Admit it, you're kinda intrigued but also put off by gay pride parades. Maybe "put off" is too strong a term for you. Perhaps you're, say, perplexed by them? Yes, perplexed -- how's that? And, frankly, who wouldn't be perplexed? Gangs of overweight bull dykes cruising along on their blustering hogs? Rail-thin twinks dithering about, wearing nothing but glitter and body paint? Big, muscly dudes grinding each other to the drilling beat of unhappy-sounding techno music? And drag queens?! Drag queens galore! Ten-foot drag queens. 300-pound drag queens. Drag queens in leather, pleather, feathers, sequins, furs, nylons, raw meat, you name it. It's all so weird. Freakish even. And that's the point. Sort of.
My reaction to my first gay pride parade was probably not too dissimilar to those of many people's. Who are these freakshows, and why are they behaving so unseemly, so trashy? And just when I thought I had seen the worst of it, a whole new level of inappropriateness revealed itself before me in the flesh -- and, my, was there lots of it [details redacted for your safety]. Needless to say the whole thing made me feel uncomfortable, confused, dirty. But, above all, it made me feel afraid.
Looking back, the fear was innocent enough, some would even say naïve. I was coming to terms with my own sexuality then (still am), and witnessing those extreme representations of sexual expression only complicated the whole process. You see, like many others, I could only handle a little bit at a time in what I presumed to be the very linear process of coming out as not heterosexual. The reality, of course, is that nothing meaningful in life is truly linear, especially human sexuality. But linearity is, seemingly at least, safe and somewhat controllable.
Even the notion of a 'process' can feel very comforting. This comfort, however, comes at a price -- a price most LGBT people recognize early on, not only because of but also in spite of the torment, discrimination, and hatefulness many of them have endured. It's not unlike enlightenment attained through suffering. And therein lies the paradox, or dichotomy, if you will, of gay pride parades.
Like any other procession (derived from the words, 'process' or 'proceed'), there's a natural beginning, a middle, and an end to a gay pride parade in terms of both time and sequence. But that's pretty much only where the linearity applies. For the parade itself is meant to celebrate the OPPOSITE of linearity. What's the opposite of linearity? Well, it can be anything you want it to be: revolution (derived from the words, 'revolt' or 'revolve'), centrality, randomness, chaos, nothingness, otherworldliness, what have you.
You see, those "freakshows" -- with their props and their dancing and their nakedness -- are merely acting as embodiments of the idea that nothing worthwhile in life is so straightforward, or predictable, or right. Additionally, and equally importantly, instead of fearing complexity, randomness, and unknowingness, those so-called freakshows are in fact humbly, if not joyfully, embracing these frightening concepts. In other words, they're celebrating their perplexity. (Often quite creatively.)
When I write that I'm still coming to terms with my sexuality, I really mean it. I believe that, as humans, we are fated, or wired, to undertake the complexities of our sexuality no more or less so than any other core aspect of our being. Our essence, after all, isn't something we are granted with full consciousness but, rather, something we continuously strive to understand and embrace -- openly, respectfully, and non-linearly.
So the next time you come across a gay pride parade, whether on the streets or on TV, instead of gawking or judging, take a look at your own openness and humbleness, and be also proud -- proud of your own perplexity (and complexity). It's what links you to everybody else, including those freakshows, who maybe won't seem so freakish anymore.