Pride Month 2017 looks like it’s going out on a good note. With 393 for, 226 against, and four in abstention, Germany’s Parliament voted to legalize same-sex marriage!
I’m not sure what’s different for me this June than prior ones, but for some reason, I feel the need to connect with and learn more about queer heritage and history in the United States than ever before. And while I plan on reading more on our history (I’ll be ordering Making History : The Struggle For Gay and Lesbian Equal Rights: 1945-1990: An Oral History with my next paycheck), I’d also like to one day begin exploring historic landmarks or places of importance in the fight for queer rights. After inquiring with several friends on Facebook, I’ve begun compiling a list of places to visit.
It’s June , which means Pride month has begun. Pride is a time when TBLG people around the world celebrate their queerness, and their ability to be open and honest about it. It is also a time when many in the TBLG community reflect on the struggle for equality waged by activists over the decades and to offer thanks to the people who worked hard in the name of queer equality. Pride month can also be a bitter pill though, as there are people across the globe who continue to have their human rights trampled. People continue to be ostracized, beaten, jailed, and even killed for the non-crime of having a sexuality or gender identity that lies outside the accepted norm. Thus, even as Pride is a time to celebrate what we’ve achieved and to reflect on how we got here, it is also a call to recognize how much more work needs to be done before we all of us can stand in the public and proudly proclaim who we are without social, political, or economic oppression and discrimination.
This post was originally published on 6/23/15. It serves as a Q&A regarding Pride. It was written to serve as a go-to for anyone who had questions about the history of or the need for Pride. I’m reposting it in part because the audience for the Pub has grown since I joined the Orbit, and I think there are readers for whom the information in this post may be of benefit to. Enjoy!
Yep, it’s that time of year again-LGBT Pride Month. What is Pride? Who celebrates it? Who hates it? What groups don’t need to celebrate Pride? When did it begin? Let’s fire up my first ever Shoop FAQ for the answers! To the Shoop-mobile!
When I was a child, I wanted to be Spider-Man so much. I would run around the house with my fingers in the same shape the wall-crawler formed his when he THWIP’d his webs. I would pretend to stick to walls and be super-strong too. One time, I even injured myself, bc I was pretending I was swinging on a web. I had taken a rope and flung it around one of the prongs on those old standing metallic coat racks and actually put my weight on it, and of course the thing fell and hit me. On the head. I would have been fine, with perhaps nothing more than a bruise, if I hadn’t been in the habit of removing the plastic caps that go over the metal hooks. As a result, the metal hook hit my forehead with enough force to make me bleed. I recall walking into the bathroom telling my mom that my head hurt. If I recall correctly, I was 5 or 6. So yeah, you can imagine what it’s like for a parent to see their child bleeding from a head wound (it wasn’t terribly bad, once all was said and done, but that instinct of “OH MY GOD MY CHILD IS BLEEDING” is pretty intense). Needless to say, after that, I stopped trying to swing from things, and i learned my lesson about taking the plastic caps off metallic rods.
As I got older, I stopped wanting to be like Spidey. Not bc he wasn’t cool anymore, but bc I began wanting to fly. And that’s a feeling that has remained with me since I was a teenager. While I don’t remember my dreams in any significant detail, I *do* recall many nights (one even relatively recently) of dreaming of flying. Though vague, the details I do recall that my dreams involved flying all around the world. About the only joy I got out of the 2013 movie, Man of Steel, was watching Superman fly around the world, bc it reminded me-viscerally-of my dreams. The vicarious thrill I got out of watching that scene was *almost* enough to make up for the dreariness of the rest of the movie.
Unfortunately, we humans aren’t gifted with superhuman (or supernatural, whatever the case may be) abilities. We can’t manipulate the weather. We aren’t masters of magnetism. We don’t transform into half-ton jolly green balls of unbridled rage. Yeah, we’re pretty much powerless.
Or so I thought until today.
Today is a landmark day in human history. It has been discovered that we humans do indeed have superpowers. But #NotAllHumans. Unfortunately the majority of our species will have to muddle through life without experiencing the fantastic power that some of us possess. Apparently I am one of the recipients of this power. So too are all my fellow Orbit bloggers and anyone else who fights for the cause of queer rights. What power do we have?
We have the power to kill God.
Fast forward a couple of decades and my understanding of politics has deepened quite a bit. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t live in the world of politics, but I know quite a bit more now than I did when I was younger. And I recognize the negative impact of Republican ideas on people in this country. I see the way the people are made to suffer bc of conservative ideology. And that sickens me. No, this realization doesn’t mean I embrace the Democratic Party. In fat, I think the Democrats are all too happy to maintain the status quo. And that status quo is sexist, racist, xenophobic, misogynistic, ableist, neurotypical, and classist. Yes, Democrats occasionally support measures that would improve the quality of life of USAmericans, but by and large, I get the impression most Dems don’t want things to change, whether for the better or for the worse. Contrast that against the Republicans, who aren’t content to retain the status quo. No, they want things to regress to an earlier time. Donald Trump’s mantra of “Make America great again” is almost the unspoken mantra of the GOP. This notion that the country would be better off if things could return to an earlier unstated, yet ostensibly glorious time, is part and parcel in the beliefs of a great many Republicans. An earlier time, like the good old days when LGBT people could be arrested for simply existing. When blacks and white had to use separate water fountains. When women could not legally obtain an abortion. Too many Republicans see those days as the glory days of this country, and they are fighting to return to those times. And because of that, I view the GOP and their supporters (hey there Log Cabin Republicans) as a greater destructive force than the Democrats. That includes LGBT people like Pride writer Basil Soper who elide the harms caused by the GOP bc he feels unity is more important than criticizing harmful beliefs.
