June 9, 2006
Gay has its day
Gay is becoming mainstream. Thank God and God forbid.
At Kansas City’s Gay Pride Festival, June 3-4, American capitalism was present in full force, from the lines of new cars and trucks for sale to the mortgage companies peddling loans to the beer and liquor company advertising gracing the tents and umbrellas.
And it wasn’t just American capitalism that acknowledged gaiety. Nonprofits, political clubs, universities, arts groups and artists inhabited the tens of booths lining both sides of the field east of the Liberty Memorial Promenade. At times, there were more people seeking the approval and attention of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) men and women than there were LGBT men and women at the festival.
There were other characteristics of mainstream. The mood of the festival was upbeat without being rowdy. Men and women from all over the nation attended, attracted, in part, by ads in mainstream press and events listings on Yahoo and AOL. Kansas City tourism agencies played a role, and there was plenty of free space lent to the Festival in The Kansas City Star, other newspapers and the LGBT press.
Mainstream made its appearance in other ways. Straight people brought their kids. Gay and lesbian couples pushed baby strollers in full babyalia, moms and dads wandered with adult sons and their boyfriends. Parents even brought their teenage sons and daughters, straight, gay and bi.
Mayor Barnes appeared on the cover of Kansas City-based newspaper CAMP, which had the festival program sandwiched between ads for car dealerships, restaurants and weatherized doors. A phalanx of pols joined Barnes in support of the festival, who has known of the numbers of registered and active voters among LGBT people for a long time.
Some of these politicians have pimped gayness but haven’t spent a dime of their political capital on LGBT issues, and won’t anytime soon. But their presence at the fest makes clear what some of us have known for a long time — LGBT people aren’t helpless girlie boys and women with bad hair cuts. They are players with money and strong opinions. They hold key positions of power in corporate and business structures. And most LGBT people will not put up with the bullshit the straight world wants to give them.
Except for the wandering petition pushers and the Log Cabin Republicans (trying to gain recognition in a liberal and Democratic ocean), the revived Federal Marriage Amendment was not in evidence. Everyone was having too much fun listening to Missy Koontz and Ron McGee introduced entertainers and muckity-mucks. The sun was out, the day was warm but not hot, and the crowd was friendly.
Meanwhile, car- and home-loan peddlers made money and local politicians made contacts, and won and lost votes. The liquor flowed and the promiscuous trolled as if they were at a suburban bar.
The arrival of the mainstream on LGBT people has disadvantages, of course. Gay has really been defined from without, its identity dependant on exclusion rather than acceptance of a range of human orientation — gender, sexual and behavioral. In other words, inasmuch as I never think about being hetero, my homosexual friends are forced to acknowledge or hide their sexual orientation because our culture maintains an extremely hetero face inimical to blurred sexual and gender boundaries.
In this, some of the markers of LGBT society may be lost. The ability to be different will soon lose its power to draw attention. The siege mentality that breeds belonging, sorority and fraternity will lose its value and uniqueness.
At the same time, the mainstreaming of gayness may soon join racism and gender discrimination as attitudes the law and polite society no longer tolerate (even as they remain real problems). People will gain more of their human rights to move where and when they want. They will be heard in the political arena. Laws will change. LGBT people will be able to marry and raise families.
This is not to say that gay will mimic straight, a confusion made by at least one local editorialist who laments the passing of gay identity into a higher evolution. Rather, LGBT Americans will enjoy the full range of freedoms, responsibilities and liberties that most straight Americans don’t even know they have.
The Kansas City Pride Festival shows just how much we have advanced and how much we remain the same. Money and capital want to exploit gayness. Political types want LGBT votes. The media wants news.
But most of us just want to know our friends and family won’t be molested or treated poorly. So, we — LGBT allies and friends — understand loss of identity and uniqueness and grieve its passing. But we are glad to have the mainstream become more accepting, even its own for cynical and selfish ends.
Patrick Dobson can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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