There are some who have objections to PRIDE festivals. I’m not talking about those religious right folks with their “god hates gays” banners, I’m talking about some queer folks saying, ‘no thanks’ to what has become of the PRIDE festivals.
When it comes to PRIDE I realize it is most likely nothing like it was intended to be. The current PRIDE is a far cry from the first Rhode Island PRIDE. Which was a few folks walking from Kennedy Plaza to the State House wearing paper bags over their heads so that no one would know who they were. It seems the antithesis of “pride,” but that’s what it was. At this year’s Rhode Island PRIDE I witness no paper bag wearing folks, but plenty of happy couples, half dressed men, women, trans and drags, drinking, pot-smoking, t-shirt selling, open religious groups, people with children, teenagers, sex toy stands, free condoms, and a tent doing HIV screening. I have to admit, I shamelessly enjoy it even if it has almost nothing to do with its original intentions. And sure, maybe it’s a bit more commercial than it should be, what with local businesses all saying “hey we love the queers money just as much as the heteros!” I feel it is important because there have been times when I have felt that I couldn’t be myself, who I really truly am, when at home and even at some of my previous employers. I think that is probably the reason most go, to be able to be themselves without the looks that one can still get even in somewhere as diverse and seemingly open-minded as New England. You still have the gay hating assholes roaming around — hey diversity makes the world go round and opposition will always keep you in check.
My most negative experience as a bisexual…was, unfortunately, not long after I had come out. I truly believe that I got fired for being bisexual. I got fired from a pizza place (which will remain anonymous) after one of the managers asked me out. I gently turned him down, I thought he was a nice guy, but I really wanted to explore my attraction to women. I told him that I preferred women (and I still do quite frankly, not to say I was never open to the possibility of being with men, I just like being with women more). He seemed okay with it and even mentioned how he kind of thought I might be queer. A few weeks later, I had a mysterious attitude problem that, he had reported. I was never talked to about this until after the fact. The pizza place didn’t formally fire me, they just took me off the schedule, which was against company policy ( I learnt this later from the district manager). About a week after the incident, I showed up to work and they told me I wasn’t scheduled to work that night, thinking I must’ve wrote my schedule down wrong, I went home. I went to work a few days later when the schedule was done for the following week to check it, I wasn’t listed on it. When I asked, that is when someone finally told me that I no longer worked there! Being young and stupid, I was indignant, but it never occurred to me to take action. I figured it was a stupid, boring job anyhow. Besides, I had just graduated, I had a part-time graphic design job and my future ahead of me. I do sometimes wonder what happened to that manager. I hope, wherever he is, that he has lots and lots of queers telling him what to do.
But back to PRIDE. I think, that if one is constantly exposed to the queer community, then maybe going to PRIDE doesn’t really seem that big of a deal. And I would understand if someone has all queer friends and is always at queer related events and clubs and whatnot, than going to PRIDE would seem almost superfluous.. of course your out and proud, you do it every fucking day! I don’t. I have a small group of friends and rarely do much in the way with the queer community other than participate in the Gallery X queer art show.
Going to PRIDE isn’t going to change the world, but its nice to know there’s more than that small group of queers out there. I recall at the first PRIDE feeling almost overwhelmed by how many people were there! I wasn’t alone there were others just like me… it was both a scary and exciting concept for me. Scary because I would always hear about those negative experiences of being queer, and my own tied in with it. But exciting because, hey there’s a lot of fucking queers and supporters… more than one would think in such a small state. I think when I walk through those festival “gates,”—usually a tent with people passing out flyers— I feel that first feeling all over again. I think, no, I’m not alone.