Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Gay Pride: A Place We've Never Been?

Essay by Don Charles (Stuffed Animal)

In a January 2007 essay titled "Doin' Time In Gay Man's Hell", I described how centuries of criminalization and ostracism had infected Gay people with a deep sense of shame. I wrote: "Thirty years ago, there was nothing like the affirmation of LGBT identity that we see today. Society taught us that our love was illegitimate and perverse, and like impressionable children, we accepted that teaching. The Stonewall rebellion notwithstanding, we had very little self-esteem. Closeted or not, we were willing to perpetuate a clandestine culture born of oppression and shame." A separate culture centered around disreputable dive bars, dangerous wooded areas, reeking public restrooms and sleazy Adult book/video shops.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of LGBT folk who still think of these venues as being the center of "Gay culture." Worse, they think Lesbians, Gay men and transgender people should confine their leisure activities to such venues. I got a painful reminder of this when I recently picked up a booklet called Out In Canada; distributed to Gay businesses in the United States, this handout is aimed at promoting LGBT tourism north of the border.

Of course, you'd expect such a publication to highlight places of potential interest to Gay tourists. What I didn't expect is how limited and narrow that interest was perceived to be by the Out In Canada editorial staff. As an example of what I mean, here's an excerpt from the booklet, directed at American Lesbians who plan to visit the Canadian province of Qu├ębec:

To make sure I was up-to-date, I asked friends what 'dyke places' I should (go to) . . . it seems that Toronto dykes tend to patronize Straight bars and restaurants; comfort, cost and quality seem to be more important than queerness....

For the rest, please jump to Don's website: Christ the Gay Martyr


Mark D. Snyder said...

The gay history in this post is quite a bit lacking, and the premise is itself full of shame.

If you don't want to cruise for sex in the woods or go to dive bars, don't - but do not make everyone who enjoys those things feel shameful about themselves.

The author of this post purpetrates the very shame he claims to detest.

Proper information and education around STDS/AIDS will not happen until people accept that we are sexual beings and there is nothing wrong or "sleazy" about it.

The reason I personally go to divey gay bars like the Eagle is not because of my shame it is because it is a safe fun place to go be with my community.

I don't know anyone who thinks that queer people should confine themselves to strictly those venues.

Frankly, there are barely any gay bars left due to all the starbucks and high priced condos that have taken over, which I'm sure the author of this post much prefers.

John Hosty-Grinnell said...

Mark, the more important message is that GLBT people are buying into the idea that there is something to be ashamed of inherently. Only our actions can be judged, not our being.

Jane Know said...

Actually, I was inclined to agree with this article after reading it in entirety. However, after reading mark d. snyder's comment, that has changed a little. I actually do like the divey gay bars, too, including the male ones. They are usually friendly places where I can go and not worry about being judged by anyone and just have a good time.
Oh, and not be hit on by straight men who think lesbians are hot.

John Hosty-Grinnell said...

Jane, I do see a need for the dive bars, and Mark mentioned the "Eagle" which was one of my favorites when we sued to go around in Boston.

I agree with Don in the sense that we have to make sure we are not buying into the idea that there is something wrong with us. That is one of my primary concerns with our community, making sure they live as equals first in their minds.

Jane Know said...

JHG-True. On the opposite side of not wanting gays to be ashamed, I also find it irritating when straight people go to gay bars *only* for the novelty of it. (ie-bachelorette parties going to a famous gay club here in chicago). it's like they're saying, "I would never come here on a normal night, but since it's a special occasion, let's go stare at the gays and drag queens." Maybe this doesn't bother other people. But it does bother me.

Not to mention the fact that gay people can't even get married, yet they will come to a gay bar to brag about their own marriages.

Straight people who go because it's fun or they want to dance or they are with their friends is a different story.