Recently, a straight friend of mine asked me if I was planning to attend the annual Gay Pride Parade in West Hollywood. I half-heartedly replied that I probably would. My friend shrugged, saying that he and his wife always used to attend, but didn't bother anymore. "It used to be so outrageous," he explained. "The people, the floats. It was like Mardi Gras, but now it's just a bunch of people in Khaki shorts pushing baby carriages." His remark sort of stung a little. I had to admit that lately, my enthusiasm for the whole "Pride" thing had flattened out a bit. I'd mostly chalked it up to age. When I was young(er), I loved "Pride." It was the one day of the year you could get super-drunk before noon, dance in the street and kiss your boyfriend (or somebody else's boyfriend) in broad daylight without any fear of getting the shit beaten out of you. It was an exhilarating, no-holds-barred, free-for-all celebration of being "the outsider."
My friend was right in that the freaky "in-your-face" quality the parades once possessed had sort of waned lately. Although, we still had the scary "Dykes on Bikes," the flatbed full of leather men and of course, the occasional drag queen staggering by, mostly all you got now were lots and lots of "groups" (like "The LGBT Coalition for/or against Something") all marching along in their color coordinated T-shirts. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it's not necessarily something you want to stand all day in the hot sun to watch.
The most fun I ever had at Pride was when I marched with the Gay & Lesbian Film Festival. Each year, they would "salute" a different classic movie and that particular year, it was "The Sound of Music." After a bloody, hair-pulling fight, I managed to land the much-coveted role of "Maria." Surrounded by a very ethnically diverse group of Von Trapp children, I skipped along, strumming my guitar in my postulate costume, followed by dancing nuns, shirtless boys in lederhosen and quartet of large Lesbians dressed as the Swiss Alps. It was beyond fabulous! I would, however, like to offer you a tip. Never attempt to "skip" 2.5 miles while wearing a pair of women's shoes. There was, for a time, some concern as to whether I would ever walk again.
Oddly, my friend's question did leave me wondering what exactly I was proud of. I was certainly proud of the accomplishments of Gay and Lesbian people. Starting with Plato and Socrates, all the way up to Ellen DeGeneres, Barney Frank and Ryan Seacrest, it's an impressive list. I was certainly proud of the estimated 60,000 Gay and Lesbian soldiers currently thought to be on active duty in the United States military. Plus, I was proud of my community's activism in areas like employment discrimination and HIV awareness. And we always look so good doing it. Our men, so sleek and well-groomed. Our women, so rugged and handsome. I was sure proud of Sean Penn! Here's a guy who, to my knowledge, has never suck a dick in his life, but there he was on the Oscars, staunchly defending my constitutional rights. And I was, of course, proud of Barack Obama: the first US president to ever even acknowledge the existence of Gay people in his inaugural address.
But these were the accomplishments of other people. What was I personally proud of? If having "Pride" just meant acknowledging my history of sleeping with other men, I had quite a lot to be proud of! Having been gay since the age of four, I've gotten pretty good at it over the years. However, since I have a strict "no cameras" policy in my bedroom, I don't have anything I can show you. So, you'll just have to take my word for it.
These days being Gay is less about sex than it is about civil rights anyway. As you may have heard, Carrie Prejean, the newly dethroned Miss California, recently got her big fake boobs caught in the gnarly mousetrap of opposing Gay marriage. Now free of her royal obligations, Miss Prejean has stated that she will continue her campaign to prevent homos from legally marrying because of a deep, personal feeling that same-sex marriage is just, well, "wrong."
I can relate to Carrie's feelings. Just last week, as I was rushing to an appointment in Koreatown, I too had a deep personal feeling that we should create a law that would allow ordinary citizens like myself to randomly shoot any driver that didn't use their turn signal. I suspected that "David's Law" would be very popular with California voters. But then when I thought about all the needless heartbreak and loss I would be inflicting on the lives of so many people; people I had no real relationship to and knew almost nothing about, it didn't seem like such a good idea after all. And I guess that's why we should always create laws based on constitutional principles and judicial precedent; and not on people's personal fucking feelings. That said, I'd like to wish Ms. Prejean well in her new role representing angry, uninformed segregationists everywhere. God speed, Carrie.
So after mulling this whole Pride question over for a bit, here's what I came up with: I love men. And fortunately, men love me! So, it's all worked out pretty well. To say I'm proud of being Gay is like saying I'm proud of my height, hair color or shoe size; things that were all decided for me before I was born. I mean really! If a guy likes to suck dick or a gal likes to enjoy a little pussy that's not her own... What the fuck? Who among us wants to be judged on the most intimate, personal details of our lives? Wouldn't we rather be assessed based on what we do or how we operate in the world? I stand before you; a man who has loved and been loved. I can install a light fixture; put up sheetrock and change a tire. I also have an uncanny ability to pick out the perfect lamp for any room and once sewed an entire patchwork quilt by hand (sort of like a prairie woman). I am a writer. A Democrat. A teacher. A mentor. An optimist. And a cocksucker. Am I proud of all those things? Well, I'm certainly not ashamed of them.
Not long ago, I was driving home from a rather raucous party when it occurred to me that I was a little too drunk to be behind the wheel of a car. So, solid citizen that I am, I pulled into the 24 hour "Subway" sandwich shop at Sunset and LaBrea. There was a cute, friendly Latin kid working there who I was pretty sure was straight, but I was drunk and it was three o'clock in the morning, so I decided to flirt with him a little. After we discussed the merits of the various subway sandwiches, I made my selection. At which point, my new, imaginary, Latino boyfriend looked into my eyes, smiled and said "Can you handle twelve inches?" To which I replied, "Gosh, that certainly sounds good... but I'd prefer not to end my evening in the emergency room." He laughed. And as I sat eating my sandwich, we shot the breeze a little. He was a student at LACC. He hadn't declared his major yet, but was leaning toward law enforcement. I told him I was a writer working in the entertainment business - which explained what I was doing drunk in a Subway at three o'clock in the morning. It wasn't a groundbreaking conversation. It didn't change the world. But it was nice. And as I left, I couldn't help thinking how swell it would be if someday we could all just order whatever appealed to us off the menu and enjoy it; without being particularly concerned about what the other guy was eating. And when (and if) that day ever comes, we will all - all of us - have something to be very, very proud of indeed.