This past weekend was Pride weekend here in Portland. I had a lot of mixed feelings about it this year. Last year I choose not to participate in it at all because it's been the same pretty much every year. Lots of dance parties at bars, lots of drinking, a festival with the same vendors and lots of entertainment yet no speakers who talked about our history, and a parade that seemed to always have the same contingents. Business after business, which made it feel like a really big advertisement. To say that I was disappointed would have been an understatement.
This year, I felt the same way about it. It feels to me as if we've lost our history and that saddens me. Pride celebrations began in order to commemorate the riots at the Stonewall Inn. Our fight to be open and have communities started on June 26, 1969. How many of the younger folks in our community know the history of our struggle to be open about who we are?
My first Pride experience after I came out was in San Diego, California. The Pride weekend kicked off with a rally Friday night where speakers talked about our history and our struggle and where we needed to focus our fight for rights next. It was my first exposure to our history and I remember feeling very proud to be a part of my community. It was the first time I felt proud to be gay.
It seems as Pride has lost it's history, true meaning and purpose these days. Corporate sponsorships have taken over and turned it into one large advertisement. While it's good to know which businesses support our community so our community can support them, it's also good to remember why we have Pride marches (yes, marches not parades), Dyke marches and Pride celebrations.
There are some good internet sites that have great articles about the history of our struggle to be out and proud. Please take the time to read them. Everyone, gay and straight, should know this history. The Gendershift Blog has a great article about Stonewall. Also, in June of 2008 there was a panel of speakers who were all there at the Stonewall riots. The videos from that panel are here. Please take the time to watch them and listen to their stories. It's so important to know this history and why we celebrate Pride.
I almost didn't attend Pride again this year. I debated with myself about it all week last week and even posted a question on facebook to all of my friends asking why they do or don't do Pride. Most of the answers agreed with what I was feeling. They felt that it didn't represent them and that the history of why we celebrate is lost in the drunken debauchery that ensues over the weekend. But then someone posted a link to this article where the writer talked about various strands of the community showing up to one place and how it reminded him that he's part of a larger community.
After reading this article and thinking about this perspective I had a change of heart. At the last minute, I decided to hop on my motorcycle and ride with Dykes on Bikes in the parade. No matter how I feel about any other part of Pride, I still believe in what Dykes on Bikes stand for and am still proud to lead the Pride march because of it. I can be who I am in the world because of those butches and drag queens who fought for me back in 1969 and since then. Yesterday, I rode in honor of them and as a way of thanking them.
In the end, I am so glad I made that last minute decision. My heart is filled with so much gratitude.
Today I stand with pride.