Saturday, June 26, 2010

Proud to be a Gay American

Every year on the last Sunday of June, millions of Americans celebrate Gay Pride. Only the most outrageous images reach mainstream media. No wonder so many misunderstand the festivities.

Gay Pride is about the freedom to live my life openly and honestly. I don't have to hide who I am or pretend to be something I'm not. I am proud, not ashamed, embarrassed, or humiliated.

Some see Gay Pride celebrations as offensive and immoral. In some instances, they have a point. Topless dykes on bikes, leather daddies in ass-less chaps, twinks in g-strings, and simulated sexual acts are not appropriate for all audiences. The dramatic increase in the number of gay parents with children has already made a difference. Pride parades aren't nearly as wild as they were 30 years ago.

The gay lifestyle, if there ever was such a thing, keeps changing. When I came out, bars were the center of the gay universe. They were sanctuaries from a homophobic world where you could relax, dance with your boyfriend, or meet another guy without fear of getting beat up.

Well, once you got in you weren't going to get beat up--at least not until you left. Drunken rednecks still cruise around gay bars looking for some queer ass to kick. Little pricks...literally.

Unless you knew where you were going, gay bars were hard to find. Entrances were rarely marked. In an unfamiliar town cab drivers were the go-to source for reliable information about the whereabouts of any gay establishments in the area.

Gay magazines were big when I came out. Personal ads were huge, especially for guys living in rural locations. I never placed or responded to an ad, but sure enjoyed reading them.

As with straight folk, sooner or later the bar lifestyle grows old. There are lots of exceptions, gay and straight. But for most people, priorities shift. Bar-hopping gets old and except for the occasional outing with friends, eventually falls off the priority list all together.

Boneshakers, the gay bar in Athens got my business maybe half a dozen times before it closed. Several places have opened and closed since then without me ever setting foot inside. In my 12 years in Athens, I've been bar-hopping in Atlanta exactly one time.

I've gone to Pride events in Atlanta, DC, Lexington and Athens. The Athens event is a potluck picnic--in April. Lexington's Pride celebration used to consist of a float in the 4th of July parade put together by some of the local drag queens. If you have never been to a big city Pride celebration, you really must go, especially if you're gay.

The way things are going, I expect gay bars will eventually become obsolete. The Internet provides a faster, safer and easier means of meeting potential partners. Growing acceptance by the public at-large means more straight people going to gay bars, and increasingly, more gay people going to straight bars.

We've come a very long way in the last 30 years. I wonder who's come the farthest--us gay folk or our straight friends, families and neighbors. We couldn't have done it without you.

Happy Pride. Enjoy your freedom. God bless the U.S.A.

1 comment:

jg said...

Well said, Michael!

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