Last night I went to visit a friend, and found the streets for miles around blocked off by tolerant-looking but displeased cops. I figured at first that it was a concert that had spilled into his downtown district, and that I could go around it by driving a block over; when I arrived at my destination, I found that something far more intriguing was occurring: a gay pride parade.
When life hands you comedy, sometimes you have to trust in reality and let the river take you wherever it is destined to go. We were planning on consuming some beverages, and making some music, but didn't want to let the event pass without seeing what it was all about, so we attended a Gay Pride parade. Not marched in, not participated in, but went to see what one was like. Like most people, I'd never seen one up close except for one that obstructed by passage through downtown Vancouver several years ago.
Being devious bastards, we also printed up some ANUS flyers and handed them out to people, including several members of community organizations. There's a slight chance I was heard over KPFK radio talking about the holiness of the ass being equal to that of the soul, but it's doubtful they run rhetoric from crazed nihilists such as myself. To the credit of the people there, no problems occurring from handing out these flyers.
As a heterosexual, I have long believed that tolerance is a two-way street, and that my lack of hatred toward gays should be rewarded by their understanding that I find what they do in the privacy of their bedrooms repellent. I used to think gay pride parades were about gays, and perhaps a celebration of this idea, but I no longer think so at all. After tonight's experience, I can say that gay pride parades - like white nationalist meetings, church gatherings, stoner circles and elections - are about personal drama, or egoism, with the exception of a few honest folk.
First, it's important to note that the city did a great job balancing tolerance with practicality. There were plenty of cops there, and they were clearly not concerned about drug use, alcohol, or sodomy in the bushes. Their job was to look out over a sea of surging bodies, and to prevent any violent or abusive incidents. This they did by stationing themselves both conspicuously and inconspicuously throughout the parade route, intervening if there was any sign of altercation. Not all of them looked happy to be there, but they were professional and friendly to the crowd. Almost all of them were white males.
If there was a single cause for this parade, it was identity. People see their behaviors as defining "who" they are, and they seek lives outside of their biological past and future, therefore try to make behaviors into a "culture." It's about as silly as "stoner culture," or a stoner pride parade, which will never happen since everyone would flake out on attending. For most of these people, being gay was not a preference, but an identity.
For many others, being associated with the parade, and being the kind of person who supports a whole raft of civil rights agendas including homosexuality, race, and class warfare, it was an identity as being one of the "good guys." This includes the rough dozen Christian churches who send floats or marchers to the parade, loudly proclaiming the moral authority of inclusiveness.
A good portion of those in the crowd were of this type, and they seemed to believe their good intentions not only qualified their participating in a gay event, even though most were straight, but also gave them a certain moral imperative, as if being in a queer pride parade justified whatever agendas they wanted to push. See, they say, my intentions are good, therefore all that I do must be good. Their basic need is to justify their lifestyles and find a reason - being "good" - that overcomes their failings, instead of actually working on those failings. These people were deluded and sickening.
Some were old school homosexuals, of the kind that have always existed and always will, but these were in the minority by far. More abundant were young people flirting with identity issues, dramatic people looking for a social set or self-image, and outright perverts who, in a frustration at their inability to make a place for themselves in the world, wanted to force the rest of us to accept them without judgment, even if the only sane judgment would be that gay or straight they are perverts who need a hollowpoint to the forehead and deserve nothing else from society.
Most of the lifelong homosexuals present were relatively quiet, in the way that one shows support for something without drawing attention to oneself. Some dressed the part a bit, or went to their favorite pink-painted bar, but they weren't hyping their own presence. They were there because they wanted to put their weight behind something, and for them, it wasn't a party as much as a ceremony.
For the rest, it was a chance to be seen, to violate taboo and to associate themselves with a grab-bag of ideas centered around the idea of forcing aside nature and judgment in preference to "rights" and "freedoms." These people seem to believe that if we just suspend reality, and think emotionally, we can create a more perfect society by increasing the number of dysfunctionally egoistic people within it. Since there are very few excellent people, there are many of a lesser degree, and these ran away with the parade.
The most instructive part of the parade was seeing who financed the various floats which came down the street. Some were as simple as an SUV surrounded by marching people with a large vinyl sign, but others were elaborate platforms on which dancers and musicians performed. Many tossed logo-branded objects, including plastic jewelry, to the crowd. The personal drama of the situation, as well as the low degree of self-respect expected, was vile.
