I'm just about to finish my junior year in high school and came out a little over a year ago. It went pretty well. My parents are OK with it, and my friends are all cool about me being gay.
I want to go with my youth group to the Gay Pride March this month, but something really bothers me. We watched a videotape of last year and there were a lot of guys in dresses and some in leather. Some were even almost entirely naked! Why do they have to do that? Will I become like that some day, too?
This is the third letter I received on this topic in the last couple of weeks, so clearly you're not alone in feeling this way. There's a lot to talk about with this, so here we go.
First, it sounds like you're fortunate enough to be in an area with its own gay pride march. Although there are more and more every year, most of them are still in major metropolitan areas. So if you can, I encourage you to go, because it usually can be an exhilarating experience for a first-timer, probably a lot of fun, and at the very least, a spectacle.
Now when you go, what you're going to find are probably the most gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people you've ever seen in one place at the same time. And because of that, you're going to find people from every part of the spectrum: young and old, men and women, people who "pass" as straight and those who are undeniably queer. Some will be in leather, some in dresses and if you're lucky "Dykes on Bikes" will escort the parade -- that's one of my favorite parts, when the streets just echo with a mile of revving Harleys.
Some people will be dressed and some will be undressed. Some people will look like you, and some will most definitely not.
That's the beauty of this gathering, I believe -- it represents all of the diversity that makes up our community. Is it right or is it wrong? Is this the face of queerdom that we should be presenting to the rest of the world? I'm not going to answer that and leave the judgments for others. Personally, I am kind of refreshed that the San Francisco parade is looking more like a march and less like a bachanal, but Mr. Walsh would accuse me of being too assimilationist. :) I keep in mind, though, Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and that can make even the most raucious Pride Festival seem tame by comparison. So we're not alone in this.
Will you become like some of these people some day? Maybe. But that's for you to decide. Perhaps you will want to, perhaps you will just keep going on being the person you are through and through. The face of the queer community is what this collection of people show us, and I am reminded of the words of Robb Forman Dew, who says in her book "The Family Heart" that she had to learn to put the face of her gay son on the gay community, rather than apply her perceptions of who we are, on the face of her son. Whoever, and whatever, it is that you are, then go march, so we and the rest of the world can see one more person who makes up our community.
You know, many people look at pride marches and get uncomfortable about all of the drag queens and leather folk, but it's at this time of year -- 30 years after the night that started it all -- that we should look back and remember that it was exactly this group of people who didn't hide their sexuality, who couldn't hide their sexuality, and led the way for all of us remaining comfortably in our closets, passing as straight.
So this year, how about going to the parade, find some drag queen in their 50s, and say "Thanks" for paving the ground when some of us were kids, or not even born.