This weekend was Gay Pride in Houston. I did not participate. Not because I am not proud of myself for standing up to homophobia and living as an out gay man. Not because I am not proud of the accomplishments of GLBT people. Not because I am not proud of my GLBT culture. In fact, I very much am proud of all that. But in Houston—I have found—Gay Pride is grounded in how mainstream we are. This actually feels more like shame to me than pride.
The parade here consists more of church and employee groups than independent gay organizations. The so-called “fringe” of the gay community does not seem to be particularly welcome as part of Gay Pride in Houston. In the 6 years I have been in Houston there has only once been a leather organization in the parade. The organization that was invited is primarily heterosexual. In order for leather to be in our parade, it too had to be mainstreamed by being largely straight-identified.
I am a gay leatherman. A large part of my gay identity is tied into the fact that I embrace an alternative sexuality, that I am specifically not mainstream. I intentionally sexualize my gay identity. I am proud to push the boundaries of what is acceptable sexuality—not just for GLBT people, but for all people.
In the 1970s when Gay Pride began, we were proud to be sexual outlaws. We were proud to be challenging the gender and sexual norms. I am still proud to be challenging social norms to be more flexible and more inclusive. In 1990 Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen published After the Ball, a book about how the GLBT community could gain acceptance through presenting a mainstream persona. In this After the Ball era, Gay Pride has taken on a role of trying to make our community look like it fits gender and sexual norms, rather than make a statement that an alternative to this was equally valid.
The GLF (Gay Liberation Front), the organization that formed the first Gay Pride celebrations, was adamantly opposed to gay marriage. They viewed gay marriage as the GLB community forsaking what made our culture great—our alternative views of sexuality and gender. As gays gain the right to marry today, I do not expect us to conform to the traditionally-defined monogamous version of marriage. I expect us to redefine what marriage means. Marriage is about commitment, but commitment as defined as an intention to be there for another—nothing about sexual exclusivity or sexual normalcy.
We are a community that has been oppressed based on our sexuality—an adult theme. The celebration of our community, culture, and accomplishments should not have to be “family-friendly.” The celebration of our sexuality should be radical to honor the radical nature of our sexuality and gender. Our community is unified by being sexual and gender outlaws, regardless of how mainstream we might individually live our lives. I have taken as my daily mission to teach the world that my radical sexuality—as non-family friendly as it might be—is as right (morally, psychologically, biologically, etc.) as mainstream or traditional sexuality. I hope more members of the GLBT community remember our roots and that if we are going to truly celebrate Gay Pride, then we need to celebrate the breadth of the community, not just the so-called “acceptable” parts of it.