Admit it, you’re kinda intrigued but also put off by gay pride parades. Maybe ‘put off’ is too strong a term for you. Perhaps you’re, say, perplexed by them? Yes, perplexed – how’s that?
And, frankly, who wouldn’t be perplexed?
Gangs of overweight bull dykes cruising along on their blustering hogs? Rail-thin twinks dithering about wearing nothing but glitter and body paint? Big muscley dudes grinding each other to the drilling beat of unhappy-sounding techno music? And drag queens?! Drag queens everywhere! Ten-foot drag queens. 300-pound drag queens. Drag queens in leather, pleather, feathers, sequins, furs, nylons, raw meat, you name it.
It’s all so weird. Disgusting even.
And that’s the point.
My reaction to my first gay parade was probably not too dissimilar to most people’s. Who are these freakshows and why are they behaving so unseemly, so trashy, so utterly untoward? Just when I thought I had seen the “worst” of it, a whole new level of inappropriateness revealed itself in the flesh (and, my, were there lots of it). Needless to say the whole thing made me feel uncomfortable, confused, dirty. But, above all, it made me feel afraid.
Looking back the fear was innocent enough; some would say naïve even. I was coming to terms with my own sexuality then (still am); and witnessing those “extreme” representations of sexual expression only complicated the whole process. You see, like many others, I could only handle a little bit at a time in what I presumed to be the linear process of coming out. The reality, of course, is that nothing in life is truly linear, especially human sexuality. But linearity is, seemingly at least, safe and somewhat controllable. Even the notion of a ‘process’ can be very comforting.
This comfort, however, comes at a price – a price most gay people recognize early on, not only in spite of but also because of the torment, discrimination and hatefulness they’ve endured. It’s not unlike enlightenment attained through suffering.
And therein lies the paradox of gay pride parades.
Like any other procession (derived, of course, from the word ‘process’), there’s a natural beginning, middle and an end to a gay pride parade – in terms of both time and sequence. But that’s pretty much where the linearity desists. For the parade itself is meant to celebrate the OPPOSITE of linearity. What’s the opposite of linearity?, you may inquire. Well, it can be anything you want it to be – revolution (derived, of course, from the word ‘revolve’), centrality, randomness, chaos, nothingness, otherworldliness, whatever.
You see, those freakshows – with their props and their dancing and their nakedness – are merely acting as embodiments of the idea that nothing meaningful in life is so straightforward or predictable or right. Additionally, and equally importantly, instead of fearing complexity, randomness and unknowingness, the freakshows are in fact humbly, if not joyfully, acknowledging them.
In other words, they’re embracing their perplexity.
(often quite creatively)
When I write that I’m still coming to terms with my sexuality, I really mean it. I believe that, as humans, we are fated or wired to undertake the complexities of our sexuality no more or less so than any other core aspect of our being. Our essence, after all, isn’t something we are granted but rather something we continuously strive toward – openly, respectfully and non-linearly.
So the next time you come across a gay pride parade, whether on the streets or on TV, instead of gawking or judging, take a look at your own openness and humbleness, and be also proud – proud of your own perplexity. It’s what links you to everybody else, including those freakshows; who maybe don’t seem so freakish anymore.