I have never been sober—not even once—at a single gay pride festival.
My first gay pride festival was in 1996 in Orange County, California (this was back when Orange County still had a gay pride festival; they stopped doing them around 2000 but then brought a scaled-down version of the festival back in 2009), and because I was only 19, I had to smuggle in a pint of vodka that I later mixed with a Sprite. By 5pm, I was drunk and making out with a Latin guy in the Latin tent or maybe it was a cowboy in the country tent. The point of going to Pride, for me, has always been to get drunk and then have sex with someone.
Look, here I am at Long Beach Pride (my Pride of choice, since Long Beach, California was where I lived for most of my 20’s) in 2009 pouring booze into a water bottle just off the parade route. Yes, I’m blurring out the faces of all my friends because they might not be as “proud” of their behavior as me.
Here I am again at LB Pride 2009, this time with two BFFs, a 32 oz. beer in a brown paper bag, and a cigarette (I’ve since quit smoking, thank you very much).
Here I am at LB Pride 2008 with some of my tranny friends and an alcoholic beverage disguised as a soda from Taco Bell.
Oh, and here I am later that night making out with someone. Even before I blurred his photo, I couldn’t remember his name!
And here is one of my favorite Long Beach Prides, back in 2003 or possibly 2004. I didn’t know it at the time, but my friend snapped this photo of me behind her just as I was vomiting. I’d been drinking all day.
I don’t really drink like this anymore (OK, yes I do, but maybe not to the point of throwing up), and I don’t go to Pride festivals as often (because once you’re in your 30’s, doing Jager shots and trying to jump on the Long Beach Mayor’s float isn’t cute anymore), but I can say that some of the best, most happiest, most insane, and most cherished memories of my life have been made at Pride festivals. None of these memories really have anything to do with being “proud” of being gay and none of them really even have anything to do with anything gay at all (expect for the awful gay sex I vaguely remember having). And to be honest, I can’t even remember most of these memories, but I know that if I could, they’d be amazing.
The point is, I love Pride festivals for everything they offer and everything I chose to make of them. I’d like to thank all of the Wells Fargos and Banks of America, the Bacardis and Bud Lights and Jose Cuervos, the Swiss Navy and Wet! lube companies, the airlines, the car companies, the grocery stores, the Boeings, the McDonnell Douglas’s, the Targets, the Gaps, the Hertz Rental Cars, and every other corporate sponsor who made it possible for my friends and me to get belligerently drunk in public and have completely anonymous sex behind the teriyaki chicken on a stick booth.
Today, I read this in the LA Weekly, by Patrick Range McDonald:
Muscled go-go boys shaking their booties on one parade float after another, cock-ring tosses to win a stuffed animal, Bud Light and Bacardi sponsoring an event for a community with consistently high rates of alcoholism and drug addiction — and the same damn music with the same tweaker beat.
Does this make L.A Gay Pride kind of stale and outdated? Are we celebrating some kind of pre-AIDS, 1970s version of the gay experience? When sexual liberation in gay culture was just as important — and justifiably so — as equality? Are we coming off passe and immature by still celebrating our gay heritage as if we’re a bunch of horny, drunk 19-year-olds who came out of the closet a few weekends ago?
The short answer to those questions is an unqualified yes…
As a former horny and drunk 19-year-old who experienced his first gay pride back in 1996, I’d like to say that I would be offended, but I’d probably be too drunk and horny to care. Let’s push the stick firmly planted in McDonald’s ass even deeper:
But each year, L.A. Pride more and more resembles one of those middle-aged gay men who was hot in his 20s, drank and drugged too much into his 30s, still acts and dresses as if he’s 21 although he’s 42 (and got a new arm-sleeve tattoo to prove he’s still with it), and is still looking for action at the Abbey.
A number of gay men and those in the larger LGBT community have begun to see L.A. Pride as a sad spectacle, particularly since being gay is much more than wearing trendy clothes, sporting tattoos and muscles, and sleeping with whomever comes your way.
