It is June the third, and already I have twice heard the question “why do we have to have a whole month for the gays?” Same reason we have a whole month for the blacks, and a whole month for the women. Because it’s a straight white man’s world, and asking y’all to deign to acknowledge us once in a while isn’t too much. In a perfect world there would be no need for such things, yet it is always the dudes asking that question who are the ones keeping us from that reality.
But this isn’t about idiots, it’s about pride.
I went to my first Pride in 2003, with a couple of friends. I’m not gay, but I have many friends and family who are, so I have been an ally since I realized there was something to unite about. It was magical. The colors and the music and the people…it was all amazing. I recall fumbling in my purse for a lighter when a drag queen in eight-inch red leather platforms approached me. “Here, honey, I got you,” she said, lighting my cigarette as she towered above me. I was sure I had seen her performing at Marchella’s, the local gay club. I want to say she did Cyndi Lauper. We chatted for a bit and smoked our cigarettes. I told her I liked her shoes.
I went to the parade and after party many times over the years, back when it was on Bidwell Pkwy. I haven’t been since they moved it to Canalside, but I can only assume it’s bigger and better now. I wish that there were festivities this year I could attend.
See, gay don’t mean a thing to me. Once, when I was about nine, my mother came into the room while I was watching tv for an “important talk.” I had a friend who was three years older than me and had given me the sex talk around the same time she got it, so I was ready to shut down any awkward discussion my mother was coming at me with. However, she asked me this: “do you know what it means to be gay?” I nodded. “And you know that Joe (my dads BFF) is gay, right? Dave is his partner.” Another nod. Mom stared at me for a bit then said “well, ok then” and left me to my tv show. I knew what gay was because I knew Joe was gay because someone told me once upon a time and it was just knowledge I already had. I knew it meant he liked boys, not girls. I also knew I did not care; I was just trying to watch tv.
Years later, my friend Mike came out to me, and I freaked out. Now, this wouldn’t have been such a ig deal had I not been in the middle of a deep and painful crush on him. I was mad, but I was mad at HIM, not at the gay thing. I was mad that he lied, that he kept a secret, that he let me love him when he knew better.
Alas…I was comforted when he told me I was the first. I was the only person he had told. I’m still not sure why that made it better, but it did.
Over the years I had other people come out to me, a hazard of working in youth theater. Every time I congratulated them and told them I was proud, because I was and I am.
Last night, around 1am, Mark went to the store. He was chatting with the guy at the checkout and mentioned that he was having trouble sleeping. So this gentleman gave my husband his phone number and what time he’d be off shift, and told him to text him if he couldn’t sleep. Hubs, feeling perplexed, thanked the man, wished him a good night, and left. He came home and told me this story. My response was “good for him!” Mark again seemed perplexed.
“Did he think I was gay?” he asked. “No, he thought you were cute,” I replied. Do you know how gutsy it is to just give a random dude you think is cute your number? I mean, if you’re a woman. Now imagine you’re a man and you don’t know if the dude is gay or not. Extra gutsy…bordering on risky, some might say, but kudos to that cashier for taking a chance.
Gay never bothered me. It was always present in my life so it was never something that made me confused or cringy. And when I grew older and learned of all the rainbow folks in my life, I embraced their diversity and culture and passion.
So, why a whole month? Why not? Again, we should have Pride year, like Black History year and Women’s History year, because we have all also been here the whole goddamn time and we deserve some recognition for it.