I went to my first Gay Pride festival today. I've never really had an interest in attending Gay Pride, primarily because I dislike crowds and, secondly, because I often get the impression that Gay Pride is more about partying, debauchery, and pushing people's buttons than it is about simply showing pride in who you are. That may be a false impression, nor do I judge those who use Pride in that manner; it just doesn't represent who I am as a gay person.
The only reason I even went to Pride this year was because the cast from the show I'm doing this summer was performing some numbers for the festival, which not only promotes the show, but celebrates Gay Pride; plus we got in for free. It was completely voluntary, and being the antisocial person I am, I usually don't participate in stuff like that, so I surprised myself when I eagerly chose to participate this time. This is the first Pride I've witnessed in my life since I was excommunicated (in fact, my excommunication anniversary is coming up), and I guess before I was excommunicated, I still had that feeling of remaining true to my duty as a member of the LDS Church and somehow, attending Pride didn't seem like the thing to do. Now I don't feel so beholden to my religion, and I felt free to attend without any extra baggage.
I still don't think Pride is my bag (too many people for my taste), but I will admit it was enjoyable. It was just nice to see people being themselves and having a good time and knowing that no one around them was judging them for it. I loved seeing all the children and pets and families and gay couples holding hands and straight people supporting their gay loved ones. It all seemed so normal (as well I think it should be; would it were that way everywhere). And while, yes, there were some examples of the kind of stereotypical people and activities associated with Gay Pride (drag queens, men wearing very little, protesters, effeminate men yelling things like "We're here, we're queer, get used to it!" (which sounded so cliché to me today), angry lesbians, strange people, etc., they seemed to be in the minority, and I was really pleased that most people there just seemed relatively normal and I didn't feel out of place or anything. I was also impressed with how low-key most people seemed. It just seemed like people we're there to celebrate who they are and enjoying each other's company without getting all "in-your-face" or antagonistic about it.
I found it somewhat ironic that I had attended Sunday School and Testimony Meeting in my home ward and then went straight to Gay Pride, and it also made me wonder how many people there had grown up Mormon and what had their experiences been like? How did they feel about the LDS Church now? I also thought about the facade we sometimes put on as church members pretending that all is well in Zion and living these "Peter Priesthood/Molly Mormon" lives on the outside when there are so many things going on in our lives that our fellow members never see. That also made me think about some of the outrageous things some gay people do to overcompensate for their pride in their homosexuality. I admired the fact that people were being themselves without fear at the festival. One black guy in a kilt was just dancing to the beat of his own drummer. One guy was walking around in cut-offs and heels. Normal-looking couples were just holding hands. Even though I don't necessarily understand each individual's experience, I admire the fact that they have the guts to just be who they feel they are. So many of us hide behind facades in misery.
But that also made me think of the genuine people in my own home ward. My old bishop bore his testimony today, and I looked at him in awe and thought to myself, "This man truly is one of the best followers of Christ I know." He is completely genuine and humble and nonjudgmental and is exactly who he appears to be. It was interesting to see the kind of strange, but apt parallels between a Mormon church ward and a Gay Pride festival, and as a friend said to me today, "It's too bad they're mutually exclusive. It's too bad these two worlds can't come together somehow." I think there are examples of individuals from both sides coming together, and I certainly think both sides are making progress, but I wish Mormonism and homosexuality could somehow reside together unified.
Anyway, I had a good time today. Not sure I feel the need to go again. If I do, I hope Jonah and I can do it together. I really missed him today.
Oh, and by the way, one thing I do not get yet: Gay Republicans. They had a booth set up, and I just thought, "What an oxymoron!"