[O]nce again L.A. Pride will bring out the go-go boys and cock rings, will be partly underwritten by liquor companies, and will celebrate stereotypes and outdated notions of what it means to be gay. And then we’ll wonder why certain straight folks don’t take us seriously or think we’re stuck in some kind of “Peter Pan syndrome” — and we’ll cry bloody murder when we’re treated poorly.
Well, as the old saying goes, if you don’t want to be treated like a slut, don’t act and look like one.
That kind of slut-shaming is classic “blame the victim” rhetoric. You know, when the pretty girl in the short skirt gets raped because, after all, she is a pretty girl in a short skirt. But McDonald also assumes that somewhere out there is a drunk gay slut tossing cock rings who actually wants to be taken seriously by “certain straight folks.” Maybe that drunk gay slut is proud of being a drunk gay slut, and it’s McDonald who doesn’t take him seriously—not straight people. Maybe it’s McDonald who wants straight people to take him “seriously” (whatever that even means), which is about as outdated, passe, and sad as it gets. What could be more immature than looking to others for acceptance and approval?
The fact that all of the advances in gay rights have occurred over the past decade in spite of the continuing spectacle of drunk gay sluts tossing cock rings at Pride tells me that a) straight people simply aren’t paying attention to drunk gay slut cock ring tossing or b) straight people are paying attention to drunk gay slut cock ring tossing and they think it’s great.
But over the past decade, we have clearly moved into a more enlightened era in which we’re not just fighting for our right to dance with each other or have sex with someone of the same gender — we’re fighting for our right to serve our country, to legally marry the person we love, to be out and not be fired for it and to play in professional sports without some kind of retribution.
To simply maintain our right to party and hook up with whomever we wish seems so 1970s, doesn’t it? So, ah, adolescent.
Isn’t that what everyone of every age, straight and gay, is fighting for? The right to party and get laid? From Mardi Gras to the Superbowl to St. Patrick’s Day to Cinco de Mayo to New Year’s Eve to Nascar races to 4th of July to every single sporting, holiday, ethnic or cultural celebration, everyone wants to party. And just like Pride, all of those events have been 100% co-opted and commodified by corporate interests. And who cares? Everyone and everything in every aspect of life has been whored out, so why not make the most of it? After all, where else but Pride can you open a Citibank checking account while drinking an Absolut Flirtini mere seconds after getting your dick sucked in a port-o-potty?
Maybe we should bring L.A. Pride back to its roots and make it once again a political statement. To highlight our contributions to society, and to reach out in meaningful ways to our straight allies, our parents, and extended families.
Maybe we should highlight a particular battle we’re fighting on the front lines of gay rights and make that the centerpiece of the gay pride parade, rather than make a straight celebrity a grand marshal, which then diverts publicity toward him or her and away from the important issues we’re facing.
Maybe we should ban sponsors entirely, raise money from within the community, forget the $20-per-person festival that’s more a place for corporate sponsors to sell their wares than anything else, and just throw one helluva soul-touching, all-inspiring march.
Maybe he should stay away from Pride, and leave it for the drunk gay sluts. Who is Patrick Range McDonald to pass judgment on what someone else’s celebration of Pride should be?
One of the great things about being gay and one of the fundamental tenets of “gayness” as I have always understood it is that we are the ones who are accepting of pretty much everyone. We are the ones who celebrate the outrageous and the controversial and the shunned and the slutty. We, as individuals, get to decide for ourselves what we’re proud of, how much we want to drink, how many cock rings we want to toss, and who we want to hook up with. No one person—not even a columnist for the LA Weekly—gets to tell everyone else “how it should be” or what Pride means. Besides, we already have Wells Fargo, Bud Light, Bud Light Lime, Bacardi, Boeing, Virgin America, Clear Channel, Comcast, Whole Foods, Smirnoff, AT&T, and Kaiser Permanente to do that.