Saturday, June 1, 2013

Pride,Prejudice And Persistence-Happy LGBT Pride Month From Maine!!

        Today begins a time period that during both of my parents youth would've been unprecedented. Its the beginning of Pride Month in the United States-all through the month of June. On different weekends,urban areas especially will be holding Pride events. The one near where I live have expanded this from merely a parade to include receptions and an art walk over the course of the weekend. So much as expanded in that and other ways,so very fast.  Only a decade and a half ago the concept of a same sex marriage was mostly an enthusiasts dream for America,nowhere close to an accepted right due not just to government but intense religious hatred. Especially in largely church bound rural and semi rural New England communities. Last year I marched in the local Pride parade. I found myself chanting the old slogan "Out of the closets,into the street". Why would I utter a completely antiquated statement from the immediate post Stonewall period at a contemporary Pride parade? I have my reasons and that is what I am writing about today.
           I personally revealed my homosexuality to my family at the age of 22. Because I had no closet to come out of,it was simply something that had never been bought up and changed little. My parents had apparently known for years of this. Even than I was more than aware how lucky I was compared to other children. My immediate family were not bound by any hateful political and religious dogma of any sort. However even the most democratic and open minded people I knew of seemed to turn into fearful hate mongers regarding sexual orientation. Believe or not,in the area I live in during the early part of the new century and millennium the local youth and homeless shelters were still filling up with adolescents and young adults who were excommunicated from their families-in that case due primarily to religious convictions. Its an age old take I know. The interesting part of it all was this silent subculture of denial that began to spring up right before my own eyes.
          During my first years of being openly homosexual the only place for gay people to meet in the area was a nightclub called The Spectrum. It was very much like a gay bar of the 1950's. It was hidden in the lower part of a building across the street from the local library. There was no sign out front of any note,no marquis. When you went even to the front,you say men and women of all ages huddled in corners. The inside was an open atmosphere on the surface. Yet the same conditions applied in the end. The man who ran a concession stand opened up a small pride shop in the winter of 2003 called the Lil Treasure Shop. It was located in an area of town that I'd describe as the local skid row. The shop fared poorly in those economically difficult times and closed swiftly,and was very quickly forgotten. Of course it never would by me because I was asked to design the template and paint the outdoor sign for the shop. Sadly it closed before I could paint that sing. I still proudly have the template.
             That summer I witnessed the tail end of the Bangor Pride Parade that year. It had been going on since the 1992. However even in 2003 the attendance for the parade was approximately a hundred individuals. The parade ended quickly and was led by a limo-the only part of parade I saw,with its windows shut tight. What happened was is that these people marched from the Bangor Auditorium to the parking lot of the Spectrum. And they served food outdoors while the Eastern Maine AIDS network presented literature on condoms. At least half the people who attended,of whom I was actually not one, were in my age group. And a young African American woman interviewed by the local paper stated the truth about this diversity parade which indeed describes exactly what I'd say about the general state of being for homosexual,bisexual and transgendered people of the area. She said she thought there was not enough support for diversity in the town of Bangor. And that it could be a very close-minded place.
           The largest Pride parade I attended was the massive Southern Maine Pride events in 2004,and that event was very similar to the Boston Pride event so I've come to see from independent research.The Pride parades I attended in the last few years were entirely different events. These were family friendly affairs conducted in the same manner as any other summer fair in a town of this type. Now I'll admit I have enormous clinical issues with crowds in too hurried a state so I tend to stay aloof from the other participants and communicate little to them. But I watch and listen from an outsiders viewpoint. What I see under this colorful banner of diversity is something that makes me think. I see men younger than me largely in full drag or attired in some effeminate fashion-still "camping it up" in that age old model of heterosexual archetypes. I hear grown men in my parents age group referring to each other as "girls","queers" and sometimes even "faggots" as a casual form of greeting. Its clearly not meant in a hurtful way. Perhaps that is what disturbs me most about it: its become fully ingrained into at least this part of cultural identification for a homosexual man.
             Now I cannot speak for the lesbians I now. Their cultural world intermingles but still seems rather more separate from that of men. However seeing this alienating lines of separation within a community of people preaching hope and diversity-sometimes looking at themselves with a degree of self loathing-sub consciously without realizing it,I thought of the homosexual people who were just coming of age after the Stonewall riots. And the sense of the sudden and complete liberation they shared when they were able to present themselves as human beings just as any other-with a difference but still a human being capable of goodness and love. This inspired me to remember an early gay pride slogan "2-4-6-8/gay is just as good as straight/out of the closet/into the streets". That is probably why the last part of that axiom suddenly spewed out of me that day. The last two years have seen major changes. Maine along with many other states have granted same sex couples the right to get married legally. Its just as an historical event as women getting the right to vote in the early part last century.In the next series of blogs I will be exploring more individual sides of this topic. And this will serve as my introduction. Have Pride in who you are,and most of all how you are. Its all more significant and interrelated than one might think.


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