I’m prone to scripting poems as I experience and process life’s events. Experience the event and then shit out, as it were, a poem. But with this year’s Pride celebration, I wasn’t waxing poetic so much as I was just pensive.
In the rainbow shuffle, with all the marketing campaigns, the hour-long commercial that is the parade (I mean, it’s amazing that there is level of public acceptance of the LGBT+ community), and constant exposure to drunk girls (mostly straight ones, I’m sure) I lost interest in the whole idea.
In response to the onslaught of distractions I thought back to my first Pride. Let me take you back to that moment…
If you can recall the early to mid 1990’s, then you remember the scarcity of the internet and how digital wasn’t quite up on its feet. Technology was like a steam-locomotive: just starting to huff and puff. But, we did have cable!
That was the context, but if we look closer we have ourselves a husky teen who is growing up in a home with his four older siblings and parents who participate fairly piously in the Mormon faith.
And under his genial disposition, Scott (the husky teen) is uncertain why he looks a little bit longer at the boys than he does the girls. Maybe his insecurity makes him curious about other males? Who knows.
What he does know is that the Sundance Chanel (Channel 350, or something like that) airs a variety of gay-themed feature-length and short-films for the month of June. Through this broadcast he learns that June is Gay and Lesbian Pride Month (this was before the “family” expanded into its current, inclusive iteration of LGBTQ+).
And so, clutching the remote with his finger poised over the “Previous” button (set to switch back to something uncontroversial, like TNT or MTV) the husky teen watches and, for the first time, he sees two men kiss. And he cannot look away. He goes back, late at night so his parents and siblings don’t find out, to see it again.
Armistead Maupin Tales of the City, Jeffry, Maurice, And the Band Played On…and he never forgot the short “Pool Days”; they intrigued and ignited Scott. Where would all this new entertainment lead?
Almost 18 years later, I finally came out of the closet and celebrated Pride in a traditional, open way.
But sitting there, watching those films was the first version of Pride I ever knew, secretive and intensely personal. No rainbows. No marketing. It was just a boy watching filmmakers tell stories of people like him, coping with the struggle of self-acceptance.
In those days, Pride was needed in its raw form: a protest. I think now, after seeing the progress made, I will see Pride like that husky teen did: a simple, quiet moment in time with the curtain peeled back, an an opportunity to remember that we can now live hand-in-hand with the inclinations and attractions that come so naturally.