I'll admit I have never been interested in networking with broader LGBTQ communities, outside of the school network, and even then, I'm involved with them in doses. Recently, the only consistent LGBTQ exposure I have had is when I have class with all my amazing Peers for Pride pals, and the handful of gay men and lesbian woman I train with at my aerial dance studio. Before them, I used to go to the Gender and Sexuality Center to socialize with people I normally do not see, and maybe once in a blue moon would I go out with my "best gays," but honestly, I have never thought of myself as a member of a gay community. Not because I feel like I wouldn't be welcomed, rather, I feel like I haven't invested enough action toward immersing myself in the gay community. This year I was resolved to making more of an effort and actually attending my first Pride parade and festival, an event where I could celebrate being different with those who are also social deviants, and after doing a little more research, I now feel less inclined to do much participating.
"Why", you ask?
Take a few minutes to follow these links, and then come back to me. Don't worry, I'll be waiting right here for you. *cue the elevator music*
I don't know about you, but when I peruse these websites, mostly of what I see are white, incredibly fit, presumably gay men with perfect smiles, having a wonderful time. Even if I do identify with those men because of our gay similarity, the Pride environment is not a place I feel like I could really celebrate my identity because I don't think I have those other characteristics a Pride man should have. Though I know or could imagine that there are all walks of Life present at the Pride events, I would like to take a shot in the dark that most of the figureheads I would see at Pride who represent my broader community, are going to be any combination of the traits I mentioned earlier. I mean three of the four Grand Marshals from the 2012 Pride parade are white (two of them men), and so far the "faces" of the Austin Pride organizers happen to be three, presumably gay, white men, with very nice smiles. Though I appreciate those individuals that have dedicated themselves to making Pride a celebratory event, I find myself having two reasons for not wanting to participate in Pride.
The first, this definition of Pride that the Austin Pride media leads me to interpret, a predominantly white-centric, gay-centric extravaganza, is not something I am looking for. When I think of the face of Pride, I think of my friends in Peers for Pride, all of whom are different looking, yet united in creating a better environment for everyone the LGBTQ campus population. When I think of Pride, I think black, Latino, Asian, white, men, women, trans-men, trans-women, gender queer, cross dressers, straight, bisexual, gay, the list goes on and on. I see people from all parts of the world, with their experiences, coming together to show their pride. Though this is my idea of what Pride should look like, it is disheartening to feel like Austin Pride would not cater to that idea, based off of their media portrayal. Simply, I would like to Austin Pride to provide a more diverse representation of people for their leadership, recognition, and in their media.
The second, while I want to take joy in celebrating my gayness, I also want to acknowledge all the hardships of those who faced the worst LGBTQ oppression before my generation, and the hardships we are still pressed for today, and come together to learn how to build a community that can face these challenges with pride. Seemingly, the biggest concerns I gathered from Austin Pride were legal issues (human rights), and AIDS education and support. Though those are substantial concerns I understand are relevant, I feel like Austin Pride should also focus on giving back to the community in the form of addressing a bigger social issue- the homeless of LGBTQ-identified individuals, primarily LGBTQ youth. Instead of using Pride to solely benefit causes that are getting better because of overall national support and recognition, using this celebration as a time to radically unify as a community and create change. Like we know in Peers for Pride, there are so many challenges an individual faces than just being different, and like Peers for Pride, I would challenge Austin Pride to use it's notoriety as a tool to create awareness of the many obstacles the LGBTQ communities face than the Pride audience are currently lead to believe.