Saturday, June 23, 2018

Have Pride

Today culminates the end of Pride Month with many cities have large Parades and celebrations to honor the LGBQT community.  I used to take great pride to be involved as I was brought home from the hospital after my birth with my Mother and her two GFF's, Bobby and Earl, whom I adored for all of her life and for some time thereafter; as age and time and death soon took many of those in the community that I grew up "within."   And while still being firmly on the outside as I am straight and never "experimented" or "questioned' my sexuality or gender I knew that I always had people who were different just like I was, a message my Mother drove into my life constantly and still presently.  During my youth   I knew one Trans individual, Lelani, who was always a woman to me and I knew that she presented herself as one despite being genetically a man.  I have no idea what, if any, drugs or surgeries she had but she was as gorgeous on the outside as on the inside and that is all that mattered.  I knew Drag Queens and never confused them with anything but performers who lived their daily lives as they chose.  Some were very closeted and some presented themselves as straight and again knowing people and knowing their bedroom business are two different things unless you are in the bedroom with them and then it is there that it becomes complicated.  Sex, regardless of your options, is always complicated.   I miss intimacy and affection, I don't miss fucking in the least, I have a suitcase full of toys that can satisfy that aspect of need.  But we all deserve the respect and pride that having love gives. 

When I moved to Nashville I knew I wanted to live in the most diverse area and that is the South. This area has less hype and is less faddish, although that is changing, it has many cultures and ethnicities on which to draw and the irony is that that of the few Gay bars in town I have two within walking distance - Trax and Stirrups.   I moved here two years ago on this very week of events and could not wait to walk down to both bars to meet the new neighbors and share their celebrations.  And like all of my encounters in Nashville I was left adrift.

Again I asked myself what was wrong with me. I  knew my baggage was large but I had decided to firmly put it in storage until I could connect with those who would be open and understanding why I chose to move, how I came to pick Nashville (again the reasons are as complex as any) and what I wanted to find upon relocation.  I don't think I have ever in two years (now going on three) ever fully explained any of this and if so I doubt anyone would give one flying fuck that is how bad it is here when it comes to empathy, compassion and understanding.  I assume they show that in the music lyrics as they certainly don't express that in any way I understand.  I assume that it is lost in translation - northern speak vs southern speak.  And yes there is a very different method of communication here that while it veers on passive aggressive it also falls into another that I call the football play - offend to defend.  It is bizarre how few people here communicate directly and clearly and almost always put every conversation in some quasi question and answer game where you know that you will never get one if you pose one in response.  So I assumed that perhaps a marginalized community would be different and in turn more welcoming to a woman who does not fit in the standard box that would fit someone of my "type."  I was wrong.

Just as I found myself questioning my feelings regarding race as the African American/Black culture here finding one that was like none I had encountered living in Oakland or in Columbia City/Seattle  I had always gravitated too long before the idea of gentrification kicked in.  Yes true it was because housing was cheaper but also the neighbors were way more neighborly and it was always comforting to know who lived near you and have those Mr. Rogers moments upon occasion.    But times have changed and in turn the way we do communicate and befriend others has now fallen to social media and networks so I don't know if Mr. Rogers would recognize this hood.  And these boys in this hood of the South seem to fill an archetype that I am utterly unfamiliar - angrier, more violent, rude, unkind and generally dismissive of even the most simplistic of courtesy.   True upon occasion I find that people are people everywhere but my daily encounters find that this seems more the norm than the exception.  And in turn I am not sure why I would expect the Gay Community to be any different as they are as just as marginalized if not more here in the shadows of Churches that align every block.

If you are watching the new Queer Eye on Netflix the show is taking place in the South and many of the members have come from similar regions and understand the power of the Church and the community on how those who see themselves as "different" are often treated and acknowledged. At one episode, Bobby Berk, remained outside the Church they were going to collect their next makeover as he felt so estranged from that environment he could not allow himself to even cross the threshold.  That was a fierce episode in every sense of the word as you also saw the son of the woman they were there to assist come out and find his way back to the very Church that rejected him once before.  I cried and anyone who has ever found Church a place of solace and joy would recognize that struggle.  I have closed the door on Church and while I have crossed the threshold of them, I cannot enjoin or engage in the same way I feel about living in Nashville and partaking in any community events, including women marches and gay pride.

I think it is easy to carry signs and flags and wear apparel once a year to voice your support is great but I wonder what you do the rest of the year to indicate you give a shit?  Here in Tennessee we have one elected official after another who have been quite vocal about their loathing of the LGBQT community so clearly no one is voting or finding candidates who are more equitable in their thinking with regards to issues that align with the LGBQT community among others that could benefit from them.   My few visits to Trax and to Stirrups made me feel more alone than I do sitting in my living room a few hundred feet away.  I did not attend any events yesterday and today I walked by the park and laughed as they were discussing why traffic was so bad at the Y this morning and I knew that this was why but I said nothing. This is the Y as in Christian and despite it being Yoga I know better.  Instead  I went to the Farmer's Market, got a coffee and went to the Bicentennial Park and read the paper.  When the women's march happened I went to Franklin and I would have rented a car to do the same but that ramp is closed this week and I had no desire to drive out of my way in which to avoid this and I managed to do so with only a delay on the bus due to rerouting.

A few years ago I was in New York during the Pride weekend when Marriage Equality had been decided by the Supreme Court and that weekend was full of such positive energy that even the presence of Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner who was going to the same plays and musicals as I (just on different nights) did little to jar my mood.  I was thrilled to be there in my favorite city embracing the new reality of life for those who had been denied just a symbolic measure of "normalcy" and frankly if one wants marriage have at it but I am over it.

