Watching The Defectives

Gentle readers, I’m rerunning my annual Pride rant for the twelfth year. I wrote this post in 2005 a couple of days after attending Pride here in NYC. In the following years I’ve reposted it in advance of Pride in the hope of encouraging you to attend your local events. Have a wonderful Pride month. Love each other.

Watching The Defectives

Last Sunday at 12:30pm, I was in position on Christopher Street with Terrence, his glamor boys, and touring UK bloggers Dave and Darren. The Pride parade was due to round the corner any minute, but I tore off in search of a bodega, crossing my fingers that my desperate need for a soda wouldn’t cause me to miss Dykes On Bikes. Half a block away, I found a little place and ducked in, weaving through the customers clogging the aisles on rushed missions like mine. I was third in line, two bottles of Sprite under my arm, when the man in front of me spotted a friend entering the store.

“David! Sweetie! Where are you watching from? Come hang out with us on Allen’s balcony!”

David, a bookish looking middle-aged man, destroyed the festive mood in the little store in an instant. “Absolutely not. Those defectives and freaks?” he spat, indicating the colorful crowd outside the store, “They have nothing to do with MY life, thank you very much. This parade has as much dignity as a carnival freak show. It’s no wonder the whole country hates us.”

Luckily for David, the Asshole Killer mind ray I’ve been working on is not yet operational. I settled for pushing him a little, just a tiny bit, just to get by him in that narrow aisle, of course. I returned to my sweaty little group and tried to put what I’d heard out of my mind for the remainder of the day, because I knew that by the next morning, the thousands of Davids of the world, the ones who have media access anyway, would all issue their now familiar day-after-Pride rant. The one where they decry the drag queens on all those newspaper front pages. The one where they beat their chests and lament, “Why don’t the papers ever show the NORMAL gay people? Where are the bankers and lawyers? Why must all the coverage be drag queens and leather freaks in assless chaps?”

And every year, the logical answer is that bankers and lawyers are boring to look at and that pictures of marching Gap employees don’t sell newspapers. There’s no sinister media agenda intent on making gay people look ridiculous, no fag-hating cabal behind the annual front page explosion of sequins and feathers. It’s just good copy. Drag queens are interesting. Even the bad ones. Especially the bad ones.

Yet right on cue, the day after Pride, the Davids of the blogosphere dished out their heavy-handed dissections of parades around the country. Only this year, there was a palpably nastier tone to an already traditionally nasty annual debate. Blame the election, blame the recent avalanche of anti-gay legislation, but this year, the usual assimilationist arguments went beyond the hypothetical speculations that maybe our Pride parades were too outlandish, that maybe we weren’t doing the movement any favors by showing the country a face that happened to be wearing 6-inch long false eyelashes. This year there was some actual discussion about HOW we were going to “fix” Pride parades. Of how we might go about “discouraging” certain “elements” from taking part in the parades.

This is the part of the story where I have my annual post-Pride apoplectic attack. This is the part of the story where the swelling volume of Nazi analogies overwhelm my ability to speak and all I can do is twitch and bark out little nonsensical bits. This is where I always forget the name given to the Jews who went to work for the Nazis, helping load the trains. “Because that’s what you are asking us to do, you assholes!” Then I always ask, “Who are we going to sacrifice to ‘save’ ourselves? Which child will it be, Sophie?” And this is the part of the story where my friends accuse me of being a hyperbole-laden drama queen, wasting spiritual energy on a non-crisis, and of co-opting the Holocaust as well. More on that later.

These people that want to “fix” Pride don’t understand the role that Pride parades have come to play. Initially, the gay parade was about visibility. It was about safety in numbers, and more importantly, “normalcy” in numbers. It was about the idea that if only straight America could see us, could just SEE US, that they’d love us. And accept us. That if we’d mass and march by the righteous millions, the sheer unstoppable force of our collective image would topple bigotry. Would right wrongs. Would stop hate.

Of course, that didn’t happen then and it doesn’t happen now.

What DOES happen, is that Pride parades, at least in the big cities, have become nothing more significant to straight America than an annual traffic nightmare. As a tool of the gay movement, the Pride parade is now merely a walking photo op for politicians and perhaps not much more. A couple of years ago, the ultimate arbiter of America’s cultural zeitgeist, The Simpsons, made note of this:

(The gay pride parade is going past the Simpson house.)

Chanting marchers: “We’re here! We’re queer! Get used to it!”

Lisa Simpson: “You do this every year. We ARE used to it.”

What does all of this mean to the Davids of the world, the gay assimilationists that want to, wish they could, somebody do something, there’s gotta be a way we can, Dignify This Parade? The ones begging: “Can’t we get our people to at least DRESS respectfully for one lousy day? Is that too much to ask of our people? “

Yes, yes it is.

Because you are kidding yourself if you think Pride parades, in any form, will EVER change the minds of homophobes. The straight people who show up to see Pride parades are already largely convinced. We’re parading to the choir, Jesse. Those straight people love our freaks, bless them.

Oh, you could test run a “defective” free parade. You could form urban anti-drag squads and go around to all the gayborhoods on the morning of the parade and give all the drag queens 50% off coupons for Loehmann’s, offer good during the parade only. And they’d GO, of course, cuz hey, those girls love a bargain. But the resultant bland, humorless, “normal” gay parade wouldn’t change the course of the gay movement one bit. The part of straight America that is repulsed by drag queens is quite possibly even more terrified by the so-called “normal” gays, because “those clever calculating creatures look JUST LIKE US, and can infiltrate and get access to our precious children. And that’s been their disgusting plan all along, of course.”

