My friend Daniel who has never been to a Gay Pride parade declined to join us in yesterday’s festivities, demurring that while he's gay, he's "not the 'out and proud' type of guy," which is quite sad, because I think that every gay person in the world should be proud of who they are and own at least five pieces of tacky Gay Pride accessories to prove it. Just one piece less is just not proud enough for me.
It is quite understandable really, for someone such as Daniel, who had only recently come out of the closet, with his oversized hockey jerseys which he wears as clubwear still hanging on the rod, to feel that he's not ready to celebrate the person inside. It’s scary to come to such a public event where anybody can see you and assume that just by standing in the throng, you are totally depraved and immoral and you use your anal canal as an alternative habitat for gerbils.
I used to think that way myself. My friends had to encourage me, to cajole me and then to threaten to hold me down and put blue eyeshadow on me before I gave in and went. And even then, I had to wear something that wouldn't scream 'gay' so much in case I ran into some co-workers or something. I had to wear something that guaranteed no one would ever suspect I was gay: I wore black socks with white tennis shoes.
Going to the parade almost felt like the first time I walked into a gay bar. The first time I went to a gay bar, I drove around the bar fifteen times, around the same block, over and over, trying to psych myself into, you know, parallel parking. What? It was downtown Chicago and back then I lived in the burbs.
Before I went in, I had crazy visions of the bar having posts instead of bar stools to sit on; of seven feet tall drag queens with hairy arms; of old men coming up to me and pulling down my pants and sucking on my dick without taking their dentures out first. I was scared shitless. I learned later that scared shitless was actually a good thing, because getting your shit all over somebody's cock is just soo embarrassing. I had yet to learn to douche.
At least only gay people went to gay bars. If I ran into someone I knew there, we could hold each other under mutual blackmail threats to protect our 'straight' identities.
But the Gay Pride parade was a public event. People were armed with cameras like hookers were armed with crabs. Your face could pop up in some lesbian couple's slideshow along with their photos at the Wiccan/Summer Solstice/Monster Truck festival. I was afraid that WGN, the local TV station, would have a film crew there and inadvertently zoom into me with the caption "MEN WHO LICK EACH OTHERS' HAIRY ASSHOLES." I sweated bullets, looking frantically around to make sure there wasn't a film crew or lesbian close by.
But it was hard to stay guarded when it was plain to see that nobody was concerned about me; everybody was truly happy to be there and everybody was having fun. Even the straight guys mugged for the cameras and posed with some of the more flamboyant costumes. They were embraced despite their black socks with white tennis shoes.
Yesterday, my brother Peter, my identical twin--also gay--was on his company's float. His company, a large multi-national conglomerate, with their corporate logo prominently emblazoned, sponsored a float for their gay employees, providing a ton of free swag and samples to the crowds, which meant that every person and their greedy hands were trying to get free shit from somebody who looks exactly like me. Everybody pays attention when there's free shit, right Joe? I wasn't even fazed by the idea. I just wanted to make sure he saved me some swag.
I have come to realize that the Pride parade is a rite of gay passage, like the first gay Circuit Party or that first gay bikini wax, and that even though the thought is daunting, it is something every gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered person must experience at least once. You cannot imagine the sense of freedom, of exhilaration, of total immersion.
It's like, if you're ready to be seen by 500,000 people as who you are, then, I think you're ready to join the world. I think you're ready to be free.
It's no big deal Danny, really, I promise. I hope next year you'll be able to join the rest of us at the parade.
Or I'll hold you down and put blue eyeshadow on you.