By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
It's Gay Pride week, and I'm so excited! I'm gearing up to once again be the only one I know at the march this Sunday!
It's just not considered a cool thing to do, since we don't seem to need the self-validation as desperately as before, but also because these kinds of ritualized group activities were never deemed fabulous to begin with by jaded, been-there queers. My très-gay friends generally feel it's a ghettoized event for the people who are only out and proud one day a year, much like fashionistas tend to scorn Halloween as hokey and die-hard drunks detest New Year's as a piss-poor holiday for amateurs.
But though I'm not much of a joiner myself, I still find it stimulating to see all the fragments of the community in one open-air place, and in a celebratory mode, with feathers and whistles on. I'll even be judging a pet fashion contest that day, proving we've come so far that even hairy creatures who sniff each other's butts are gay nowadays. (And please don't say they always were.)
But the truth is that while gay is everywhere, our rights are still being messed with as gay marriage and "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" continue to be battlefront issues that ignite debates about whether or not we deserve to be human. We're in the weird position of being incredibly glam and popular in our culture, yet denied equal rights on a daily basis—lifted up and kicked in the groin at every glittery turn. We've gotten a place at the table—and we even designed the table—but as we sit down, the tablecloth is rudely pulled out from under us every time. We can't even donate blood!
Fortunately, you learn that if you just wait a few minutes, the most virulent homophobes breathing down your neck will get exposed—like the rabidly anti-gay Baptist minister George Alan Rekers, who was caught with a male hustler on a saucy jaunt to Europe a couple of months ago. This was delicious stuff, especially when Rekers tried to explain that he merely needed the kid to lift his luggage. By the time he was exposed as a big old massage queen (at the very least), Rekers needed about 100 escorts to lift the bags under his eyes.
By now, it's old gay hat that closeted self-haters project queasiness about their own sexuality by trying to make everyone else miserable, too. If only these broken-hip hypocrites would be OK with it, then everyone else who's already OK with it could carry on uninterrupted. The bright side is that they're usually possessed with such incredible hubris that, like Rekers, they inevitably get caught holding a red-hot bag of chicken as the whole world laughs and cheers.
But generally, the trend among bold-faced names has been toward voluntarily coming out, and that's fine, too. In a matter of days last year, singer Adam Lambert went from urging a magazine to not make him seem "too gay" to being the queerest, most comfortably outrageous creature ever seen on the telly. Things happen so quickly in showbiz! And he still has a huge career!
Also doing fine are Sean Hayes and Ricky Martin, who nabbed media space with better-late-than-never admissions that the sky is blue (and that they're a significant part of the rainbow). And while the much-ballyhooed coming out of country singer Chely Wright was the very first time I'd ever heard of the woman, if lesser-knowns and has-beens want to make themselves known by announcing their gayness to the world, I say, "Go ahead. Give us the truth, and we'll give you some column inches!"
As gay becomes more OK and all the pertinent issues nab greater discussion, one of the few shocks left is that the church is still demonizing homosexuality, condemning gay marriage as impossible, and refusing to back safer sex as reasonable. Welcome to the Middle Ages. Happy, healthy gays are going to hell, according to the Vatican, but this is the same organization that has long harbored pervy, child-molesting priests, giving them a safe haven via sideways career advancement. Get caught diddling an altar boy? You simply get moved to another parish so you can fondle a new batch of meat. At least Rekers got himself a legal-age, consensual guy—and even paid him.
Every year, a new pedophilia scandal breaks in the media, and Pope Benedict XVI gives lip service to the problem before going back to the old complacency and finger pointing. While it's busy looking pained, the Vatican is careful to inform us that all the church-sheltered pedophilia of the past several centuries has been a direct result of homosexuality. It's not the church's fault for the enforced celibacy and self-loathing, mind you—it's the gays' just for being that way. As they insanely set about trying to remove every gay clergyman one by one, you wonder: 1) Who'll be left?, and 2) Every time a straight teacher molests a child, should the school system try to remove all the heteros?
Fortunately, nothing is secret anymore in today's communication age—though between the economy, the explosion of gay sites, and the increased coverage of gay issues by the mainstream press, traditional LGBT media is becoming even harder to find than a homophobe without a gay wedding singer. (And don't we love that Rush Limbaugh believes in traditional marriage so much that he's done it four times?)
Most poignantly of all, we can be our own worst enemies, if I can replay a broken record I started cranking recently. The watchdog group GLAAD (which admittedly does a lot of good work) famously tried to get Israel Luna's exploitation-film homage Ticked-off Trannies With Knives pulled from the Tribeca Film Festival, which was pretty shocking considering it's a wildly pro-transsexual film that pits sympathetic ladies against a psychotic 'phobic character who ends up being disgraced and destroyed.
The film (which is tonally uneven, mind you) portrays the bonding of the trannies as they rousingly battle prejudice and violence. And GLAAD hated it! Why? For one thing, they don't like the word "trannies," which has become a term of endearment on the scene, but I guess not everywhere. For another, they feel the extreme violence is exploitative. (It does go over the top, grindhouse-style, but judging from all the acclaimed films about real-life LGBTs who've been brutally beaten and murdered, the attack is hardly inconceivable—and this film bashes back.) Mostly, they feel the audience might come away from the flamboyant characters feeling that transsexuals are actually "ridiculous caricatures" of femininity that are closer to drag queens.
See how our protectors only endorse certain types of transsexuals and how they bash drag queens in order to praise those transsexuals? The reality is that transsexuals come in all types—as critic Kate Bornstein has noted—and some of them are sharp-tongued, big-breasted, and work at Escuelita (or at all sorts of places). Being LGBT doesn't mean you have to be tasteful—and if this kind of person makes our watchdogs uncomfortable, perhaps they need to go out more and celebrate the people who make the night scene more bearable.
As for drag queens, they were at Stonewall, they're on TV, and they've always been at the forefront of the Gay Pride Parade. They're helping drive the bus, so let's stop acting like they should go to the back of it.
Of course, I'm far from perfect myself, having put my flip-flops in my mouth more than once. Meet me at the parade, and let's discuss.