So where does that leave us? Are we post-Pride? Is the parade just a colossally long waste of a miserably hot summer day? Is the Pride parade just an event that does a better job of moving chicken-on-a-stick than it does of moving hearts? I’d say that, yes, as an effective tool of the gay movement, Pride’s usefulness has largely waned in many U.S. cities. So do we even need to keep having these parades, since they no longer seem to have much of an impact on the state of the movement? No, we don’t.


Because even if Pride doesn’t change many minds in the outside world, it’s our PARTY, darlings. It’s our Christmas, our New Year’s, our Carnival. It’s the one day of the year that all the crazy contingents of the gay world actually come face to face on the street and blow each other air kisses. And wish each other “Happy Pride!” Saying “Happy Pride!” is really just a shorter, easier way of saying “Congratulations on not being driven completely batshit insane! Well done, being YOURSELF!”

I’m not worried what the outside world thinks about the drag queens, the topless bulldaggers, or the nearly naked leatherfolk. It’s OUR party, bitches. If you think that straight America would finally pull its homokinder to its star-spangled bosom once we put down that glitter gun, then you are seriously deluding yourself. Next year, if one of the Christian camera crews that show up to film our “debauched” celebrations happen to train their cameras on you, stop dancing. And start PRANCING.

If you’re out there wringing your hands and worrying that Pride ruins YOUR personal rep, listen up. Do you think that straight Americans worry that Mardi Gras damages international perception of American culture? America, land of the free, home of “Show Us Your Tits!”? They don’t and neither should we. Our Pride celebrations are just our own unique version of Mardi Gras, only instead of throwing beads, we throw shade. No one has to ask US to show our tits. We’ve already got ’em out there, baby. And some of them are real.

A co-worker of mine heard me discussing my Pride plans last weekend and said, “I really don’t understand what it is you are proud about. I mean, you all say that you are born that way, so it’s not like you accomplished anything.” She wasn’t being mean, just genuinely curious, and I think that a lot of gay people probably feel the same way. On this subject, I can only speak for myself.

I’m proud because I’m a middle-aged gay man who has more dead friends than living ones and yet I’m not completely insane. I’ve lived through a personal Holocaust (here we go again) in which my friends and lovers have been mowed down as thoroughly and randomly as the S.S guards moved down the line of Jews. You, dead. You, to the factory. And you, you, you, and you, dead. I am inexplicably alive and I am proud that I keep the memories of my friends alive. I am proud of my people, the ACT UPers, the Quilt makers, the Larry Kramers, the Harvey Fiersteins. I’m proud that I’m not constantly curled up into a ball on my bed, clutching photo albums and sobbing. And that happens sometimes, believe it.

And outside of my personal experiences, I am proud of my tribe as a group. Sometimes I think that gay people are more creative, more empathic, more intuitive, more generous, and more selfless than anybody else on the planet. Sometimes I think that if an alien culture were surveying our planet from light years away, they might classify gay people as an entirely separate species of humans. It’s easy to spot us because of our better haircuts.

But sometimes I think we are the worst people in the entire world when it comes to standing up for each other. The gay people who’d like to soothe their personal image problems by selectively culling some of our children from Pride events? They disgust me. They appall me. They embarrass me. To them I say: The very road that YOU now have the privilege of swaggering upon was paved by those queens and leather freaks that you complain about as you practice your “masculine” and give us butch face. If you want to live in the house that THEY BUILT, you better act like you fucking know it. United we stand, you snide bitches. America’s kulturkampf ain’t gonna be solved by making flamboyant people go away.

I’ll end this by making one final Jewish reference. Possibly you’ve heard the Jewish in-joke that sums up the meaning of all Jewish holidays? “They tried to kill us. We won. Let’s eat.” My Pride version?

They wish we were invisible.

We’re not.

Let’s dance.

  • daddyarch

    Thank you, Joe!

  • Gene

    Thank you Joe.
    I will go..the hubby, probably not (to ill).
    Every word you wrote, is true

    Now..I am 47….I wish my 20 something friends would grasp this (most are indifferent..not hostile, but indifferent, to the parades )

    • Gene

      (note…most of them seem to think that GLBT rights, such as they are, were ALWAYS this way. To them, Lawrence vs Texas, is ancient history…Stonewall? what the hell is Stonewall?)

  • Tigernan Quinn

    If there were the last two gays on earth…one of them would still be telling the other how to be gay.

  • Todd20036

    Except people aren’t used to it.

    Religious Freedom Acts.

    They aren’t used to that.

    DOMA gone.

    They aren’t used to that.

    DADT gone.

    They aren’t used to that.

    Civil rights laws prohibiting us from being fired.

    They aren’t used to that.

    Us holding hands on the street.

    They aren’t used to that.

    KIssing in public.

    They aren’t used to that.

    Being parts of their lives and families openly.

    They aren’t used to that.

    Using the bathroom we identify with.

    Suddenly, they aren’t used to that.

    They aren’t used to us at all, and they STILL want to round us up and put us in camps. And they picked a candidate willing to do that.

    We have to have the parades, because they will never be used to that. And because we’ve become used to them.

    • Jmdintpa

      I know thats right !