I know that the Gay community struggles to find its own footing for its own members and well I cannot be one and for years I always believed I was in honorarium given that Gay men were the largest factors of influence in my life and I can thank one in particular for my life. And that is one gift I never can return but I hope to re gift to someone else one day.   Again I don't like anyone in Nashville and I am clear that I intend to express that as that is my truth and my reality.  And you may not like me or understand me but you will hear my truth as to why and I finally get why I am not happy here and that is the struggle many people face in the LGBQT community itself.   That is one thing we do share.  But I don't like or support anyone or anything here for that reason as I cannot pick or choose and in turn pretend that once the day is over I give a shit.  I can't give a shit about anyone who doesn't reciprocate.  Think about that and have some pride in being a good neighbor.  

I share this op-ed piece that  I read today to understand for many they may belong but they don't feel that they need to belong on every front.  Watch Queer Eye and the episode where they makeover a Trans person and that struggle to find the balance was especially one that Tan the fashion expert struggled with.  I cried as I recognized that even I the most liberal and open person in the world does when it comes to this community.  Funny how exceptions can be made and when one is made uncomfortable it forces one to learn things about themselves in the process.  Living in Nashville has certainly done that and none of for the better, the people here are simply too loathsome for me to pretend I do care.  I wonder if Melania would loan me her jacket?

There’s No Right Way to Be Queer

By Joanne Spataro
Ms. Spataro is a humorist and writer.

The New York Times|Opinon| June 22, 2018

On Sunday, tens of thousands of people, L.G.B.T. and straight and trans and cisgender, will pour into the streets of Manhattan for New York’s annual Pride March. This year’s celebrations, however, will be colored by national politics. For the second year in a row, the president won’t even acknowledge Pride Month, but will make proclamations about Homeownership Month. This is all happening as overall acceptance of L.G.B.T. people has dropped for the first time since 2014.

But there is a deeper tension running through this year’s Pride celebrations. Especially in the Trump era, it’s becoming harder for people who don’t present as the “right” kind of queer-identified person to feel welcome. They sense an encroaching “homonormativity,” the idea that there is one acceptable mode — white, male, gay — with everyone else marginalized or silenced.

The contrast is clear in triumphant, ecstatic celebrations of marriage equality, when trans people still can’t use the bathroom that matches their gender identity. Corporations are cashing in on these identities by selling gay-themed products during Pride Month — often referred to as “rainbow capitalism” — but too often, the rainbow begins and ends with masculine gay men. “There is a sense now of compulsory gayness,” said Josh Burford, the director of community engagement at the Invisible Histories Project.

Homonormativity isn’t an issue only on the parade route. The term “masc 4 masc” is increasingly prevalent on dating sites for gay men as a way of prioritizing masculine-presenting people and filtering out more feminine-presenting ones.

That compulsion and exclusivity is masked by the perception of diversity within gay identity. “Nowadays, there are just as many plug-and-play identities, like twinks, bears, otters and dykes, and each comes with a hefty price tag if you want to ‘do them correctly,’” Mr. Burford said. These “plug-and-play” identities can make closeted L.G.B.T. people feel isolated and unseen. Even though it’s 2018, too many people are still concealing their identities, and the pomp and pageantry — and the cost of participating — of Pride Month doesn’t help.

“Being out at a festival is just too expensive for some people, especially people who are newly out in their attempt to get it right and connect with a community they have not really been a part of,” Mr. Burford said. “The economics of being out at Pride relies on the old idea that all gay people are rich, and as we know, this isn’t true. It gets really hard when your idea of gay is attached to expensive product placement.”

These socially and culturally enforced rules don’t stop at appearance: Even the “right” way to stand up for equal rights has changed since November 2016, putting a premium on political and social-justice affiliations within the community. Closeted people who aren’t yet plugged into the community are inundated with the so-called right and wrong ways to express their gender identity and sexual orientation.

“Folks are at different points of their coming-out journey,” said Delighted Tobehere, a drag queen based in New York City who travels around the United States to be a host of Pride and other L.G.B.T.-centered events. “While some people are looking for their next date, some people are just looking for a friend.”

In 2012, I attended my first Pride event, as a reporter. I was still in the closet as a lesbian. I was there to interview Stuart Milk, a gay activist and the nephew of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man elected to public office.

As Stuart and I walked past glistening, muscled men painted in rainbow colors and lesbians in trucker hats, I began to sweat — and it wasn’t the heat. I began furiously talking about George Clooney for no reason, feeling as though I would be exposed not only as a lesbian but as one who wasn’t doing it right.

Stuart interrupted me to ask, “Are you straight?”

I answered yes with a speed that scared me. The freedom of Pride had become a lead weight for me, my sensible plum-colored Ralph Lauren dress a prison amid the homonormative show of lithe gay men in rainbow paint and butch lesbians in white tank tops.

The more we can reach out to our closeted family, the better we can make Pride for everyone. We must consider how the usual rallying cry at Pride is working for these community members, and face these issues with them.

Yes, we need to come out of the closet to defeat those who don’t accept L.G.B.T. people, and still go to Pride to show that we exist and aren’t going anywhere. But we also must acknowledge that this process doesn’t unfold the same way and at the same pace for everyone, and seek out those who come to Pride without the glitz and glamour, who don’t say much, but who desperately want to make a friend.

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