The Following Sunday

I’m feeling sad and naive about the joy-rade I went on after Salt Lake City’s Pride Festival.  I was drunk on the community love (or high on snow cones and cotton candy) and I indulged in a moment of Pride pride.

A week later, the progress I wrote about seems less absolute.  I still think we are going in the right direction, but God damn.  Why does it have to be so ugly?  Why does so much have to be at stake?

Of course I am talking about the shooting in Orlando.  It also seems that a shooting may have been prevented – one that would have targeted LA’s Pride Festival.  And of course I know that there are many factors at play, not just homophobia or religion or race, but all of those and who knows what else.  We will never know the nuances of why the incident played out like it did. My sadness isn’t focused on any one factor.  My sadness is focused on 49 individuals who aren’t here any more.  There is no reason.  It defies reason.

We were driving to Pride last week and I asked my friend’s two young boys if they knew why we did Pride.  They said no.  I wanted to ask what they supposed, but they were already annoyed that I made them turn off their electronics so I could try to have this conversation.  I wanted them to understand why it is important, but I didn’t want to give them the history.  I didn’t want to scare them (one of the boys has recently come out as gay) or depress them.  Mostly I wanted to set some expectations and try to prevent some of the whining that I endured last year.  Because it is all about me, really.  So I told them “Today is the day that we gather as a community and celebrate the fact that we get to be who we truly are.”  Then I told them that the most important thing was to have fun, and show people that are too stuck in the past to join in that they are missing a great party.  Then I let them get back to their games, and thought to myself “Maybe it’s good that they don’t know too much about it…  That it used to feel really brave to go to Pride.  They’ll learn the shitty stuff eventually…”

It shouldn’t feel brave to go to Pride.  Or a nightclub.  Or an elementary school.  I don’t want to hear about the other factors at play or the “real” reasons this happened. No civilian in this country should own a semi-automatic weapon. No one can make a sound argument to the contrary.

And yet nothing will change.  That’s the other thing that really hurts my heart.  I know that if we couldn’t enact sensible gun reform after two dozen first and second graders were murdered, we aren’t going to do it for a bunch of queer Latinos.  So my friend will have to sit her boys down and explain this aspect of our culture, if she can.  Maybe not this news cycle.  Or the next.  But soon.

I just hope that they can make some progress on the gun issue in their lifetimes.  Before too many more young people lose the futures that past generations fought for.

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Pride

The first time I went to the Pride Festival in Salt Lake City back in the 90s, it was a fairly small affair.  Don’t get me wrong; it was a good sized party and plenty of people came, but not so many that you wouldn’t bump into your friends without making a big deal over it. Which was good because I didn’t have a cell phone back then. There was a free speech corner for the protesters, and there were a decent number of those. And there were booths but it didn’t have a lot of art or stuff for sale. I would say it was fun with freaky elements, but ultimately low key. 

Am I telling you this to say that I liked gay people before it was cool to like gay people?  Yes. And also to point out it was once possible to meet up with friends and do stuff without cell phones. But mostly I have it on my mind because I was trying to conjure that memory today while at the Pride parade and festival. I heard on NPR on Friday that thirty thousand people were expected to attend.

Thirty. Thousand. People. In Salt Lake City. UTAH!

If I had been in a coma since the 90s and awoke today to be told by my friends how far we have come on LGBTQ rights, I would have said, “There’s a ‘Q’ now? What’s that stand for?” Then, when I was fully up to speed I would have said, “Holy Shit! Is it 2048?”

And then my friends would say, “No, it’s only 2016! And your hair is still brown!”

Then I would have said, “Dudes! That is The Bomb! Now get me outta this bed, Beeotch, so we can do the Macarena!!! People still do that, right?”

I haven’t been in a coma but I was still stunned to go and see the joy and the community acceptance that is at the center of the SLC Pride celebration now. So many people came to hang out and enjoy the festival. I started to write something about “came to support…” But it didn’t really feel like that to me, today. It just felt like people having fun. 

There were no protesters (that I saw). I didn’t hear any pro or con arguments of any sort. People danced and ate and wandered around. It was the party of the year and everyone was invited. And it was amazing. 

The bit that really got me were the grey haired folks marching in the parade with Mormons Building Bridges, a group of Latter Day Saints that supports the LGBTQ community. There were multiple people in wheelchairs and one that was holding a sign proclaiming her love and support for her grandson. If someone would have told me about that after I came out of my imaginary coma I would have gone right back under. 

When the lady in the wheelchair went by I teared up a little bit; I really did. But then I told myself to snap out of it because in trying to wipe the tears away I got sunscreen in my eyes and that hurt really bad. 

We live in a truly remarkable time. We get to live our lives as authentically as we dare to. We aren’t required to live the lives that others planned for us in order to make them feel comfortable. It still isn’t easy, but so many obstacles have been cleared for us and for those who come after. 

If you’ve never been to a Pride Festival and have one coming up in your area, go. Celebrate. Be your authentic self. You might not encounter someone you can make uncomfortable, but you may make an old cynic like me cry.