[O]n that June night, after a day of laying beloved icon Judy Garland to rest, those angry Stonewall patrons pushed back in revolt. The event is cited as the beginning of the modern American LGBT movement. In honor of Stonewall, most communities celebrate Gay Pride in June with locally sanctioned celebrations without the threat of being beaten bloody, thrown into jail or a mental institution, or just plain killed dead.
They had a riot. We get a parade. Yay.
Austin’s Pride comes courtesy of the folks at the Austin Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and Equality Texas, two local buttoned-down organizations that work for policy change and play by the rules, thereby helping to define the character of our city’s gay culture. […]
Granted, Austin Pride is a far cry from the Prides celebrated in San Francisco’s Castro or Chicago’s Boys Town, two world-renowned Pride celebrations teeming with adult content. Audiences do not blink at assless chaps, hairy chests, drag queens, or topless dykes on bikes. They wink at them or cheer them on. The freedom of sexuality is played out on the concrete. To participants and organizers of these larger, more established Pride parties, Austin’s may seem tame, perhaps even a bit repressed. The point of Pride in many more established, urban gay communities is to represent a certain progressiveness. Some circles within these communities feel it is a given right, their mandate, and their responsibility to remove the stigma from sexuality and to express personal freedom as gay Americans, who still suffer outsider status in too many places around the globe. Normalizing or sanitizing the sexual aspects of queer culture is viewed as assimilation or even oppression.
When we begin to duct tape the face of Pride, a “proud” celebration that is supposed to stand for freedom and bold self-expression, does the concept of Pride become a watered-down banner for mainstream absorption?
“Our biggest issue is [that we have] minors watching the parade,” said Gratias. “We don’t really need to express ourselves so outrageously. And it’s not out of acceptability but rather out of respect for the families watching.”
Certainly, there is honor in wishing to not alienate anyone. It is a glorious thing to see toddlers and kids hoisting signs that say, “I Love My Gay Aunt!!!” It is stirring to watch the members of Atticus Circle or PFLAG or other proud straight supporters walk alongside Austin’s gay community. There is no dishonor in keeping it “tucked in” to invite and welcome all people.
Ultimately, it’s about unity. The love that pours out of this unique, annual party bears the hope of making a safe space for gay people, for transgender people, for people of color, for straight people, for those reveling in the gray bath of sexual fluidity, in a sense, for everyone. It’s an opportunity to flame the fans of self-expression, the inclusion of every being who seeks to be proud of being exactly who he or she is. To that, the mission of Austin Pride succeeds.