    • Gene

      that should be on a poster or something.
      that just says it all

    • Christopher

      “Using the bathroom we identify with.

      Suddenly, they aren’t used to that.”

      This is the one that gets me every time. For YEARS Trans people were using public restrooms with little to no incident. And every single time there HAS been an incident it’s because the opposition starts shit.

      The only “Boogeymen” in bathrooms are the ones telling others that they’re wrong, or freaks.

      “For fucksake you toothless wonder! I’m just trying to take a piss! Now bugger off and make sure your Hoveround is fully charged because it’s gonna need all the juice it can get to lug your fat ass around WalMart! Oh, and BTW, the people you should be worrying about entering a bathroom with your “precious little children” are probably the ones you call on every Sunday who tell you that you should “Love thy neighbour as thyself”.”

  • Jmdintpa

    I know im old but it does seem out community is losing some of its identity. Some of that is good but I think losing our history is bad. I still go to Pride because I can remember when we struggled just to get the permit let alone get a parade going. I go to Pride because I remember when all the politicians and churches hated us and wouldnt even think about being in the parade. I go to Pride because I remember the when AIDS was killing us, and no one seemed to care, so we came together and marched and demanded that we get help. I go to Pride because I want to make sure the history and the work of people who made equality possible are celebrated and remembered. Its important that young people understand although its much better and yes you can marry your boyfriend now , there is still lots of work to be done. They also need to understand this is not over. If we get lazy and complacent our rights can be taken away with the right Supreme Court. Go to Pride, celebrate, remember our peoples history and dont forget what it took for us to get where we are today.

    • Gene

      we should still go…
      AIDS is getting more and more like Diabetes, but, its still a scourge and deadly thing…but many of us (the young in paricular) are almost blase about it.
      the Big city (and small) mayors, the business community, even more and more of the churches (so many churches have floats in the Atlanta parade) are “with us”…its easy to sit in Atlanta..even in its nearby, once no go land burbs, as a gay couple, feeling..BEING accepted…we forget that 50 miles south or east…its changed, but, not that much. people still get fired. still get bashed.

      you are SO SO SO right! we cannot get lazy or complacent with our gains.
      we are one republican presidency, and one generation of young GLBT people, away from forgetting the hard word…the loss, even the death, that the older generations went through to get us here. And that is why we need the parades.

      And, as an Afterthoght, its why its not only RIGHT, but GOOD to fight for TRANS rights!!!

      I sit in my office in the business district. Straight men in suits come by to ask my advice on something, invite me out with the other guys after work for a drink. “is your husband feeling ok?” . its normal as rain. no partner, not boyfriend..hell, even that would have been a miracle at one time. But, Husband. But, 90% of them went NUTS over (still dont personally like her, but,she increased visability) Caitlyn Jenner. If a Trans person showed up for an interview, and was not able to 100% “pass” they would not get a second interview I suspect. Our Trans brothers and sisters struggle is one we should join in not just because its the right thing to do (it is) but because it teaches old dogs like me…and the youngsters, that rights have to be FOUGHT for…and we should not stop fighting just because we sit comfortably in our offices…or as 20 somethings just out of college who were out to their frat brothers and families and never wonder if the rental office at the flat their looking at will make a snide remark at a gay couple (wont happen not..not in ATL).
      Trans rights are Gay rights are Lesbian rights, are Womens rights, are Immigrants rights. We all rise, or fall, together, and the parade, in all its sexual, ethnic and cultural diversity, reminds us of that

      • Todd20036

        If you live in a developed country and have health insurance, then it really is no longer the scourge it used to be.

        If you live, say, in Venezuela, then it’s still the plague that it used to be in the states in the ’80s and early ’90s

  • Mister Don

    Such a busy month for Porno Pete–where will I go to see “assless chaps” next?

    • Gene

      of all the freaks on the other side, I think I feel the most pity (yes pity) for him. such latentness…such self hate. its…SAD! (and on the, not so much pity at all side…I also enjoy seeing his exasperation at the stunning progress we have made. reading him over the years, he has gone from “we will roll this back!” to “we are losing” to “all is lost…now we wait for the end days”( and just cash in the old ladies checks)

    • Mister Don

      I should have let him see me in mine (since sold). That may have cured him of the desire.

      • Todd20036

        If he saw me in mine, maybe even he’d be less embarrassed about his chubby

  • Sam_Handwich

    Boston is today, Providence is next weekend … i live roughly halfway between the two. But i’ve only attended pride events sparsely over the years because i generally have gigs on the weekend.

  • New Orleans is next weekend. is anyone planning on going? I’ve never been to this one.

    • Gene

      I imagine that one will be quiet and understated πŸ˜‰

      (much envy here! have a BALL! πŸ™‚

  • hiker_sf

    As a very young man, I had a ton of insecurities when I came out to myself. Seeing my first pride parade changed that. I learned that I wasn’t alone and that normal is a word that should only be used in science and academia.

    And that is why I wince when some of our LGBT brothers and sisters use the word ‘them’ in a negative way when discussing factions within the LGBT umbrella.

    If you have problems with a transgender person, you have problems with me. If you have problems with “effeminate” men (God, what a fucking sexist concept), you’ve got a problem with me. If you have a problem with hairy bears, you’ve got a problem with me.

    We are one. You can chose to be part of us or go your own way, riding on the shoulders of all our hard work. But please, keep your criticism to yourself, unless it is constructive.

