Edmond

Pride Schmide

Another Gay Pride Sunday draws to a close and I find myself thinking, ‘Missed another one.’

When I first came out, I gleefully attended the big parades, wow’d by all the drag queens, leather guys and the entire spectrum between and beyond. I drank cheap beer (with pride) in some nasty parking lot tent and I danced my ass off with glowy things around my neck. Back when I lived in Chicago, one year I marched down Halsted Street with the Northern Illinois University’s Gay Lesbian Union celebrating rural farmland homos, passing out vegetables chanting, “CORN-FED BOYS! MILK STRONG GIRLS!”

So, you know, I prided.

But today I mowed the lawn with my crappy, sputtering lawnmower and bagged up my trimmings. I did some laundry. Bought much-needed sneakers. I half-thought I might go to the post-parade festivities, but I instead spent my afternoon at the Geek Squad working out my computer pride.

Over the course of the day, I realized that the concept of ‘pride’ doesn’t quite appeal to me anymore.

As I understand it, Gay Pride is pride in survival. I made it. Fuck you world, you tried to crush me and here I am, with a feather boa or my big macho boots or perhaps my, I dunno, cyber-goth piercings over womens’ lingerie. I do like the idea of celebrating survival, because despite progress made socially and legally, we’ve witnessed enough gay teenage deaths in the past few years to know that the world can be quite shitty at times.

But Pride seems arrogant to me these days, and that ‘fuck you world,’ doesn’t really help. It’s no longer ‘us’ against ‘them.’ It’s us against us. If all of us damn people don’t figure out how to love and accept each other, well, I think we all know how this turns out for humanity: we’ve all seen Planet of the Apes. Make no mistake, those chimps are just biding their time, chatting in yahoo groups about the imminent takeover.

Instead of pride, how about gratitude?

I am grateful to have survived and my lonely teenage years. When I think of the friends who loved me after I came out to them, my heart swells.   Over and over, I did not just survive, but thrived, and my experience of love in this world continues to expand. I have amazing friends! My family of choice loves the shit out of me! I can now love people who irritate me and even appreciate their giftedness.

But I never did it on my own, not once, so I’m not sure ‘pride’ is the word I would use.

Years ago, a member of my biological family cheerfully explained how some religious writers said it was okay to love me, because gays were a bruise in the flesh that is humanity. This cultural bruise was caused by America’s surplus of weak fathers and overbearing mothers, which meant it wasn’t my fault that I preferred reading Charles Dickens to playing football.

This person felt pure amazement that “I took it the wrong way,” because the entire point was that bruises can be healed, which meant God could heal my gayness and make me healthy again. Normal.

The conversation crushed me and this family member and I did not speak for over a year.

I was not healed by pride.

The powerful healing that allowed me to love this family member again and move beyond ‘the bruise conversation’ was facilitated by a straight man. During this session he facilitated, I wept in the arms of another man, also straight. Around me in a semi-circle stood men and women, gay and straight. These people didn’t have any special healing powers for gays, their only giftedness was that they loved me.

They loved me.

They opened their hearts and dared me to open mine, to let deep grief pour out of me. Even while I sobbed, I remember worrying that a new friend, a gorgeous Indian woman, would somehow judge my outburst with disgust. When I could finally see through my tears, I found her hand on mine and her soft brown eyes staring into my face. Without a word she communicated that bruise or not, she really, really loved me.

Leading up to that great healing event, how many nights did Ann comfort me over the phone? How many times did Heather tell me softly, “You’re part of our family now.”

Tonight on my back porch, basking in the glow of my twinkling gazebo lights and inhaling the scent of freshly-cut grass, I will celebrate my own flavor of Gay Gratitude. I give thanks for those who loved me in spite of being gay, for those who loved me because I’m gay, and for those who don’t really give a shit that I’m gay, they just love me because, what the hell, they think that Edmond Manning is worth loving.

I am grateful for Stonewall queens, for my friend Ankha who led a radical gay group in the 70s, a group that was forced to hold secret meetings. I am grateful for AIDS activist in the 80s, and equality activists in the 90s who realized that we already had many, many straight allies. They recognized that the ‘we’ in Gay Pride needed to be more inclusive. And thank you Jebus, for those gay marriage advocates.

For my gay friends who believe in and love the big Gay Pride weekend, go for it. I hope you wore your shortest shorts to the parade, marched for Rainbow Families, and what the hell, made out with a hot stranger behind the port-a-potties by The Saloon. (Ahem…not that I ever did that.) I am grateful for the big gay parade for those years when it spoke to me, and reminded me I had survived.

And I’d like to tell my straight friends two things:   first, I love you. Secondly, you really are supposed to buy gay people a gift on Gay Pride weekend, like a lawnmower.

Preferably the Black and Decker MM1800 Electric Rear Bag Mulching Mower.

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9 Responses to “Pride Schmide”

  1. S Fee Says:

    You write good. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Jeffrey Fillion Says:

    Edmond,

    Fantastic piece! Loved it. Much resonated with me. In the 90s I was all gay activist-fight the world-change the world-homophobia cop… now, I’m less so. Serenitization! change what I can, accept what is beyond my ability to change, and be wise to know the difference. Thanks for writing this.

  3. Scott Says:

    A very thoughtful piece that resonated with me. Thanks. Where do I send my contribution to your new lawn mower? I’m serious.

  4. Edmond Says:

    S Fee: Shanks.

    Jeffrey: I love the word “Serenitization.” It sounds like a software program you can run.

    Scott: You know what would be even better than a lawnmower? How about showing up and mowing the lawn? Nah…that’s just being greedy on my part. Thanks for the offer. You’re just awesome.

  5. Michele Says:

    Edmond, we’ve only known each other for a brief miniscule moment in time. However, in that brief miniscule moment I’ve decided something… You’re just awesome. It that simple – you’re an awesome and very special human being. Loved the post

  6. Wade Says:

    I thought it was a marvelous and personal piece. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

  7. Michael Templeton Says:

    I confess I don’t keep up with my friends’ blogs, even those I love enormously, like you. But how could I pass up Pride Schmide as a title? I’ve felt the exact same way for years. Pride goes with an accomplishment. I never really got “pride” as a concept because it was never something I could really claim ownership to. Its like being proud that I just got another year older, all on my own. Woo hoo!

    But Gratitude as a festival…can you see it? Being grateful for thousands of things each day I feel entitled to and take for granted. Gratitude for the old couple walking hand-in-hand down my sidewalk, even though I’m reluctantly single as I watch them pass. Being grateful for the dad wearing the girly bracelet his daughter made him, just because he loves her and doesn’t give a shit about someone else’s judgment. Grateful for the beauty of youth, even though I’m prone to envy and bitterness at the loss of my own. This could go on and on. All I’m sayin’ is, I’d show up for a festival like that and let the lawn be damned. And if a whole community of people did the same, well, I guess I’d feel…proud!

  8. Debbie Says:

    Dear-Heart, as usual, your words are truly meaningful and awe-inspiring! And how well I remember the night you THOUGHT you were coming out to me. I was so honored that you felt comfortable and so amazed that you really didn’t know that I already knew. Endless hugs to you from me, and I hope you may be in Illinois soon for me to give them in person!

  9. Michelle from FL Says:

    Really loved this blogpost; it is moving and heartfelt, and I feel like I know you a little bit more on a personal level after reading it. :)

    I’ll add one more “being grateful” to the list–grateful for New York being the 6th state to make marriage equality legal. Just 44 more states to go… :)

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