Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Impressions of 2004 GLBT Pride Parade in NYC

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Note: Originally posted on the EAGLE online community site, behind IBM's firewall on 22 June 2004, at 8:22 am, and posted here on 24 May 2007:

Here's what gives me hope from yesterday:

  • The dykes on bikes motorcycle delegation seem an ultimate representation of women doing what they want with their time and money, and with their loved ones and with one another
  • This morning, on my way to work, hearing Alba Ruiz(?) of NYC pop radio station 102.7FM, broadcasting her people-on-the-street interviews, asking, "What does gay pride mean to you?" with all of the answers including that it means equality and recognition of our humanity
  • Hetrick-Martin Institute's float, with all of the GLBTQI students marching/dancing happily for the day
  • My synagogue's big delegation, Congregation Beth Simchat Torah (see for a beautiful "Prayer of Gratitude for LGBT Pride")
  • Gay and lesbian police officers and firefighters, including a recruitment truck for the NYFD
  • The Lavender Light Gospel Choir float, with its participants' loving, earnest singing
  • Various countries' floats, especially Venezuala's artful cardinal-costumed marchers and Brazil's for its sheer amount of people; reminds me of how most of us in the United States are originally from another country
  • I'm no longer 11 or 15 or 21 or 26 or 29, but rather nearly 39 and closer than I've ever been to being happy with who I am.

And yet...

I'm conservative in many ways and yet love-and-desire-driven, which is why I live my life as a lesbian, rather than living conventionally in terms of the shape of my family.

Yesterday, I saw a woman at the parade, who had written in grease-pen on her bare back, "I'm proud of my sister." She was outrageous. I think I saw her with her lesbian or bisexual sister later. Her sister looked a lot less wild....

When the Broadway version of the "Rocky Horror" float went by, I tried explaining to my friends that when people went to see the film religiously on Saturdays at midnight when I was in high school, and dressed up as their favorite characters, I stayed away. I didn't want to be part of that crowd, even as part of me was desperate to find a group of friends with whom I felt at home with my sexual orientation, even as I denied the reality of my orientation till senior year of college.

I didn't see "Rocky Horror" until a few years ago, until it was a Broadway play and I was with Pat for nearly a decade. God, what was the big deal? It was kind of fun, but also, I could have lived my whole life, never seeing it and still being fine. My favorite part of the show was the lipstick of the main character, which reminded me of the sparkly quality of bumper-cars.

Confidence with my sexuality, or really, confidence with all of who I am is my continual aspiration. Just when I think I'm all set, internalized homophobia springs forth from me into the energy in the air, even if I say nothing aloud, and then comes back into me as further potent poison.

I'm watching the parade and the boldest among the celebrants repel and compel me in parallel. I want to be good-natured and just surrender to it, but then, it occurs to me at various points, being here at this parade would make a number of G, L, B or T people homophobic, let alone non-GLBT people. And then I think I'm being a poor sport because would I be as put off if there were a greater number of scantily-clad lesbians? Is my reaction just sour grapes at having to watch so many guys, wearing nothing but pouches?

When one tries to shut people up historically and continue to oppress them and treat them as though they're not human, they can become extreme and fulfill one's expectations around their lack of humanity. Paradoxically, I think they're only further demonstrating their humanity, just under duress in some cases, and in others, independent of anyone's reaction to them.

The day started so conventionally, with a gay neighbor and a lesbian friend coming over for breakfast on our deck. It was a perfect day weather-wise and part of me wanted simply to stay on the deck, enjoying our friends and our home.

We went into the city because our gay friend loves to go every year and because our lesbian friend is from another country and had never seen an American pride celebration, and we had offered to be her hosts for her inaugural experience.

And because of "Al tifrosh min hatsibur," / "Don't isolate yourself from the community;" I'm reminded of the quote from Ethics of the Fathers that I've referred to in this database previously. And maybe in a number of years, after another series of pride festivities, I'll be able to say, "...and I'm no longer nearly 39, and happier than ever with who I am."

P.S. 7 July, 2004:

The more I reflected on my impressions over the past couple of weeks, the more I was reminded...that I need to reduce internalized homophobia through self-esteem-building activities. Being a spectator did not build self-esteem for me in the way that being among one of the parade delegations would have. Next time I participate in the GLBT Pride Parade in NYC, I hope to be in it, not watching from the side-lines.

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