    • hiker_sf

      A side note – I just watched a piece of an Italian documentary about the bombing of Barcelona by the Italians (at the behest of Franco). Many Italians lived in Barcelona and were killed during this raid.

      In the documentary, an elderly couple is interviewed. The man said that they should pardon Italy and forget that it happened. But his wife responds, that they should remember, but dance. It reminded me of Joe’s pride version of that great Jewish saying.

  • Gigi

    I remember my first Pride. It was 1989. I’d just met the most wonderful man in the world and we went with a lesbian couple that we knew. Back then, news coverage of the parade who quite vicious. Snearing reporters making derogatory comments about tranvestites (drag queens) and S&M daddies saying, “So this is what they’re proud of?” I’d seen the coverage in years past and truth be told, I’d internalized the message. I had to be dragged to my first Pride.

    I’d come out to my family in 1985 and they disowned me. Things hadn’t improved by 1989 so I still felt shame about being gay. I wasn’t sure myself what I had to be proud about, but I went to the parade anyway.

    It was very small back then. I didn’t see much of it because I had to go to work at a job I hated. After I parted from my group I stood alone outside the subway station on a mostly empty stretch of road as floats went past. They were full of happy people who were truly excited to be in the parade. I was standing beside two older women. They glanced over at me with curious looks at for a moment I was embarassed. “Why are they staring at me?” I wondered. Then I realized. I was crying. Tears streaming down my face. Body shaking. I wasn’t ashamed. I was home! I was living in a city, away from my family, where I could finally be myself.

    • Gene

      thank you for sharing that joy πŸ™‚
      (( I hope things with the family are better now…and, if not, while sorry to hear it, it would be there loss if things are not))

      • Gigi

        I’m glad you enjoyed. My parents came around…in time. It took my dad 13 years. My mother took a bit longer. My man and I are still together – more than 27 years. My mother met him for the first time about three months after he and I’d celebrated our 20th anniversary. It was my greatest fear that she’d die thinking that I hated her. I didn’t. I just wished she’d cared more about me and less about what others thought. She died two years ago, but I still have texts from her where she said: “Love you both, Mom.”

        • Todd20036

          That’s better than how my dad felt about me before he died.

          “I’m very proud of you Todd…. BUT”

          Pretty much summed that up

          • Gigi

            Well if it helps, my dad’s still alive but I can’t stand him. He wonders why I don’t come to visit. I’d like to say, “I don’t visit you because you’re an asshole who used to best my mother, myself and my brothers every time you got drunk.” But in don’t. I just tell
            him I’m busy. Which I am. Busy enjoying my life.

        • KCMC

          tears here. wow.

    • medaka

      Thank you for that. My first was 1988, SF, and I cried rivers when the dying men followed the Dykes on Bikes. I’d just moved to the city, and everyone I met was going to funerals. I felt like I was finally free but so, so alone.

      • Gigi

        Wow. That’s must have been difficult. I didn’t see a lot of that here in Toronto. Are you still in SF?

        • medaka

          I’ve been living in Japan for the last 26 years πŸ™‚

          I visited your fair city for the first time last year. Simply amazed at the diversity — and how nice people are. But it sure is cold there in March!

          • douglas

            come during Pride when its much nicer and you will truly see the diversity and the outpouring of love from most of the city.

          • Gigi

            It’s 85F today!

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  • Ish

    It’s ironic to me that so many of the commenters on this blog who claim to join Joe in his worthy annual celebration of our “otherness” and our diversity demand blind and unflinching political uniformity, encourage and abet cyber bullying, and embrace the corporate and military-industrial complex cooptation of our community into just another consumer silo. The lgbt movement was born of a group calling itself the Gay Liberation Front, named to resonate with the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam, then fighting a war against the monstrous American military machine. Never forget that. Stonewall was a violent act of rebellion.

    • Dramphooey

      Happy Pride, David!

      • Ish

        Really? That’s what you got? What the fuck is wrong with you?

        • Dramphooey

          Wit is in brevity but if that was too short for you I’ll add to it. Delete your account.

          • Ish

            You realize that it is you who are acting like “David” right?

          • Dramphooey

            I’m not the one who felt compelled to whine about the gays who don’t conform to my personal tastes on a Pride message.

          • Ish

            Your comments are the perfect example of the culturally bankrupt bullshit going around this blog. Instead of talking substance, let’s just throw around personal attacks. Boring. Sad.

          • Dramphooey

            There is nothing like a personal attack decrying personal attacks.

          • hiker_sf

            That’s idiotic. Complaining that too many LBGTs demand conformity and assimilation is the opposite of whining “about the gays who don’t conform to my personal tastes.”

          • Dramphooey

            Weren’t you lambasting some person foolish enough to campaign for Romney yesterday?

          • hiker_sf

            For hypocrisy, yes. He was complaining about Sanders supporters possibly getting Trump elected.

    • Adam Schmidt

      I’m going to pass on the commentary about demanding uniformity and all that bullshit and focus on the inaccurate history.

      The LGBT movement has many origins and they start long before Stonewall. The Society for Human Rights was founded in Chicago in 1924 before it was quickly squashed by police pressure. Iceland decriminalized homosexuality in 1940 with Switzerland to follow in 1942 and Sweden and Suriname in 1944. The oldest surviving LGBT organization (the COC which is a Dutch acronym for “Center for Culture and Recreation”) was founded in 1946. The Mattachine Society was founded in 1950 in Los Angeles. The Diana Foundation was founded in 1953 and is the oldest continuously active LGBT organization in the U.S. The list goes on.