After several gay rights organizations, the ACLU, numerous churches and government agencies had floats pass, the corporate floats began. Having not seen a parade since childhood, I was both impressed and revolted by the amount of detail and self-promotion found on these floats. For the most part, the gay organizations had tasteful floats. The corporations did not.
The most notable was the Smirnoff float. Muscular masked male dancers in briefs and braless women dressed as clowns followed this vehicle, which looked like a large cake platform, and music as loud as a death metal concert bathed the crowd. The usual offerings were flung to people who did not seem to mind disgracing themselves by diving for them, like animals catching meat scraps at the table of a master. Large plastic bottles of Smirnoff stood in front of the lights.
To me, this seemed like good business - convince every segment of the population you want to sell to them. What marred it was the idea of rendering them into objects by treating them with excessive attention to what they are, not who they are, and the entire thing rang of cheap enticements and condescention. What followed next was even more surprising.
Major petroleum corporations - most notably Shell and British Petroleum (British... snicker) - had their own floats and marchers throwing out plastic trinkets to people, assumedly so that they could be amused for up to 48 hours before consigning these objects to landfill. They'd summoned all their house queers to march, and had their corporate logos present very visibly alongside slogos promising equal rights, justice, etc. Was anyone fooled?
While certain political groups like to pretend that corporations have a right-wing agenda, they forget that corporations are composed of people in whom the values and attitudes of surrounding society are manifested, so blaming "corporations" for our ills is like blaming groups of more than three people for warfare. Corporations exist to earn money. They do this by pandering to various audiences. Unlike right-wing conspiracies, they're accepting of everyone, so long as they have money to spend. They demonstrated this to the gay community with lavish floats, cheap gifts and feelgood rhetoric booming through loudspeakers over stereotypical "gay-friendly" techno, which seems sequenced to the pace of passionate sodomy.
A bank or two and several radio stations followed suit, each investing a sizable amount of money in cultivating the gay crowd. I'm sure there was an Apple float somewhere, but it crashed before reaching the parade grounds, as anything from that neurotic horde of pretenders will do. The floats that followed were for generally gay businesses, like bars and lubricant companies and clinics, and they were relatively tasteful, compared to the garish and loud corporate trucks.
The entire affair was decked in the rhetoric of freedom. Giant "=" signs everywhere, cheerful banners proclaiming gayness as a right, loudspeaker voices cheering us to recognize everyone as equal. Although this dogma was present in all of the gay organization floats, it was most overdone among the corporate floats, as if they recognized that making everyone an unfettered consumers was the actual agenda of "freedom" in the modern sense: an emotional absolute interpreted without bounds except those of commerce and the "freedom" dogma itself.
Many people participating in the parade itself - not watchers like those of us who hung out with cops and journalists on the fringes, watching curiously - were doing their best to be provocative, thrilling themselves with how "daring" they were and spoiling for a confrontation. It was low-key, mostly because in a city as polite as Houston, people avoid unnecessary conflict and are cordial even to those they detest. Even those who found the whole proceeding abominable, and wished mass death upon its participants, would politely nod and reserve their opinions for private discussion and political plotting.
The provocateurs demonstrated something about freedom: it's cheap when made a universal, and granted to everyone without consideration of their abilities or acts. Because freedom was present, everyone could be as freaky as they wanted, with only local laws about public sexuality restraining them. Because everyone could be as freaky as they wanted, it required some really ostentatious freakiness to stand out in the crowd, and that drove them toward bigger "freedoms," but none stood out because all were extreme.
As a result, their "freedom" did not gain them greater ability to pursue a sexual orientation, but a lifestyle based on a culture of being freaky and extreme. This to my mind is not part of being gay, per se, but being part of a media culture of what gay "should" be, openly egged on by corporations who make a big profit selling to the freaky party scene. No shared values are achieved, outside of a lifestyle by which all are now associated for the actions of some, and therefore "freedom" actually weakens the community as a whole.
Having lived in this city for much of my life, I have known this once exclusively gay district throughout the years, and have observed that homosexuals come in three stripes. The smallest group are honestly gay people; I believe they are genetically determined to be gay, probably from a dual mechanism that automatically creates extra non-child-bearing labor in the way that an ant colony includes different kinds of workers and warriors, or creates it if there would be problems with the individual in question breeding. These people tend to be the least freaky, as their main concern is having a normal life while fitting love and sodomy into it.
The largest group among the gay community are the confused. These are people who were abused as children, and thus have come to associate dominant and submissive male sexual politics as a kind of security - much in the way men do in prisons. Their sexual confusion leads them to try to re-enact their initiation into confusion, like a kind of Stockholm Syndrome for the genitals. Many of these suddenly drop out of the gay community in their thirties and have families and children. A far greater number are high-school- and college-aged people who are, as the saying goes, working through some issues.
