Happy APW Pride week, everyone! I actually was introduced to APW during Pride week 2011 by a friend (who would eventually become our officiant) at Julie’s former roommate’s wedding. Checking the site was the first thing I did every morning that week—I had never seen anything addressing gay people getting married presented in such a… normal way… before. All the content in Pride Week here was just celebrating couples getting married, not commenting on how brave you have to be to be gay and married, or how indie/alternative it is to have a wedding when you’re LGBTQ. I’ve been a devoted reader of the site ever since, and I look forward to June all year.
If this is your first June around these parts, Pride Week at APW is when, save for the occasional craft tutorial or sponsored post, all the content is provided by LGBT contributors and/or features queer couples. Meg describes it this way, “It’s good for of us. Whether you’re used to being in the majority, or in the minority, it’s good to switch places for awhile and experience things from the other side.”
That’s one reason why Pride week is still important, even though as we continue to make progress, LGBT Pride seems unnecessary to some. The arguments go like this: Gay Marriage as a provocative topic is soooo 2008. We’re mainstream now, we’ve got the support of the people behind us. DOMA is dead. Well, not all the way dead, but one section, and that’s great, right? Same sex marriage is entirely legal in nineteen states! That’s almost half! I heard on NPR this week that transgender people are now allowed to apply to Medicaid for reimbursement for gender reassignment surgery. Their application won’t necessarily be approved, but the blanket ban on approval for the surgical procedure has been lifted—break out the champagne! All legally married couples, regardless of gender, will be reported as such in the census results that will be released this September as opposed to previous censuses which have indicated all gay couples as “unmarried partners,” even when the partners themselves identify as “spouses.” The truth is, the last year or two have seen huge momentum towards change and justice for LGBTQ folks. We seem to be in the middle of a sea change, and that’s great. However, we’re not there yet, and that’s why LGBT Pride is still important. We need to remind ourselves, and allies, and legislators, and communities that we’re not interested in halfway equality.
I’m feeling the partialness of this progress as we close in on eight weeks until our wedding day. At the end of it, Jules and I won’t actually be legally married. We will absolutely be married in our own hearts and minds, and in those of all our people who are coming out to celebrate with us. We’ll get a civil union sometime soon, so Julie can take advantage of my school district benefits. But for right now, we cannot claim any federal benefits until we go get married somewhere else first. Which would be sad, if it weren’t so damn silly. We’re not actually going to go get legalled anywhere else, right now. There are a few practical concerns: a few trips we’re taking separately right after the wedding that eat into our “together” travel budget, and a complete lack of desire to spend any honeymoon beach time waiting in line at the county clerk’s office to repeat what we’ll have just done the Saturday before. I have some ideological objections as well. It is terribly elitist to blithely suggest we’ve got the problem solved now that all of queer couples can go get married on vacation. Couples have to have enough disposable funding to travel out of state in order to make it official, when there are plenty of people who can barely leave their neighborhood? I have trouble ignoring how wrong that is, and it makes me feel uneasy about participating in that particular solution—which doesn’t mean that I won’t. It’s terribly precarious legally to be married in some places, and not others, but usually better to be married in a few places, rather than none at all.
Legislation and Internet communities aside, citywide Pride celebrations are feeling different these days. As it becomes safer and more acceptable in many places to be openly LGBT, we need less of a once-a-year opportunity to just… be out. What I’ve noticed at the Pride celebration in our city is that the vibe is less about being gay and proud together, and more about being a diverse community with the same human concerns. Yes, there are still handsome men with squirt guns and silver Speedos, and I, for one, hope that there always will be. But there are also a lot of families walking around the booths, dancing to the drag shows, waving rainbow flags. Pride celebrations are still great places to challenge the heteronormative standard. It’s still rare to see a gentleman wearing chaps and chains holding the hand of a person wearing a sequined dress, stilettos, and a full mustache walking down a major street in our everyday lives. If that’s something you dearly love to do, Pride is a wonderful time to do it. And if it’s something you’ve never tried, it’s a great time to find out how seeing that makes you feel, and maybe think about why it makes you feel that way.
One thing that’s always resonated with me as a queer feminist is that in civil rights activism personal is political. We’re all just trying to live our lives, take care of our people, grow up, maybe have babies, maybe raise puppies. The difference between us is that there continues to be legislation that prevents some of us from doing those things to the best of our ability—based on the similarity or difference between our own gender and the gender of the person/people we love, and people’s fear based on the perception of that love as different. That fear is also responsible for reprehensible laws and other actions all over the world—like Russia’s bans on gay rights groups saying that “propaganda of nontraditional sexual orientation is a threat to Russian society,” and Uganda’s law that sentences “first time offenders” to fourteen years in jail, and acts of “aggravated homosexuality” to a life sentence. We need to use the celebration that should absolutely be a part of any Pride as a starting point for discussing where we go from here, and how we’re going to get there.
That’s why we still need Pride Week. We’ve made amazing, tremendous progress, and that deserves to be celebrated. Harvey Milk said, “I ask for the movement to continue, for the movement to grow, because last week I got a phone call from Altoona, Pennsylvania, and my election gave somebody else, one more person, hope. And after all, that’s what this is all about. It’s not about personal gain, not about ego, not about power—it’s about giving those young people out there in the Altoona, Pennsylvanias, hope. You gotta give them hope.” We still need hope. We need to connect with ever larger parts of the community—not to assimilate, but because it’s still in all of our best interests to note our commonality. Coming out—or just taking a stand—can be such a lonely place. Doing it together isn’t just a good idea for wedding tasks; it’s also for the work of making the personal not just political, but also less lonely. This week, let’s think about where we want to go, and how we’re going to get there. But let’s also talk about where we are right now—weddings and babies and day-to-day life and all.