Gay Generations

Pride is traditionally the day queer folks take a break from designing and catering other people’s parties to have a party of our own. I’m still debating whether I’ll go to the Gay Pride Pride Parade this year. I usually go, but I’m a little hesitant this year. I think it’s because I’m reaching gay middle age, which can begin as early as 25.

I’ll explain: Coming out, no matter what age you are, is like being 12 or 13. Only you can also drink and drive. You have a real adolescence for the first time. You feel funny. You have crushes on everyone for no reason. You yearn for what’s unavailable and therefore nice and safe. Lesbian desire didn’t have rock stars when I came out, we had other women and gave them that kind of private obsession.

You do crazy things. One early morning I surprised (and freaked out) a senior on my hockey team by greeting her at her door with a breakfast tray. I figured that was what you did for people who were nice. And there’s none of that bemused adult understanding around you, because everyone thinks you’re really 19 (in my case) or 28, or 53. They just see your biological age, and so do you. It makes everything that much more confusing.

Then, you discover that you’re attractive. You have your first kiss all over again. You change your hair. You might change your name. You make new friends. You stay up all night talking on the phone to your friends. You want to tell everyone who you really are. You go to the Pride Parade. You feel anonymous for the first time in your life. You feel just like others for the first time in your life. You belong somewhere.

Since you’re not biologically 12, you don’t have a familiy to reflect your new differentiated self back to you: you just have each other. So the only people to react to are the general culture and other ‘older’ queer folks. Gay generations are really short. So you don’t stay comfortable for too long, because there are suddenly new haircuts and politics.

In rapid succession, I’ve seen leg hair and purple turn to androgynous shaved heads and Doc Martins and then trucker hats and Bettie Page haircuts. My own tendencies to resist conformity meant I missed both the mullet and the fauxhawk.

Every time I’ve just about adjusted to a new style or political priority or identity, something changes. Some self-acceptance just seems to have this nagging tendency to lead to more. There’s now a huge transgender rights movement here in San Francisco. Just when I thought I was starting to get it together, something comes along to challenge my assumptions and comfort. Assume there are two sexes? Two genders? Wake up grandma. This is how I become middle-aged at 28.

Just like the “straight world,” there are always folks who stay frozen in the politics and aesthetics of their gay youth. But there’s an overriding principle that everyone belongs because we all have one thing in common: we know what exclusion feels like. So in the world of queerdom, there is a contingent for everything.

Stand proud Gay Parcheesi Players with Hay Fever! You are not alone. Soon, you too will have a float in the parade. And a special flag. This is how we got the new acronym GLBTIQQ. We used to be the gay community. Now, we are the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transexual, intersex, queer and questioning community. If we really want to be genuinely inclusive, we should add FSP for friendly straight people. And then add some vowels, because they’re feeling oppressed and excluded from the acronym. Then add T for Tired, because you’re exhausted by the time you get to the end of it. GBLTIQQUOEFSPAT. This is how the Parade got so long.

No one will be left out! Except the numbers. Maybe the genderqueer folks can be the numbers. Or maybe we can just use ?. The Parade is now as long as ?. They should have a halftime break. They can have straight men come out and play football for us.

I love the Dyke March which takes place on the Saturday night before the Pride Parade. Everyone is cruising around, checking each other out, and catching up and being polite to ex-girlfriends. Everyone is one degree of separation from each other. Last year at the Dyke March, I wore an apron and handed out chocolate chips with a spoon. Giving away cookies in the show I do has made me realize how much fun it is to give things to people, even ex-girlfriends. There’s always a little reviewing section of elderly women. This is when it feels like a family reunion for unrelated people. These are the pioneers who came out when there was no Parade. Younger women always run over and shower them with hugs and kisses.

There are so many women at the March. All anyone can say is, “Where is everyone the rest of the year?” I don’t know. It’s a mystery much in the same way that we all grew up separately, but ended up with the same funky eyeglasses and chunky footwear.

If I am reaching gay middle age, then maybe it’s time to accept that. I’ll go support the kids, maybe shlep myself to the Parade around noon to see the entertainment. Though every year I end up being disappointed by the main stage. I always walk away thinking, “I swear we have a million queers here, and we can’t find one to make the show run?” I must be getting older.

The best part isn’t the show. It’s the crowd. It’s all the supportive straight folks. It’s knowing that no matter how politically useful queer fear is to this President, that the people in ‘the right of the people peaceably to assemble” includes us too.

People are coming out younger and younger. Soon, we’ll see queer kids who accept their earliest feelings and get to be twelve when they’re actually twelve. There are tons of children at Pride now, led by the lesbian stroller-brigade. Most of them will be heterosexual. But they’ll know it, not just assume it. Straight Families of Queer Folk: Or just people. It’s the beginning of bringing all of us together. One day Pride will just be a big party for everyone.