The smallest group, but the most highly visible, are people who are described by any sane observer as extremist perverts. Their sexuality is voracious, and if the gay community provides a host, parasitically they lock onto it. They are often "bisexual" as well, or are secretly gay or secretly hetero some nights of the week, and although they are the most vociferous about their "rights," are predators of convenience whose main requirement is lots of sex. Traditionally, the gay community has been the least critical of the sexual orientation camps, and therefore, these have lived among them. However, after sexual "liberation" they can be found cruising the hetero single scene as well, because their only requirement is lots of sex.
These who confuse quality with quantity do so because they are fundamentally empty in some way, and therefore could not appreciate love or compassion as much as something tangible, like an orgasm. They are lost but aggressive, and therefore turn their aggression outward into the sexual world, consuming as much as they can to fill the emptiness. There is no real difference between their mentality and that of rapacious corporate barons who denude the earth, because both are hollow and no matter how much they eat, they cannot fill that empty space because all that can fill it is an emotional connection to life - something they lack. In this, Dick Cheney and Bill Clinton had more in common with the perverts of the Gay Pride parade than with the Republican or Democratic constituency. They are predators first, and associated with a sexual or political orientation secondarily.
What "freedom" - defined in the modern context as a lack of shared values to a community, thus independence from any external determination of OK/not-OK to behaviors and lifestyles - achieves is to blur the distinction between these groups. Anyone can do anything, and so degeneracy follows, burying those who would live normal lives among the noise. Because there is no means of selection that promote better over good, everything flattens to one level, and soon all that is left is the freakiness.
Was there really much happiness at this parade? For those who took it lightly, yes: it was kind of a cool event, with a chorus of drag queens singing "It's Raining Men" and plenty of partying going on everywhere. I've never seen HPD this tolerant of open alcohol consumption, or as unjudgmental of behavior. They were literally stoic as a giant party unfolded before them, and at midnight, sent in the cleanup crews to get everyone off the streets so the noise didn't wake the working people who live in and around the Montrose.
The old school gays I see hanging about seemed to be attending for form's sake and didn't really look thrilled. They were more there out of obligation, and because they've been told they have to do this to avoid getting hauled off and arrested, a sense of the original term "pride." That use of the term means showing your numbers and taking a stand; while that was meaningful to them, to those who had never known anything but "freedom," and those whose goals were perversion or sexual confusion, it was more like a big freaky party with no real meaning. What's going on this weekend? Oh, Gay Pride parade - grab amyl nitrate, lubricant, MDMA and let's go.
For those who took the politics seriously, it was almost an embittering event, a charge to battle and a chance to smolder in self-righteousness. I will not forget the eyes of a Nordic girl who was watching the events go by, clearly not happy and with anger under her blank expression, as if her hopes for conflict had been dashed. There were others, also, who were almost disappointed looking as they saw how far acceptance had gone, especially the corporate floats. They were spoiling for a fight and no one gave it to them. Least of all the tolerant but jaded looking cops.
To my experience, "happiness" is an illusory pursuit; if one wants to be "happy" all the time, drugs that are not yet synthesized are needed, since life cannot be always a happy experience or it would lack meaning. The process of survival, and of achieving the things that are important to us, necessarily involves struggle or it would lack reward. In this knowledge, "freedom" and "happiness" are misguided goals - wanting the destination without the trip - and it is not surprising that those who only seek those things end up hollow, and forever hungry but never full.
When the group I was with, all heterosexuals, returned, the responses were not very extreme. It had been like watching a movie. The conversation quickly drifted to music, with a friend of mine from the younger generation saying something extremely perceptive. He said, "When bands of the older generation wanted to say that life sucked, they cooked up some elaborate mythos and made music that sounded angry. When newer bands think something sucks, they sing about it literally and their music is less machinelike and animal." This reminded me of both the gay pride parade, and something I'd observed in college.
At the time when I attended school, it was popular on the East Coast (and everywhere else) to be "open-minded" and "politically correct," but both of these terms are not descriptive. What they referred to was a tendency to suspend judgment, forget about shared community goals except those had in common by a diverse population, meaning lowest common denominator goals. Since food and lodging and purpose ("get educated") were given, the only remaining goal was "freedom," or a constant fight for people to do whatever they wanted without interference from others. Because only freakiness comes under that kind of examination, freakiness was defended.