      But if you really want to get into the old-school history, you have to look at Germany. The term “homosexual” was coined there in 1869. This was quickly followed in 1871 with Paragraph 175 which criminalized homosexuality. But things didn’t stop there. In 1919 the Institut fur Sexualwissenschaft (Institute for Sex Research) was founded and amongst its field of study was same sex love. They were pretty much the first in the world to call for civil rights and social acceptance for both homosexuals and transgender people. In fact, the term transsexual was coined there.

      There was actually a successful vote to repeal Paragraph 175 and decriminalize homosexuality in 1929 but the Nazi rise to power prevented implementation of the vote. The Nazis seized the Institute and hauled out it’s library of 20,000 books and journals and burned them in the street. Germany was amazingly close to recognizing LGBT folk as regular people 40 years before Stonewall.

      This fight has been going on not just for decades but for well over a century. Don’t negate the struggles of those who were fighting for us when your grandparents were young by falling prey to the idea that it all started with Stonewall.

      • Gene

        So true! the house in Chicago…the Gabbard house, if memory serves, where the organization started in 24 was just made a national historic monument by the way.

        It “exploded” onto the national conscience with Stonewall, but it did not begin there, and the first pioneers deserve some credit also.

      • hiker_sf

        While you left out a lot of history, you are correct.

        However I believe that the modern’ LGBT movement started with Stonewall. And I think that is what Ish was discussing.

        • Adam Schmidt

          Oh fuck I know I left out a ton. Our history is long and rich and it’s hard to see it abbreviated.

          But Stonewall didn’t exist in a vacuum or spring from nothing. There was a national conference for “homophile organizations” in 1966 which says pretty well how widespread things already were. The Compton’s Cafeteria Riot was a precursor “drag riot” in 1966 in Los Angeles, three years before Stonewall. The first gay pride parade was in Los Angeles in ’66 as well, in this case protesting the exclusion of gay people from the armed services.

          The Black Cat Tavern was raided in ’67 which prompted protests organized by P.R.I.D.E. and was the first time the word “pride” was used in association with LGBT rights. The Advocate was founded in ’67 as well.

          Stonewall was a rallying cry and yeah, it was very important, but it’s kinda like the shots fired at Yorktown at the beginning of the American Revolution. It’s an important event that set off a lot of things to follow but it’s part of a larger tapestry of events.

          • hiker_sf

            We disagree upon the importance of Stonewall. Even though the Compton cafeteria “riot” predated Stonewall, Stonewall had more media coverage and was a turning point for LGBTs actually fighting back. And that is why we celebrate its anniversary each year.

          • stevenj

            Compton’s Cafeteria was located at 101 Taylor (at Turk), in SF’s Tenderloin, not Los Angeles.


          • Ray Taylor

            Compton’s Cafeteria Riot happened in San Francisco. I know because I had stopped in there on occasion for lunch.

          • Adam Schmidt

            Completely my mistake. I was writing it a hurry (had a company picnic today) and had written LA enough times that I got it wrong. Thank you and stevenj for catching it.

      • Ish

        All those things are true, and of course it’s a combination of many things that contributed to the momentum of our movement, but it is undeniable that the actual political movement which finally broke into mass popularity came from Stonewall and the GLF. Many of the older organizations came to be deeply invested in preserving the closet as self-preservation. The context of social upheaval in the 1960s was everything, and it was the youthful energy of the GLF that finally began to transform society.

        • Adam Schmidt

          Umm… I’d look at some of the organizations and movements that went beyond the three years the GLF existed. They were very activist and were focused on a broad array of issues like anti-capitalism, third world struggles, and racism but to say that they “began to transform society” is perhaps a little strong.

      • Acronym Jim

        “the COC which is a Dutch acronym for “Center for Culture and Recreation”

        THAT’S what it stands for? Oh dear, boy is my face red.

  • yeruncle

    This article just gets more relevant with each new year. With gentrification comes rising rents and rising hypocrisy. But I’ll tell you something, it’s the so called misfits and weirdos of the LGBT community who taught me the most about how to live with courage and dignity and an open mind in a truly hostile world – and they also taught me how to really enjoy myself and be respectful of others, for which I am forever grateful.

  • Michael Rush

    I was in San Francisco at 20 in 1982 , I found glitter nuns on roller skates , S&M and huge crowds very confusing ! It was so overwhelming I took to driving my motorcycle to the top of Twin Peaks and looking at it all from a distance , an introverts perspective !

    • fuzzybits

      Mine was two years earlier. I was so nervous that day getting on the BART train at Rockridge in Oakland. I cried,i floated three feet off the ground all day. I still have a coin thrown from the Bulldog Baths float.

  • Christopher

    “Happy Pride!”

    β€œCongratulations on not being driven completely batshit insane! Well done, being YOURSELF!” —Joe Jervis AKA JoeMyGod

    I think next year I’ll have a shirt made up with this on it. (In rainbow colours of course.)

    • CanuckDon

      I think that’s the part that gets lost on a lot of us….certainly myself as well at times.

