Why My Boyfriend And I Skipped The Pride Paradeby Billy Gray on July 03, 2012
New Yorkers often joke, loudly, about their plans to ditch town and run for the hills whenever a big parade hits the city. St. Patrick’s Day’s mobile green vomitorium and the Puerto Rican Day parade’s deafening reaggaton-induced anarchy are fine excuses for steering well clear of 5th Avenue. But attending the Pride parade can feel like a civic obligation that, if avoided, raises uncomfortable sexual, political and cultural questions about the truant, especially if he happens to be gay.
So it was with mixed feelings that my boyfriend and I spent Pride weekend Sunday not at the Stonewall or the Christopher Street piers, but at a mostly straight dance party on the toxic banks of the Gowanus Canal. There was a strong gay contingent—the lesbians, in particular, were out in force—and really any combination of disco and Kings County attracts partiers whose sexuality, and gender, is at best ambiguous. But there was no rainbow flag, no legion of overeager Obama campaigners and no Grand Marshal Cyndi Lauper. The forward-thinking DJs didn’t even play “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.”
Our decision to skip the parade wasn’t reached lightly. We both acknowledged that we should have been there, especially in light of our absence at last year’s historic parade following New York’s legalization of gay marriage. (We spent it at a sports pub in Westchester.) Light self-recrimination gave way to concerns that our friends would judge us — several had flown in from across the country for the occasion, and at least one would be channeling his drug-addled-Barbadian-cabaret-singer alter ego on a float.
But the parade felt like less of a necessity for us as a couple than it did when we were single and more likely to offer our crotches up for semi-public groping (and return the favor). Saying the parade is exclusively or explicitly about sex is unfair. Still, no one is asking those go-go boys their opinions on the Euro crisis. And aside from having a smaller craving for the parade’s rampant hormones, or having that craving and needing to evade temptation for the sake of not being single at next year’s parade, I wonder if a relationship between two members of a certain group makes participation in collective celebrations of that group less important.
The question is especially pertinent for a parade like Pride that has always had a sharper political edge than the wonderfully frivolous Halloween parade or benign ethnic celebrations. Pride was born of ugly police bigotry during the Stonewall riots, and has always worn its activist sleeve, well, proudly. That’s not to say it dispenses with goofy bonhomie, but for decades the gratuitous flesh on display was not mere eye candy, but food for thought, an outcry and a provocation.
The gay rights movement still has a long way to go, and like the overwhelming majority of young people, gay and straight, I’m looking forward to the day when a gay marriage ban seems like an unthinkable antiquity. But I wonder if the legalization of gay marriage in New York has made the NYC parade less a battle cry than a mating call.
My boyfriend and I are settling into the sort of domesticity Pride marchers have sought since the parade’s inception. And a lot of the old guard, a good number of them married now, were fighting the good fight at this year’s event. But in a way the progress that’s been made by the movement has produced a stability that blunts the parade’s relevance. Or at least means gay men, lesbians and ostensibly straight hipsters can dance along the Gowanus together instead of hoisting posters into the air at Pride.
And, hey, even if there weren’t any rainbow flags, there was still a disco ball.