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Pride -then and now. And Underdog Victorious!

My badass boots

Pride NYC 2018

It’s like Christmas here, but…bigger For over a month, every business (from the small coffee shop to the corporate bank) has been flying rainbow banners or flags from outside and inside their establishment.

Bed, Bath and Beyond has been selling Pride bath towels and paper plates. The bagel shop has plain, sesame, poppyseed, and rainbow-colored. They aren’t dumb. This is huge business!

And it’s not at all like the first Pride parade I went to. It was 1982 in Denver, Colorado. I think there might have been less than a thousand people. Still, I had no idea that were that many in all the Mountain States put together. It was so exciting, but still very…subculture. Families in the 'burbs were not likely to say, “Honey it’s Pride, let’s take the kids into the city, dress them up all rainbow, and show support to all our gay brothers and sisters”. Target or Walmart didn’t yet have their big Pride sale and discount month.

But, on the plus side, because of that, I felt like I was part of some fantastic fabulous semi-secret society. I found my tribe. I was a rebel. A revolutionary. I didn’t necessarily have to keep and guard shameful secrets anymore. I didn't have to self-loathe. No sir, I could now cheer on passing floats with dancing leather guys in assess chaps and badly lip-syncing drag queens. I do have to say that I wasn’t all that brave. I do remember being a little paranoid of walking past the Channel 4 News van in fear of my mom seeing me later that early evening on her TV. And sure enough…she did. I explained that it was just a fun trendy thing to do. Like Rocky Horror Picture Show.

It’s so amazingly huge and all-pervasive now - I know several old gay grumps who leave the city during pride as they feel it's just too crowded and commercial. But, I love it and am still taken back by the diversity: all the shapes, sizes, ages, ethnicity, etc. And it’s so damn fluid! I remember in 1995, I got shit in some gay quarters for declaring that I was “bi”. It was seen as a dirty word, a cop out. Now you can damn be whatever you want. Love this younger generation!

At that first Pride, now that I think back on it, it was pretty darn white. Also the girls, as least the Denver 1980s lesbians, had this kind of one look - a combo of women's softball league, hippie, and seriousness. Oh and with a variation of mullet. There were not a lot of dating choices. But here walking by were: the adorable moms with their grade-school age daughters, the butch bois and femme girls, seniors, preppies, punks, townies, as well as all the straight kids in their twenties donning rainbow colored beads like it’s Madi Gras.

Has it become, like St. Pat’s, just another excuse to get shit-faced? I’m okay with that too. Especially since this weekend, mixed in with the camp and fun were anger and defiance. If there is a civil war a coming, this could be be one of the ground zeros (can there be more than one ground zero?). Along with all the rainbow accessories were plenty of anti-Trump-and-Pence stickers and signs . There were speeches, righteous chants, folks handing out pamphlets, and Cynthia Nixon.

Yet, why was I also just a touch wistful?

I think back on my own childhood having to carry and guard such a heavy secret. There was no Pride yet. The only lesbians I suspected were Miss Mixture, my gym teacher (who I swore looked just like Pete Rose) and maybe…Miss Hathaway from the Beverly Hillbillies. These were not encouraging role models.

I’ve been on a Young Adult fiction jag as of late. I’m in the middle of working on a one-woman show called “#Fuck7thGrade”. It’s so interesting reading a lesbian coming-of-age from the 1980s as opposed to one from, say, this year. In the former, the protagonist is so scared her peers and family will find out. And once they do, yes, it’s horrible. She is ostracized and bullied. Her parents kick her out of the house. In the 2017 book, the girl’s parents upon her coming out to them say, “Oh honey, we kind of have always known and were just waiting for you to be ready. Congratulations sweetheart”.

How different would have my life had been if I had been born a decade or two later? Would I have not had such a tough adolescence (7th grade)? Would I have not been so miserable in my twenties? I look at all the teen girls passing by at Pride. They seem so frigid' carefree. Being gay is so…whatever. I’m sure they have issues in other aspects of their lives, but I have to admit, I am almost a little jealous.

Then again, maybe I would have turned out to be a, say, real estate broker (nothing against real estate brokers, mind you) instead of an artist. I would not have written my first hit, “I Kissed a Girl (the original). I would not have been as…interesting? I’m not bragging that I’m interesting, just that I could have been even less so. Also, it was kind of great being around when being somewhere on the LGBT+ spectrum was still taboo. It was sexy.

The weekend has passed, but as I am now residing in Chelsea, Pride never really ends. And I still have on my rainbow rubber wrist band that they gave out at Staples.

And here is an old song from my back catalog called "Underdog Victorious"". Somehow seems appropriate.

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