The Wonderful World of Wanzie: I want a parade!

By : Michael Wanzie
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Michael Wanzie

Michael Wanzie

The official Program for this year’s COME OUT WITH PRIDE celebration has already been widely distributed. And so the chorus begins.

Not the Orlando Gay Chorus, but the chorus of voices that annually rise up in our community (and I imagine in communities across the nation where similar events are staged) bemoaning the aspects of Pride that are not to their liking. Not in reference to the itinerary of Orlando COME OUT WITH PRIDE events, which span several days; I understand that not every event suits every one’s taste or budget. But if anyone would like to see different events or different takes on existing events, they have only but to volunteer their time and talent and time and energy and time and money and time to the presenting organization and become part of the event in an influential and meaningful way rather than simply criticize it. But I digress.

I am referring to the words that are all too often spoken about the parade itself, and more specifically, parade participants. They are words that hurt my heart and cause me to question the character of those who speak them. I have heard some iteration of these words at least once per day as of late:

“I don’t need a Parade to help me feel good about myself.”

“I’m embarrassed by the Parade. It’s a freak show.”

“The Parade is mostly Drag Queens and Guys in Leather. That doesn’t represent me.”

“Why does everyone involved in the parade have to be so outrageous?”

And my least favorite and most often heard –

“If we as gay people want to be accepted by mainstream society, then parading men in leather chaps with their ass cheeks hanging out along with a bunch of cross-dressers on a float is not the way to do it.”

That last one just kills me. I swear on my mother’s grave these are all sentiments I have heard repeatedly and chances are you or someone you know may have said something strikingly similar, and no less disheartening.

If I may? Pride parades, by their very definition, are not intended to ingratiate LGBTQXYZ people further into the hearts and minds of mainstream society. The parade always was (and hopefully always will be) our celebration. A celebration of who we are, and there is an incredible amount of diversity contained within those two little letters “w”and “e.”

It never ceases to amaze me how so many in our community totally embrace the concept of diversity as it relates to gays being considered part of the fabric that makes up the greater society as a whole, yet seem to have utter disdain for the diversity within our own ranks.

Just as being a proud American does not require you to identify with, or be defined by, those who may not look and act like you, so too it follows that you can be out and proud and gay as well as conservative in your manner and dress without being tainted by the more flamboyant or sexually explicit among us. It’s not their parade. It’s not your parade. It is our parade. Being a conservative gay person who abhors the presence of cross-dressers in the parade is no different than the Knights of Columbus abhorring the presence of a conservative gay marching unit in St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

Making the insidious observation that the parade does not reflect who you are must mean that you are a Martian! Yes,the parade features leather daddies and scantily-clad things and female impersonators for days and butch dykes on bikes and guess what? These individuals are no less deserving of a celebration than are you, and they certainly should not be bullied into being anything but who they are, or out of choosing to dress up and be totally outrageous on this particular day, because there is safety in numbers, and they can let loose and it’s just fun to do. But also in that parade are gay mothers and gay fathers and gay and straight children of gay parents.

Also in the parade are supportive straight moms and dads and brothers and sisters and grandparents of gay relatives. In some cases, whole families marching together. In the parade are small business owners and employee delegations from large national corporations and theme parks. In the parade or clergymen and clergywomen and all manner of church-goers, municipal employees, lawyers, counselors, politicians, singers, members of law enforcement, musicians, car sales people, bartenders, restaurateurs, journalists and publishers, and those heroes who head up a myriad of crucial social service organizations. But the parade doesn’t represent you?

Well, then, who the fuck are you?

Decide who you are; be at peace with who you are; embrace the concept that you are not defined by others, and come join the parade! Simply by doing so, you will be playing a significant role in making the parade more representative of whomever it is you believe yourself to be.

If you find yourself saying or thinking any of the statements in quotations I referenced above, then I implore you to reconsider that line of thinking. Otherwise I would wager that you are a somewhat bitter, overly self-concerned and regrettably frightened individual who needs to grow up and stop being so damned concerned about what “mainstream society” might think of our fun and fucking fabulous world class celebration of true diversity.

I hope to see EVERYONE at the Parade.

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