The mixed news from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, discussed here last post, and the continuing epidemic of gay teenage-suicides around the country—it’s hard to find any positive aspect of that fact—may be what caused some of us to find Gay Pride a mixed bag.
I like it that we do it, and I like it that, buried under the glitter and the beads, is a communal memory of the Stonewall Riots. The reason we hold Gay Pride in June every year is that it was in June that the cops in New York mounted a sustained attack on the life of their gay community, leaving three bars permanently closed—the Checkerboard, Tel-Star, and the Sewer. The cops raided the Stonewall twice in June 1969, and this, even though the owners of the Stonewall—the Mafia—paid them off regularly. So, there’s something heroic happening at Pride, a history of bitterness. I could use a little more of that attitude, a little more militancy on these soft early summer days in Boston.
I understand that it’s hard to maintain bravado, an in-your-face attitude, hard to maintain an edge, when we seem to be winning all our battles. And yet, the edge was still there on Saturday, underneath the groups carrying banners from the banks and the churches and synagogues from the area, and all the gay-straight alliances. The Living Center was there to remind those of us who still remember what the Living Center was—a community center for persons living with AIDS—and there was a time when it seemed to be the beating heart of all that was gay in Boston.
I also missed the man on stilts. He was up there, wearing a short skirt and nothing else, and every time the wind blew, his stuff was clearly on display. The taste-makers in the gay community decided that things had gone too far, and Mayor Menino’s support was worth more to us than this particular dude’s stuff, so the word was passed and the community cleaned up its act, with the result being that everything got boring, which it largely is today.
The float from Machine brought up the rear, as it does every year, and I thought of that building on Boylston and the gay bar that used to be called the Ramrod which, like many other things, including the parade itself, has gotten bigger and slicker, but not better. I remember the Ramrod when it was only one storefront wide, and we were all fairly serious about our leather. I met my lover, C, there, one night in September, 1990, and we went home together that night and have been together ever since. That’s another achievement from that time that is worth celebrating.
So, standing in the sun on Boylston Street across from Copley Square, I was bored by the Pride parade—all those banks and churches! and not enough glitter and not one man on stilts. I suppose I have moved on from the time in my life when Pride was going to shock me. Now it just makes me think and remember, grieve and remember, and be grateful and remember. But mainly it just makes me remember.