      Lately, I’ve been journeying into the comments of the few online LGBT-related news pieces that are out this month (Yahoo for example). The comments there which would be from my local area are overwhelmingly negative as I’m sure they are elsewhere. I’d say around 95% of the comments are just hateful, anti-gay rants. People taking the opportunity to spew their bottled-up, vicious discontent on a segment of society they know nothing about…or refuse to know about. And this in Canada by the way.

      So within these past few weeks of seeing this still lingering hate for my community and my seemingly futile attempts at firing back attacks to some of their vileness while in the meantime, hooking up occasionally with closeted married friends who aren’t yet brave enough to accept their full truth that would change their lives… and then last week, listing off the names on JMG of all of the guys with AIDS-related deaths that I personally knew who are no longer here…all of this really is living a different life than the majority of heterosexuals in society.

      And surprisingly, it hasn’t driven me insane.,,,instead, it’s added many colours.

      • douglas

        I’m not surprised really. As a fellow Canadian I have seen the comments every time a story about LGBT folk are on other media. I battled their poison on AOL during the debate over same sex marriage here in 2004. I reported the most vile ones to AOL as they violated several of their Terms of Service but AOL did nothing. I filed hate speech complaints against 7 of them. AOL wouldn’t cooperate so I had to go to the Federal Court system to get their names and addresses. Two of the cowards said they were hacked (if you spew hatred then own your words and have the balls to admit it was you). The others were found guilty and made to pay nominal damages that went to the LGBT youth phone line. I spent hundreds of hours fighting all of these assholes. They never expected that their vile hatred would ever be hauled up on the carpet. I was in my 40’s at the time and have a thick skin but as the forums were open to everyone I knew that young LGBT kids were on there and I didn’t want them to have to endure that. Growing up gay is hard enough. And I would do it all over again.

        • David Walker

          Thank you, Douglas. This is one of the most moving choral numbers I know, and while I don’t want to quote the ending, the most powerful line starts at 6:48. Stephen Schwartz used lines from It Gets Better to set his music.

          • douglas

            Thank you David. That was beautiful.

        • CanuckDon

          Kudos to you! The anonymous attacks are just too easy for the miserable cowards who spew their bullshit. And I am right on the same wavelength as you in regards to knowing that those comments sit there day after day in their poisonous state waiting to intimidate and scare anyone struggling with their sexuality.

          • douglas

            I had death threats against me which AOL still didn’t take seriously. I spoke to a legal clinic here in Toronto and they agreed to help me pro bono as they were equally appalled with what was said and that AOL did nothing. They advised me to proceed anonymously out of fear for my life. The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal reluctantly agreed. I took part in the proceedings and did show my face but was only known by my initials. One of them said he would hunt me down if it was the last thing he did. It didn’t take much to show the animus of this guy towards me and he was found in violation of hate speech laws. Yet his fine was only $750. I do not know if he attended the diversity classes he was ordered to. While i was somewhat happy with the outcome even the CHRT didn’t seem to take it seriously enough. But I did it for the kids on AOL to let them know that we won’t be bullied. On the bright side I met a wonderful woman named Karen who became my best friend. She wasn’t just the silver lining, she is diamond encrusted platinum!!!

  • Just Another Tranny

    I tend to stay far away, crowds of people are this tranny’s worst damn nightmare!!

  • medaka

    Joe, I always love this one. I think I first read it in 2007, and hope to see it again for many, many more years to come.

    • JCF

      This one, and the “Queen Bees Stinging Mad” re-print (which I believe Joe will post in another week or two).

      • tristram

        All of Joe’s perennial posts are treasures. I love this one – and I end up sending links to it about a dozen times every summer to people who need to read it. The one that always destroys me totally is “I will hold you ten times.”

        • JCF

          Oh, I love that one, too—and also “Dance of the Sugar Plum Lesbians”. πŸ™‚

  • Puckfair52

    First Parade I shouted Happy New Year (some faces were made) Mama Gene DeVente got it. It was 1972 I was 19 & the few thousand people who were with us it couldn’t get any better than this. It did the following year Washington Square Park. Bette Middler, Alaina Reed, Billy & Tiffany, Vito Russo (mnn saw him ever week he was annoying) the Ms Rivera roaring on stage, poignant remembered . STAR was out A list politico gays were the way to go . LFL wanted to break from GAA and drags were sort of looked at as street personas non grata by the likes of Jean O’Leary (one of the few women I knew who loved poppers)

    The things became huge cumbersome & commercial I marched until my husband died 2 years ago.

    1977? picture below marching up to Central park? no shirt leather vest 25!

    My husband & I the year after his heart transplant. He was a Quaker & they have been marching ever year since the first Parade!

    The Irish have been Parading in NY for 200 Years. My parents hated it they were both from Ireland. My Mom looked for me in the papers every year at the pride Parade!

    Parades are a curious kind of thing….they represent a celebratory form of rioting as far as I’m concerned. They mark time memory & have meaning for many. If they are an annoyance put the head phones on, go to Fire Island…SHUTH THE FUCK UP!

    (Little wallflower on the shelf, standing by themselves
    (Never had the nerve to take a chance, so let the little girl/boy dance)

    Let the little girl dance, let the little boy dance
    They never danced before so let them on the floor

    • hiker_sf

      I’m so sorry for your loss. Thank you for marching for all of us and sharing these memories and photos.

  • Lakeview Bob

    Joe, I think this is the first time I’ve read this one. And I loved every word of it. I could not agree with you assessment of why the pride parades are important. I too celebrate and love our diversity. I may not be very interested in drag or twinks but I will die defending their right to be who they are. I am not only a proud gay man but I am a proud progressive gay man.

