Monday, August 7, 2017

THE PRIDE INSIDE


Yesterday was Vancouver Pride. Apparently it’s a whole week. I’ve written about Pride before. How I feel depends on the year. This time around, I was indifferent. Sure, it may have to do with the fact that I would have had to go to the parade on my own. The few gay friends I still have in Vancouver are currently visiting family in Alberta, Ontario and Prince Edward Island. (Seems no one was born and raised here.)

I’ve gone alone before, in L.A. and in Vancouver. It’s easy to overcome the self-consciousness. People aren’t thinking, Look at that sad-sack. They’re too busy waiting for the next contingent of The Ab Squad to show off their gym-enhanced genetic gifts. No harm there. The young exhibitionists get the attention they crave and the voyeurs wonder why they never had a body like that…before grabbing a couple of beers after the show is over. I just don’t get my pride from that kind of spectacle. It does nothing in affirming my gayness.

In truth, my struggle with Pride celebrations—the parade, the overhyped club parties, the street party—has nothing to do with being gay. I used to think that was the case and I’d get critical of what people took away from the one-dimensional news coverage—drag queens galore, topless dykes on bikes, go-go boys as some form of Twink Chippendales act. I no longer have to be defensive about the LGBT image. Society is evolving. A lot more regular Joes, JoAnns and Jo-Joes are out in normal settings like work, family and mixed social circles. Any festival atmosphere is an over-the-top representation of its people. Our “traditional garb” just happens to be Lycra briefs, feather boas and pasties.

The real problem is I’m an introvert. It can be as uncomfortable for me standing in the crowd as it would be for me to take off my shirt and dance on a float, repulsing the gawkers with my jiggly belly. (No beers needed!) I did try to push myself by checking out the Pride calendar online. Bingo? Um,…maybe in twenty years. Gay choir? Been there, done that. Not my thing. The search was an exercise in excuse-making and negativity. I just wasn’t up for anything social, especially as a Party for One. Not a party at all.

And so I let the parade day pass quietly. I ventured out to get the New York Times. (Always a Sunday highlight.) I picked up fresh tomatoes and zucchini at the farmers’ market. I bought a sourdough loaf at my favorite spot in Gastown. On my walk, I fretted about the hubbub of dark, depressing activity I observed as the downtrodden injected themselves with who-knows-what, a security guard closely followed a homeless person in the grocery store and a filthy shirtless man in stained jeans revealed a series of scars and bad tattoos on his skeletal frame. Definitely not Go-Go Land.

Still, a few images altered my routine. Three women in tie-dye rainbow gear laughed loudly as they ignored me while getting on the elevator in my building. A look-alike gay muscle couple in tight, matching black tees with some sort of rainbow-colored messaging popped into the bakery…for coffee; definitely not for bread. At bus stops, small groups in colorful gear waited for their ride to Parade Central. (Fashionably late, of course.) And, two cyclists pedaled in that direction, their wigs, leis and strung together bandanas flowing beautifully in the breeze. If I’m honest with myself, I suppose I was envious with how robustly they all prepped for Pride.

In my own way, I had prepped, too. A month ago, I bought a pair of rainbow Chuck Taylors to add to my collection of nearly three dozen pairs of Converse. There were two versions to choose from and I went against my first choice, a more subtle option of rainbow star outlines on a white canvas, and bought the full-on rainbow stripes that even extended to the bottom treads. Loud and proud! Alas, I’ve yet to take them out of the box. It could be years before they come out. No showy display from me. Rainbow is not really my color. Too yellow. Too orange. Great shades to see in the sky, just not against the pasty skin of a redhead.

My own Pride Ride. I came across this painted
walkway in New Westminster, far from the
big celebration.
Later in the day, I went on a three-hour bike ride. Alone, of course. It invigorated me and brought me joy as I cycled along urban streams and the Fraser River, raced a couple of trains (I won!) and worked the gears through hilly Burnaby. I went in the opposite direction from the Pride events and quietly reflected on these gay times. I remembered friends and acquaintances who died at a time when AIDS both ravaged and empowered the “community”. I felt happy for younger gays who may have more support as they come to terms with their identity. I expressed gratitude for living in a city and a country where being LGBT is no more remarkable than being Chinese or agnostic or, well, male.

How far we’ve come. I am proud. Just in the quietest, most unobtrusive way.     

3 comments:

Rick Modien said...

Yup. The Pride inside. Totally get that. Haven't attended a Pride anything since moving back to the Lower Mainland over eight years ago. I'm living Pride, every day. I'm out, got the LTR, feeling pretty good about myself (although I still slip backwards from time-to-time). Don't need to be part of the group, anymore. Both Chris and I have moved on.

Thanks for sharing your Pride experience this long weekend. Always good to read a new blog post from you.

Take care, RG. Hope all is well.

oskyldig said...

I feel the same as you do, despite not having attended pride ever. I never saw how it represented me or my values other than acceptance and some inconsistent level of tolerance. I keep getting the feeling like I should go, but then know I would end up saying "this isn't for me." Much like you, going alone doesn't seem so interesting.

However, I did attend the pride after party in my city this spring. I was otherwise engaged and out of town for the day, but despite the festival being pretty colourful and good artists in town for the party, the crowd was very ungay. Someone remarked to me that the gays don't go to pride any more.

Being molested by 2 drunk women was enough for me to pack it in and run away for the evening.

Rural Gay Gone Urban said...

Glad to hear from both of you. Each year, as Pride approaches, I wonder what is wrong with me. Am I not proud? Why don't I get excited about the festivities. I think part of being inclusive is allowing people to feel perfectly okay in passing on the events.