My own cynicism is a job requirement, and it embarrasses me at Pride Day.
I’ve spent the last few days leap-frogging from crankily tracking the Canadian Alliance to meeting just a handful of the hundreds of volunteers who put Pride together.
The politicians leave my brow creased; the volunteers leave me inspired.
They volunteer simply because they were asked, by a friend or colleague. And while some gay men and lesbians say they get lost at Pride, even that they avoid it because it’s just too big to be a true comfortable and comforting community experience, these hardy souls go out and create their own community.
You could say they’re selfish. They give to take. They make friends, support each other, and gain the satisfaction of building up an amazing week for hundreds of thousands of homos.
They insist that it’s not really work. (In a way I can see that, because Pride is a work day that’s not really work for me, too. I wander about for two days with a notebook and a pencil, in case I get squirted – lead won’t run!).
Of course Pride’s not a holiday for everyone. So be good to the waiters who bring beer to table and the security guards who keep the crowds flowing.
Most of us work in the straight world, though, and still manage to get the time off. There’s nothing like guilting the nice liberal straights into giving homo staff this national holiday off.
In fact, everyone should say just that to their employer: Give me Pride Day off!
We’re out to our friends, and usually out to our families (then we wait for the slow process of acceptance to kick in). But not so much out at work – and that’s something we each need to do. Bring a lover’s photo for your desk. (Single? Try a porn star or Renée Russo.) Wear a button on your shirt or rainbow jewellery around your neck or get a single piercing. Something that will jog your co-workers into dimly realizing that we are not all the same.
And then go one step further. It’s not enough to just tell people you’re gay. They must understand the culture, too.
A book reviewer, an acquaintance who’s smart as a button and whose writing I really enjoy, once told me he writes differently for a straight audience, because they won’t get the gay stuff.
That’s what keeps straights from truly understanding the culture. We don’t tell them.
We must gossip about the gay wedding attended, the dads (single and two by two) bringing up baby, the sparkling dinner date. But we also must remember the drag queens we love, tease about waterboy night at the local leather bar, boast that the grrrls are organizing another Pussy Palace women’s bathhouse for September.
Tell your straight colleagues what being gay is really about. Tell them about the fun, the politics, the in-jokes.
We do recruit and we want a world where perverts are naughty (because it wouldn’t be as fun otherwise) but encouraged, where fear is replaced by an understanding of subculture, where we slowly pull society into a more healthy direction.
Let’s all volunteer to do just that. And a Happy Pride to all.
Eleanor Brown is Managing Editor for Xtra.