Yeah, Pride's got its problems – but that doesn't mean it can't be epic
Every year without fail, my friends and I talk about how June is Gay Christmas in San Francisco. We pronounce it like it has to be capitalized and ends with an exclamation point. Sometimes I even sing the words a little -- “Gaaay Christmas! La-la!” -- like the holiday comes complete with its own carols.
Sometimes I say “Gay Christmas” with a hint of irony and sarcasm. I bitch every year about how the Pride parade in San Francisco has become a big corporate conglomeration (not unlike Actual Christmas, right?). I bitch about how Pride has become an expensive and boozy festival celebrating the worst, most consumerist, most assimilationist parts of queer culture. I bitch about how Pride is a festival that has amazing roots and history and import, but at least in San Francisco, it has lost its way. That Pride has morphed from being a glittering and debauched radical celebration of queer love and life into a hokey tourist trap designed to sell rainbow key chains and pink triangle tea towels.
The disgusting thing is that it is dangerous to hold a Pride festival in most parts of the world, even in other parts of the U.S. (have you seen what’s been happening in Texas lately, let alone in Uganda or Russia?). I’d like to think that when our brethren in other places are seriously RISKING MURDER to march down a city block and declare their queerness and gender variance, those of us in the privileged position of living in the queer Oz would be doing more to help them out. I’ve dedicated my life to queer activism, but I’m implicating myself here, too: not knowing how to help in situations that are so desperate and scary can feel hopeless and overwhelming, and the whole mess just ends up making me cynical about Pride in the Bay Area.
I will probably always be cynical about the big corporate festival on Sunday, but the rest of June in San Francisco is a privilege to experience, a wonder to behold if you chill out and count your blessings and get some perspective. So in that spirit, I wanna tell you about my best Pride – what Pride can be like when you’re inspired and enthused, when everything feels alive and shimmering.
Pride 2008 was my best Pride. I was 25 and newly, deeply, madly, stupidly in love. The kind of love that pumped my heart up so big I thought it was going to expand like a balloon and fill my entire ribcage. The kind of love where I threw all responsibility and caution to the wind.
I took the week off work to stay home and fuck my new long-distance girlfriend. I didn’t say that to my job, of course, I said “my girlfriend is visiting from Oregon for Pride,” but I’m fairly sure my supervisor knew what I’d be doing when I asked for the vacation time (it was a queer non-profit). Me and this girlfriend have since broken up (in classic dyke fashion, we’re friends and artistic collaborators now). But the memory of the Pride week we spent together still makes me grin.
We had eight days together, and we made the most of it. We rolled around in my bed, in alleyways, in parks. One night she threw me up against a fence by the UC Extension school at the bottom of Hayes Valley, slipped her hand up my skirt in full view of all those cars and pedestrians.
But eventually the San Francisco summer evening fog won out, and we made our way back to my apartment to warm up. Aside from public sex, we ventured out of my bed for the following: Take-out Thai food on my couch, pancakes at It’s Tops (the preciously tiny 1930s art-deco diner), a movie at Frameline, the last Queer Open Mic hosted by Cindy Emch, the Trans March, the Dyke March, and a porn shoot.
I’m amazed that she and I managed to get so much done, fucking as much as we did. For queer people in love during the gayest week of the year, we were extremely productive. Our productivity was probably bolstered by the fact that we didn’t sleep much. We’d crash out at five a.m. after having sex for hours, and then we were up again at 10, but we wouldn’t manage to actually remove ourselves from each other or my room till two in the afternoon. We’d roll out of my bed hungry and bleary-eyed, covered in the salt of each other’s come and sweat, utterly and deliriously fuck drunk.
So we’d shower together, lather up our hair and skin with her rose castile soap. Sometimes the smell of rosewater still makes me think of her. Then it would be time to put on sexy outfits and go off on another adventure.
It was a magic and manic way to spend Pride, getting lost in my best girl, my sweetest butch, the smartest kindest hottest person I’d ever met. (Falling in love makes me prone to hyperbole.) It makes me feel radiant, brilliant, witty, and drop-dead gorgeous, it makes me feel like I can change the world in one fell swoop.
And me and my girl, we were gonna start a revolution together. We shot a scene for her porn movie that week, the movie that would become Doing It Ourselves: The Trans Women Porn Project – which is actually a revolutionary project, the first and only film of it’s kind: a porn movie made by, for, and about trans women and their partners. I was fucking a total genius, and I was thrilled and proud to have her on my arm. “Yeah, that’s right!” I felt like shouting to every single passer-by, “My girlfriend is BAD ASS, and so am I!”
My girl bought me bondage rope the exact color of the magenta streaks in my hair. She’d picked it out for me before she came to San Francisco, carefully looking for just the right the color for me. That week was like waking up every morning and opening up a present. It was like Christmas, goddammit! Every day was an adventure! There was a hot girl in my bed! There were awesome friends to hang out with who told us what a cute couple we were! There was pad thai and French toast with nutella & bananas to eat! Fences to get thrown up against! Movies to see! Marches to march in! Porn to shoot! Spin the Bottle to be played in Dolores Park! Could life get more amazing?! I felt Crazy With Love!, like all my emotions had to be capitalized and end with an exclamation point. Suddenly Gay Christmas made a lot of sense.
That Saturday we marched in the first ever Femme Sharks and Sea Creature Allies contingent in the San Francisco Dyke March. Forty femmes paraded down 18th Street wearing hot pink fake-satin fins on their heads and backs, fins that were cobbled together with cotton balls and staples, precariously taped to us with Scotch tape or tied to us with yarn. People carried signs: “THE IMF CAN KISS MY DORSAL FIN!” “FEMME SHARKS CAN FUCK YOUR ASS AND CHANGE YOUR OIL!” We chanted: “FEMME SHARKS WANT JUSTICE – AND WE WANNA GET BANGED!” And when she and I got home, she tied me up with the magenta rope she’d bought just for me. Afterwards, we spooned and moped about the fact that she was leaving the next day.
Falling in love over Gay Christmas made the original intent of Pride feel real to me – the glitter, the fun, the exhausted exhilaration, and that feeling of being absolutely enthralled with how brilliant and awesome we are, how much we can accomplish as a community when we put our big, pumped-up, loved-up hearts to it.
So, reader, for this Gay Christmas, I wish that for you. I hope that you fall in love, and I don’t just mean with a sweetheart. I mean I hope that you feel love with your whole body and heart. Love a political movement, an art piece, yourself. Put on your best duds. Treat your lover or yourself to some rope, a cockring, a strap-on that matches your hair or your signature eyeshadow. Eat some chocolate-chip pancakes at an art deco diner and make sure to ask for extra whipped cream. Stay up till 5 in the morning having sex or masturbating. Above all, remember how fabulous and brave and bad-ass you are, and celebrate it.
Gina de Vries is a queer writer, performer, activist, writing instructor, cultural worker, and native San Franciscan. She has a long history doing political organizing and arts work within queer, trans and gender-variant, and sex worker communities, and has performed, taught, and lectured everywhere from chapels to leatherbar backrooms to the Ivy League. She's currently pursuing her master in fiction writing at SF State, where she's working on a book. Find out more at www.ginadevries.com and queershoulder.tumblr.com.