one. I discussed this recently on a national online forum that I like and was branded by someone who had never seen me as a polo-and-khaki-wearing Log Cabin Republican. Oh please. We can't even begin to go there. I just believe that if we, as a gay "community," want public acceptance, we have to behave in a manner that is publicly acceptable. I don't subscribe to anyone who claims to be a paragon of virtue, but I totally believe that we need to keep our dicks in our pants and keep our tits in our T-shirts on public streets. Sorry, but fighting for gay pride is very different from fighting for the right to indulge in public fellatio. When we make it all about sex, we are feeding in to a preconceived (and not very flattering) public notion about ourselves. Is the fight for sexual freedom separate from the fight for gay rights? Can it be separated? Is being gay just something we do in bed? Or is it a "lifestyle"? Are we the same as everyone else, presumably like whom we'd like to be treated? Or are we really different and proving it every way possible? If we want equal rights, don't we want the equal responsibilities, too? Can I really exercise my right to ask questions among intelligent people without being branded as a Republican? What is it that we are really supposed to be proud of? That we can be just as fractured and dysfunctional as the rest of society? Ultimately I wonder what we are most proud of. Sometimes I wonder if we should be proud simply because we've managed to exist against such odds and flourish in spite of them. And in spite of ourselves.