I started to despise most big city Pride events when I learned the models cavorting around one of the Pride parade floats in nothing but their underwear were straight and getting paid to be there. In this manner, all those straight muscle boys functioned as little more than has-been Star Trek actors attending a sci-fi convention and we in the queer community were the losers who’d line up for hours trying to get Counselor Deanna Troi’s autograph.
Why are we so proud of straight men that we will pay them hundreds of dollars just to shake their asses a bit when whole slews of talented folks donate their services to Pride festivities every year for free? I’ve never minded straight folks participating in our parades and events, but having sponsors play the gay-for-pay game when the whole point of our festivals is to celebrate our own always leaves me fuming.
There was a time when cultural events were a pivotal part in big city Pride festivities. This of course was during the early years when people still feared arrest for writing and publishing gay content or showing representations of queerness in visual and performing arts. Back then people understood the political nature of their choice to participate in and/or attend Pride cultural events. In short, people supported the creators in their community because they understood the need for those stories and voices to be seen and heard.
Why is it that so many cities (Vancouver, are you reading?) have almost erased their cultural programming when smaller cities understand it to be core? I thought of this after receiving Facebook messages about Kingston, Ontario’s annual Pride events and while helping to organize Victoria’s annual Pride in the Word. Sure, they may not have as many events as other cities, but they both still manage to program a wide variety of well-attended cultural events.
I’m always amazed and thankful that people like David Tillson, president of the Victoria Pride Society, make it a priority to sponsor an annual literary event. Unlike some cities (Vancouver, are you reading?), there’s always a huge turnout, great readers, lots of booze and everyone always gets laid. Let me repeat that: people do not give up sexual opportunities by showing up at a cultural event; in fact, the opportunities increase.
So many folks have started to have anti-Pride and Gay Shame parties. And, to tell you the truth, I’ve been one of them, but I would once again feel a sense of Pride if we all mixed it up a little. There’s no reason every single Pride night needs to start at a club or a place where you can walk around in a white towel. Perhaps if people mingled around a bit more and tried starting their night off with an art opening or a reading they’d once again understand just how important creators are to our community. Or, if you’re too busy, you can dress up like Spock and head out to the nearest sci-fi convention. It’s your choice.