Saturday, June 26, 2010
Last night I started to watch David Letterman. He came out in his impeccably tailored suit and jarring white socks and announced it was Dave Pride week. He then began his routine, announcing that the NY Gay Pride parade was this weekend. "Because nothing says pride like a 40-year-old fat guy in chiffon," he sneered.
Click! That was the last time David Letterman's show will be seen in this house. A man well known for having sex with his staff while his wife and child wait at home had reduced a hundred years of progress in gay rights issues to the old stereotype of an aging queen in a dress. I felt as if I had been punched in the gut. Every time someone reduces us to a tired old joke, we are diminished in ways a straight person probably could not understand. It dehumanizes us. It feeds the latent homophobe in everybody and keeps us in our place as freaks and weirdos. Every time this happens, it moves the human rights clock a few hours back in time.
A very small percentage of gay people are cross dressers -- probably no greater than the percentage of straight men who like to dress up in their wives' underwear. Probably no greater percentage of gay people are leather queens than straight people are, yet that's what gets spotlighted by the media at Pride every year. Never mind the rest of us who work and pray and raise families and look like anybody else you've ever known.
But Gay Pride began with drag queens! On June 28, 1969, the police began to raid the Stonewall Inn, a New York gay bar. For years, gay people had accepted as a given that this would happen as a fact of life, but this was one of those "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore" moments. Instead of passively climbing into the paddy wagons, those glorious queens decided to fight back, and thus began the famous Stonewall Riots and the gay rights movement was born. And those queens won! Bless their aging chiffon-clad out of shape bodies, they held their own and brought those routine police raids to an end.
I was so deep in the closet in those days, nobody knew who was in there. Even I wasn't always sure, but what happened at Stonewall made a huge difference in my life and these days I am nowhere near a closet. I am a whole human being, for the most part. Thanks to those chiffon-clad guys at Stonewall, I don't have horrifying anxiety attacks anymore when I felt like I was suffocating and my heart was bursting out of my chest.
So Dave, you're right: nothing does say pride like a 40-year-old fat guy in chiffon. If not for that guy and his buddies we would not have marriage equality in several states and a lot more acceptance and rights than we ever dreamed possible before Stonewall. And it's getting better every day.
That's a lot to be proud of.
photo credit: Google pics