By: K. Pearson Brown
Last weekend, my family joined a couple friends of ours and their twin boys to enjoy Christopher Street West Pride celebration in Los Angeles. In previous years the festival included a children’s area, but evidently due to budget cuts and poor attendance, the kids corner was cut. We went anyway, as our friends assured us they go each year and their kids LOVE it, as they get all kinds of free SWAG, eat fun food and see great entertainment.
I had forgotten what Pride was like, because I not been to Pride in a few years, though we marched in the parade last year, which ended up being a four-hour-waiting-in-the-heat ordeal that we’ll not repeat. We entered the fair grounds at West Hollywood Park to see our beloved park transformed into a colorful, noisy and wild celebration. We came early, around 2 pm, so things were not yet hopping. In fact we were the only women at the Real L Word exhibit, our first stop, which featured a fancy press line that festivalgoers could walk on and take pictures to pretend they are big-shot celebs (kinda a microcosm of the show, in a way — can you tell I am not a fan of reality TV?).
At the booth, a rep from Showtime offered my two-and-a-half-year-old son a tattoo. He loves tattoos, so we consented and the woman applied a tat with magenta letters, “The Real L Word.” Cute. Then the FBI, yes the FBI, was there, and a recruiter came up and offered my son another tattoo. So soon he was sporting an FBI seal on the other arm. He looked like quite the sailor.
Then a man from a nearby booth offered my son a neon-light yo-yo. How fab! Our friends’ kids were also snapping up toys, candy and all sorts of premiums from the booths. So, like trick or treat, we began winding our way through the fai grounds, picking up prizes. We got mugs and healthy snacks from Whole Foods, recyclable totes from Cedars Sinai, a burgundy and gold pom-pom from USC, and even a souvenir pic of me and my son at a booth for Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.
But along the way, I found myself dodging some of booths and sites that were G rated, as in Gay rated. Even though my son cannot read yet, I skirted around a big banner that spelled out “Penis Envy,” then we took a quick turn to avoid a large poster of a man in skimpy skivvies, and we had to sidewind to avoid a topless woman with two pieces of electrical tape on her nipples.
As the crowds began streaming in, with men wearing buttless chaps and thongs and a variety of freaks and sordid-looking people surrounding us, we decided to leave.
While I am proud of who I am as an out gay woman, I sometimes do not feel so proud of the way our community represents itself. While I support everyone’s right to express themselves however they wish, why is it that “pride” for some people means that sexuality should be worn on the outside, as if it is the defining thing about being gay?
Of course heterosexuals have their festivals of debauchery, like Mardi Gras, or even spring break, where public displays of sexuality are the main event, but it seems we hardly have any major gatherings of gay people where sex is not the thing. It is a shame. Not that I am a prude, but I get frustrated that sex becomes so much of the focus of these events, when there is so much more to our lives, just like in the hetero population.
I left the Pride festival feeling a little depressed.
Thank goodness the Family Services program of the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center hosted a Family Pride picnic the following day, where my family could go and not worry about any bare buttocks, besides those getting a diaper change, being on display.
There was face painting, arts & crafts, balloon animals, games, food and, of course, juice boxes. Ah, wholesome gay moms and dads and kids of all ages. What a relief.
So next year, we’ll skip the festival and hang with our people. We’re here, we’re queer, and we’re regular, proud moms and dads.