Are you living in a country with a constitution that echoes-in part or whole-the human rights as enumerated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? Do you ever get the feeling that those rights are just a little…I don’t know? Stifling? Do you, on occasion, feel that you and the people around you would be better served by eliminating a few of those pesky rights? On hopeful days, do you find yourself lost in thought, contemplating how exhilarating it would be to cast aside rights like bodily autonomy or freedom of religion (bc let’s be honest, you know that some people really shouldn’t have the right to dictate what happens to or with their bodies ((that’s a responsibility best left to others)) and no one, but no one, should ever be allowed to decide whether or not to hold religious beliefs)? On really good days, do you speak out online or in meatspace about the virtues of living a life with significant restraints on freedom of speech and expression (bc of your sincerely held belief that the world would be so much better if more people were imprisoned for heresy)? Do you often find yourself alone at night, laying atop your bed replete with rosary covered 1200-thread count sheets, thinking about people being slaughtered in the name of blasphemy laws as you grasp your really Good Book in one hand and attend to personal matters with the other? If you do, then you probably have something in common with he who doesn’t like human rights (some of them anyway) Patriarch Kirill, the Head of the Russian Orthodox Church:
“If you could be straight, would you?”
I was asked that question many years ago. I was in my 20s, I think. I don’t remember who asked me, but I think it was a co-worker. How was I to answer that? At the time, I had been out of the closet for several years. Anyone who knew me to any degree knew I was gay. To the outside world, I was an out, proud gay man. And yet. And yet. My answer was ‘yes’. If could have chosen right then and there to be a heterosexual man, I would have switched my sexuality. Or if I could have reached back into my mother’s womb while I was developing, I’d have altered something to ensure I came out heterosexual. This was almost two decades before I knew anything about heterosexual privilege. Even with that, I was aware that straight people had it easier in life than gay people. I knew that if I were straight, I wouldn’t have grown up feeling so isolated and so alone. And I wouldn’t have had to experience one of the most upsetting events of my life.
Readers may recall my recent Pub post where I discussed gay romance film the ‘Weekend’, which was slated for release in theaters across Italy. Directed by Andrew Haigh, the character based drama revolves around the brief but intense weekend relationship between an art student (Glenn) and a part-time lifeguard (Russell). Unfortunately for those wishing to see the film, the Catholic Church owns the vast majority of theaters in Italy and their film evaluation committee deemed the film indecent and did not approve of its message. As a result, it was limited to only 10 screens.
Contrary to the claims made by the Catholic Church in their attempt to justify censoring the movie, the ‘Weekend’ was not about gay sex and drugs. Yes, there were scenes of drug use. Yes, there were scenes of sex. But if the Bishops thought sex and drugs were the themes of the movie, I really have to question their skills at evaluating what a film is about. An honest appraisal of the film would lead to the recognition that it involves two complex, multi-faceted gay characters (who happen to have sex and do drugs) struggling with their identities. Instead, the committee viewed the movie as a film about gay men having sex and doing drugs, and I suspect they treated those actions as defining traits of the characters. That does a disservice to all those involved in making this film because there was more to the film and the characters than sex and drugs.
To be sure, yes, many gay people enjoy sex and many gay people partake of drugs. But that’s not unique to members of the gay community. Heterosexual people like both as well, but they don’t find themselves defined by either. No, heterosexual people still get to be loving family members, productive members of society, people with intellect and skills, and more. They are viewed as people with a range of emotions and desires. In short, they are viewed with complexity. Meanwhile, gay people have our humanity stripped away by reducing us down to a collection of stereotypes. We’ve been told that we’re sexual deviants who are concerned only with the pleasures of the flesh. We’re not viewed as loving family members (indeed, we’re often viewed as if we aren’t part of families) or contributors to society. That contributes to the demonization and marginalization we face across the world. Characterizing us as deviant, abnormal or “the other” makes it all the easier to deny us the basic rights all humans are entitled to. Such efforts have been occurring for some time now, and the Catholic Church has been responsible for much of it, fighting a culture war against acceptance of gay people. You know, because god hates fags (oops, I’m mixing up my hate-filled religious organizations). Thankfully, in various parts of the world-the best efforts of the Catholic Church and other religious institutions aside-the perception of gay people has seen a progressive (if uneven) evolution. Many who previously saw us in a negative light, have come around to view us more favorably. While far stronger than I and many others would like, the cultural influence of the Church seems to be diminishing. And though the power of the Church in Italy was strong enough to almost completely censor ‘Weekend‘, it wasn’t enough to stifle interest in the movie. In fact, despite being banned in most of Italy’s theaters, the Nottingham-set film proved to be a surprise hit on the 10 screens it was shown on.
Those were three words used to describe director Andrew Haigh’s romantic movie Weekend. Released in the UK in 2011, the film was slated for release in Italian theaters to coincide with Haigh’s new film 45 Years. Unfortunately for pretty much anyone in Italy, the moral police put their foot down and told the 1,100 cinemas they own that the movie was not to be shown. By ‘moral police’, I mean the “lovely” organization we know as the Roman Catholic Church. As they own the vast majority of the theaters in Italy, the church uses the Italian Conference of Bishops’ Film Evaluation Committee to rate and/or censor films and they said the oppose they themes of the movie and its message. What could be so bad about the film?
Did I forget to mention that it’s a gay romantic movie?