  • NMNative

    We’ve got our “They wish we were invisible” shirts and are headed to the parade.
    Happy Pride Day brothers and sisters. Let’s Dance!

  • GanymedeRenard

    Brilliant! Thank you, Joe!

  • Acronym Jim

    The people who decry the most outrageous and flamboyant among us remind me of some of the pre-Stonewall protest attempts.

    To test New York’s ban on serving alcohol to gay men, a group would enter a tavern in their whited-shirted-skinny-black-tied Madmen drag and proclaim their wicked, wicked gayness, only to be met with a resounding chorus of slightly raised eyebrows before the other patrons turned back to their drinks and conversations and the bartender poured out a round for our intrepid protesters. They were finally denied service at Julius, a gay bar that had been raided the week before.

    It’s ironic that “normal” looking protesters were simply ignored, dismissed outright, or, at the most, had minimal arrests, while those who fought back because they were routinely harassed simply for how they looked or for being in their own spaces seemed to be the most effective in getting our message across.

    In the end, it has been then combined efforts of those of us with a “respectable” appearance and those of us who are more flamboyant that has gotten us where we are today. Those who whine about our freaks, geeks and outrageous would do well to remember that, without them, we might still be trying to get denied service in straight bars and arrested in the gay ones.

  • Gyeo

    Happy Pride! I’ll be going to L.A. Pride today, though I’m not please at the attempt to brand itself a “music festival” so that it can attracted stoned rich kids who probably don’t care about the struggles of queer and trans folks. I feel like the smaller cities’ prides are better at celebrating queerness than the big cities who have turned their prides into money machines. Tacoma Pride had a real sense of locality to it, and San Gabriel Valley Pride had a real clear focus on integrating LGBT immigrants. It felt so great to find out my hometown had a pride when I barely came out but it suffered financially and therefore discontinued. The bigger cities should return to these roots, in my opinion.

    In any case, I’ll be chaperoning a few twinks who can only handle one drink and who think it’s okay to call me daddy just because I’m almost 30 and had a decent job.

  • David Walker

    Harrisburg’s Pride weekend starts with a choral concert (!) (I love that) sung by Central PA Womyn’s Chorus and Harrisburg Gay Men’s Chorus, separately and combined, sometimes including other area choruses (e.g., the MCC choir) and individuals who want to sing in a big chorus. Proceeds go to the Pride org.

    Although I attended several Pride Fests, my first parade was also the first Pride parade in Harrisburg. I marched with the men’s chorus and, frankly, I was a bit nervous. A float by one of the bars was behind us and it was fabulous (I do not use the “f” word lightly). It was maybe the most elaborate, colorful, and festive float I’d ever seen in the burg. Several of the chorus guys knew the people on the float and there was an instant kinship. Our president knew I was forcing myself to be there (I hate crowds and I was leery of our locals) and held the other side of our brand-new banner. The parade started, our guys started throwing beads at the spectators, people along the route cheered and clapped and told us “great concert last night” as we walked along (it’s hard to march with dance music blaring behind you). Street preachers were audible but not visible because of a local group of allies who held huge rainbow umbrellas in front of the preachers. I went from fearful to elated in 60 seconds. Unfortunately, we were near the end of the parade, so I couldn’t see other groups, but the people along the way were, mostly, wonderful…straight, gay, outlandish, happy, and celebratory. I helped staff the chorus’ strand during the festival and enjoyed THAT parade of people more than the actual parade.

  • David Walker

    I used this in a reply elsewhere on this thread, but I want to share this with you. I think it was commissioned (or co-commissioned) by the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, music by Stephen Schwartz, lyric taken from comments on It Get’s Better. I first heard/saw it on YouTube. Then I experienced it live, sung by SFGMC and in the presence of the composer (I forget if he played it), and was a mess by the end. If your life is too busy, please at least go to 6:[email protected] to get the flavor and then the most astounding ending.

    • hiker_sf

      Great idea and wonderful execution! Thanks for sharing that, David.

  • i re-share this every year. and i’m fucking proud to call y’all family.

    • Todd20036

      Love you and your comments too, Kiwi

    • tristram

      Great video! I had seen that before, but never made the connection!

    • GanymedeRenard

      Is that you on the video, LK? If so, I wanna hug you so bad! If not, I still wanna hug you for posting this! Tons of love to you!

  • GayOldLady

    Love it Joe! Thank you!

  • Neely OHara

    My first Pride March was in 1981, and yes, I was almost like David. I DID NOT think of any my fellow marchers as freaks, misfits, or defectives, but I did lament the fact that 45 of the 60 seconds of news coverage that followed inevitably focused on one specific drag on roller skates, “Rollerina,” complete with crown and magic wand.

    I LOVED the Pride “March” — I even marched in London in ’89, the year I met my husband (who was much older, and not a marcher or much of a joiner, though he’d been one of the first GMHC “Buddies” in the early days of the epidemic until it burned him out), and I skipped the next several years.

    Then sometime in the mid 90’s friends coaxed me back to Pride, and I was destroyed to find that the March had become a Parade. I have no use for the Pride “Parade.” In my Marching days, I was always a little swifter than the flow of the marchers, and no matter what time I began in Sheridan Square, I always worked my way forward to the front, marching at various points with Gay Teachers (unthinkable at the time to many straights), Gay Parents (ditto), Gay EMS workers, Gay Fire Fighters (risking their jobs), and the March always concluded with a rally and speeches in Central Park. It felt important, it felt political, it felt radical and subversive and liberating.