One group that interested me were the male feminists. These were guys who conscientiously went to feminist meetings and learned the rhetoric, and became very apologetic for males, even to the point of disclaiming manliness or outright maleness. They wanted to assure women that they - men, but not-men - were on their side, and fought for the same rights they did. Most of this centered around sexual rights, which was convenient, since these male feminists picked up more different sexual partners than any other group. Under the guise of protection of freakiness, the smart freaks found a way to disguise their predatory intentions, and the baffled college women - drowning in a sea of feminist rhetoric - did not find out until the next day, when they saw the guy doing the exact same thing to another woman. No matter how sexually "liberated" one is, being used is a universal language, and these women saw it. There is nothing else to which I can attribute the shift toward more conservative values in the junior year, than this realization.
Similarly, "happiness" and "freedom" are disguises for a lack of goals, and a path toward the kind of emptiness that Dick Cheney or Bill Clinton exemplify. What people who think clearly, and recognize reality do, is to achieve fulfilling lives, and these are not found by pursuing sexual excess, drug excess, monetary excess, or social excess. They are found by creating things, and having a place in whatever community one desires, but these places and things are not created by freakiness - a temporary state which anyone, even a predator, can fake - but by being a participant, by working for other people and being known as a contributor.
This state is as close as one gets to "happiness," and it doesn't involve "freedom" except in the sense of being able to live normally. Even the most repressive regimes, like the Soviets and Nazis, did not outright eliminate all homosexuals - they found the visible perverts and pitched them into gulags. Those who were simply gay, and leading gay lives that were for the most part similar to heterosexual lives except for sexual preference, were unmolested. In many ways, this must have strengthened the gay community, because without the freaks and perverts, the gay pride parade might have been a good place to meet other normal people of the same sexual orientation, for honestly gay people.
I felt the same way about the "emo"-influenced music of the current generation. It talks a bunch of big abstract words like "freedom" because it has no other agenda, and no positive values; all of its values are negative, whether complaining or asserting "freedom" as a means of escaping judgment or collective goal. Hilariously, our President and his minder, Dick Cheney, speak almost the exact same words when justifying distant wars: freedom. Freedom from something. Happiness: a removal of unhappiness. These terms have nothing to do with reality, and disguise the intentions toward parasitism of those who use them.
For all the mixed bag that this event offered, I was glad I attended, and I recommend that everyone attend one in their home city. It's a crime to have life pass by without seeing what it has to offer, and watching a gay pride parade doesn't make you gay, or a pervert; it makes you an onlooker, perhaps "open-minded" or, in a more innocent term, simply curious. It may have happened somewhere, but I didn't see any freakiness extending itself to non-freaks who didn't go cruising for it. They don't bite, gay pride parade people.
Ultimately, my reflections centered around tolerance, and the idea that nature is more tolerant than humans can be. Where we turn gayness into a freak show and by embracing a negative absolute, "freedom" and "equal rights," nature made gayness something whereby people could contribute to society without the burden of having children. It also uses it in a positive way, where if there's something physically unstable in a person, it prevents them from breeding and making others suffer. It is no coincidence that many gay men die way young with ailments such as congenital heart failure, or susceptibility to disease. Nature gave them a chance at meaningful life. Politicized humanity gives them extremes and freakshows.
I also handed out a number of flyers, and did a brief radio interview with KPFK, 90.1, in which I pointed out that unless our society is willing to accept the anus as being as holy as the soul, we have missed the point of nature, which is to join ideals and physicality in pursuit of something undefinable that we call "life." Dick Cheney doesn't understand that, nor does George W. Bush, nor Bill Clinton, nor Josef Stalin. When one tries to pull either physicality or ideals out of life, but does not join the two, an emptiness results.
After these thoughts, my mind returns to emo, which is punk music of an emo-tional nature that spends most of its time complaining or describing sad situations with no resolution. This to my mind is more negative rhetoric, and is destructive because it does not give people a goal, but hands them excuses which - like "freedom" and "happiness" - are absolutes of our mind that do not join with our world. Physicality and ideals are separated, and emptiness and an unquenchable hollowness remain. Emo is not its own creation, any more than any of us are; it's a restatement of the ideals of our current time, in which we believe we can detach emotions from reality and achieve a greater "freedom."
In actuality, however, we have given up our goals and our chances at a fulfilling life, and replaced them with a shield for parasites, so it should be no surprise that in the white house or at a gay pride parade, parasitism predominates.
June 26, 2005