Saturday, July 30, 2011

Why I don't like the Pride Parade


Admit it, guys. The Vancouver Pride Parade isn’t just about pride.

It’s about flamboyance. It’s about being so over-the-top that crowds scream with shock before they laugh. It’s about grown men mincing around in heels, plastering makeup over their five o’clock shadows, and talking in squishy syrupy voices that sound like no woman who ever lived on earth.

And that’s my problem.

I have no issue with being gay. Gay? OK! Hey, I’m the biggest Anthony Perkins fan going, and I can sympathize with the heartbreak men and women must have endured for years because their sexual orientation did not conform with a narrow, restrictive “norm”.

I hate norms. Absolutely hate ‘em. I can see why a gay man (and they’re mostly men, at least the most outrageous heel-strutter-makeup-plasterer-voice-swoopers) might want to just explode out of the closet and dance in a delirious frenzy of “look at me, everybody. I am OUT.”

 But one of my problems is, I wonder why these men are dressing the way they are. Call me naive, call me stupid, but I wonder. They look like no woman I have ever seen. They don’t even look like Vegas chorus girls or streetwalkers. I don’t know what they look like, truthfully, or why they need to dress, supposedly, like the “opposite sex”. And if they’re not dressing up as women, which I don’t think they are, then who are they dressing up as?

Some men feel a compulsion to wear women’s clothes: it makes them feel good, or, in some cases, gets them off. That’s fine with me, so long as they don’t borrow my pink cashmere sweater and stretch it out at the neck.

But even decked out in all the most flamboyant, extreme accoutrements of women (and I hope I spelled that right), they aren’t women, don’t even remotely resemble women. In my worst moments they strike me as awful, even contemptuous parodies of women, or at least their view of womanhood. These men are more feminine (or at least girlie-girl) than I am by a long shot, and I resent that.

OK, I get: that they are playing around with the trappings of conventional gender roles. That they are bending and twisting them this way and that. That they are perhaps making fun of the whole damn culture and its uptightness about anyone who's "different". I get all that.

I also think they're playing around with gay stereotypes, pushing them to their farthest limits and beyond, and glorying in them, which I can't help but think is pretty strange and even self-defeating(but I'll get back to that in a minute).

You know, these days it’s hard to get and hold a job. I think this explosion out of the closet into the land of garish tub-thumping might just be a black mark (or at least a gray one) on your resume. If Chuck in Human Relations is spotted on the TV news with fake plastic boobs plastered on his hairy chest, 9-inch heels, a spiked collar and a whip, mightn’t it cramp his chances for a promotion if his boss just isn’t into that sort of thing? I’m just sayin’.

Another point. Heteros don’t do this. OK, I know heteros are boring, boring, boring (or so my gay friends tell me), but there is no parallel, no Hetero Parade (Shame Parade?) with men in grey flannel suits and women in wool skirts and sensible shoes. No parallel in what we so laughingly call the “real” world. It’s a little strange to me. Of course it could be argued that these guys n’ gals need the exposure (pardon the expression) and the freedom that comes from sticking the thing that used to be so shame-based right in everybody’s face. (But I'll get to that, too.)

Another thing I notice, though. Boy, there are a lot of bandwagon-jumpers. All of a sudden everyone wants to get into the act. If you feel any misgivings, think any of it is silly or sickening (the disturbing sexual undertones of sadism, masochism, bondage and leather), you have to keep it to yourself. Hey, get out there and support Pride (not gay pride, any more. We don’t even need to say.) If you’re a politician, a mayor, a public figure of any kind, working in the media or anywhere else that’s visible, you just have to get on board because the Pride Parade is cool. It’s universally cool, all of it, even the stuff that makes your dinner stick in your throat.

I remember the riots in Detroit in 1968, dubbed Black Day in July in a Gordon Lightfoot song. Black Power was seething and bubbling away, and it needed to happen, the extremes needed to be there just so everyday people could begin to be recognized for who they were. Got it.

But if there were such a thing as a Black Pride yearly parade, and I don’t see one anywhere at this point, would they send up black stereotypes the way the Pride people seem to be sending up and playing with gay stereotypes?

Let’s see, we’d have little boys in overalls and straw hats and bare feet, (a.k.a. "pickaninnies"), large women in headscarfs mixing up pancake batter, white guys in blackface singing My Old Kentucky Home (“’tis springtime, the darkies are gay. . .” Oops, that’s mixing it up too much), big muscular men with chains around their ankles, and. . .

And watermelon galore. Plus a few pimps in white hats.

I’m sorry, but I don’t like the Pride Parade. It’s not fashionable to say it, but I think it’s a bunch of nonsense that only gives gay men a chance to dress up and act like flaming idiots. I see it as an uncomfortable mixture of narcissism and aggression. It’s in your face, and I don’t like having anything shoved in my face. Not watermelon, not grey flannel suits, not three-foot-high wigs and  heels that scrape the sky, and especially not some bizarre ideology that equates playing dressup with human rights and personal freedom.

Corgi Tetherball

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