    It’s fitting (and revealing) that when I returned to Pride, the direction had literally reversed; it now began uptown on CPW and culminated in the Village, with an outdoor Dance Party instead of a rally. No political content, no speeches, no radical subversive feeling of liberation — just another party.

    Pride for me had been about struggle, and the lack of serious media coverage didn’t diminish the political nature of the event. WE have diminished the political nature of the event, and as we only get one major event a year, it’s important (at least to me) that it have some content. I can go to a gay dance party in Manhattan any night of the year.

    Perhaps it’s the natural relinquishing to the younger generation, whose struggles, experiences, and expectations are so different than mine were in ’81, and perhaps that’s as it should be. I always enjoy the repeating of your “Defectives” post, Joe, and when you wanna March I’ll be right beside you. Until then, you can keep the “Parade.”

  • Good article, Joe. Thank you for re-running. Hell of a lot of good points in there as to the WHY for the Pride Parades — and they they remain necessary.

    • KQCA

      I “second” your post. Well stated.

      Pride Festivals have never been my thing, mostly because I am uncomfortable in large, loud crowds. It’s a PTSD thing, not an anti-pride thing. I live a private, quiet life but I have to admire the free spirits who take to the streets and don’t have a care of being condemned or laughed at.

      And the icing on the cake are people like Joe and his who give us a pride parade and social gathering every day of the year, 24 hours a day. Every time I log in and read conversations here, I am proud to find so many intelligent and deep-thinking souls in a culture that is criticized for being shallow and judgmental against its own. The best of LGBTQ people across the globe seem to cross paths in the circle.

      A safe and healthy pride season to everyone, even if you celebrate at home alone!


    Well said Joe. Happy Pride. I am marching in the L.A pride parade tomorrow. My first march was in 1981 when I was 19. Pride has always been very important to me for all the reasons you wrote.

  • BostonDotTom

    I look forward to this post every year. Every year, without fail it makes me feel all the feelings.

    Thanks, Joe.

  • Sam_Handwich
    • JCF

      “The Next Vice-President of the United States…!!!”

      I wish, I wish, I wish!

      • Friday

        I want her to be Senate Majority Leader is what I really want, but I’d have no reservations at all about it if she were veep. πŸ™‚

        • andrew

          Lets hope the Democrats win a majority of the Senate Seats and Warren may just have to stay there to help attain that majority.

    • AtticusP

      Love my senior senator!

      And if Harry Reid’s plan comes to fruition, possibly the next vice president of the United States.

  • JCF

    I’m a hypocrite this year, as Sacratomato’s Pride was last Saturday: a day which was 100F AND uncharacteristically humid! As I knew I was already going to wait outside for Hillary’s rally the next day, I decided to gird my loins for just that, instead.

    Still: SO many memories of great PRIDEs! From the very first (when I was a latent tomboy, age 13), the 1975 Gay Pride March in NYC (which I happened upon by accident), to 1980 San Francisco Lesbian&Gay Pride (again by accident—I was an increasingly gay-panicked 18), to my very first OUT LGB(T?) Pride, NYC in 1991 (during the nadir of the Plague Years). Then all those years in the backwater of Lansing (MI) LGBT Pride in the early Aughts (during the time Joe mentions, “Blame the election, blame the recent avalanche of anti-gay legislation”). All very memorable, all important in shaping the (reasonably) happy Trans-butch dyke I am today! ;-p

    Happy PRIDE, everybody—we made it!

  • AtticusP

    “Watching the Defectives” is one fine piece of writing.

    Thank you for sharing it with us, Mr. Joe Jervis.

  • Man_in_the_mists

    I want to go to the Seattle parade. I really do. But it’s become so disgustingly commercial that it’s no longer about Gay Pride but more for advertising with a dash of rainbow glitter. It especially breaks my heart when i remember how the parade used to be especially when it was along Broadway and ended at Volunteer Park.

  • Abe Feldman

    I’m posting from the Capital Pride parade on P St NW in DC. On my way here, I overheard a young woman say to her friend “This is my first Pride. I’m so excited!” That was all I needed to hear.

  • coram nobis

    Just as an example of the parades’ “we ARE used to it factor”, there’s this 1996 film in which two ex-presidents (accidentally) land in a pride parade (in West Virginia, no less), and it’s an important plot twist.

  • Traxley Launderette

    Thank you so much, Joe.

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  • Friday

    Always a great article, ….just starting to wonder if what it’s about is even a thing just lately in the US. I may be over-optimistic there but it seems a less prominent argument in recent years.

  • Homo Erectus

    I attended Tampa Pride a couple of weeks ago, Then Gay Days at Disney last week. In 2 weeks we’ll have St Pete Pride. It never gets old.

  • LesbianTippingHabits

    Celebrate Pride! Tip generously for good service. Happy Pride!

  • SammySeattle

    Thanks again, Joe. I borrowed the last three lines for the sidewalk memorial in Cal Anderson Park.

  • Queers’n’Steers

    As a recovering ‘David’ I say, thank you. For me, and I suspect many Davids, it was a matter of having no real pride in myself. I wanted to stay hidden, so I needed everyone else to, as well. I still have my moments, but I get it now.