Friday, July 19, 2024

Pride in the name of less love

Pride season is here and the question has shifted from Do we need Pride to something far more serious.

It was at the end of the bittersweet war romance, Firebird (out on VOD on June 3), that the gloom set in. Set a long time ago in a hateful galaxy far, far away, aka “Russia in the 1970s,” the film beautifully captures the simple danger of two men caught, and being caught, in love. Gather round kids, because back in those days, in that region of the world, and serving in the military, simply having sex with another man meant five years doing hard labor and an end to your military career, if you managed to survive the gulag. 

Bummer, yeah, but thank god that’s over with—those crazy, radical countries with their kooky, totalitarian leaders. Huzzah, let’s get wasted, pick up our PrEP, fuck on a beach, marry in Vegas, see ourselves on TV, hook up on Grindr, send out eggplant-and-peach emojis, and read articles in queer publications such as this one. It’s good being gay and even better being out. Don’t forget to wear your Guncle shirts when you head home to Wyoming to attend your niece’s graduation. And that’s not even counting Pride! Bring on the rainbow-colored commercialization and dance because now everyone is watching. 

Thing is—and I hate it when there’s a “thing”—not all is pretty in pink these days, and, here’s the bigger thing: part of the problem is our own apathy.

As the film states in the closing credits, Russia banned the anti-gay Article 121 in 1993, the same year Bill Clinton became the first U.S. Democratic President in 12 years—Religious Right courters George H. Bush and Ronald Regan preceded him. Then, what do you know, 20 years later Vladimir Putin banned “homosexual propaganda” in the Fatherland, which basically means you can be gay as long as you don’t celebrate your identity with, say, a parade. In case you haven’t checked out the news of late, Vlad’s still running the place. In case you haven’t carefully checked the news of late, Putin’s stately ideas are gaining ground among bigots from coast to coast—hey, former guy, how’s your McFascism playing out? And in case you haven’t checked out the mindset of a lot of queers, especially those under forty, many of them don’t give a damn.

Bring on the boys, the bands, the booze, and shut the fuck up about AIDS, activism, and old guys who can’t stop living in the past. Life is a cabaret, old chum, and even the theme of that film is lost on half of the Instagram generation. Besides, Liza’s an old hag and we’re at our best when we demean those who lifted us up when we needed it the most. 

I’m all for a party, but every celebration should have meaning behind it, roots, something that makes us not just pretty, but proud. An unexamined life might work for Kardashian clones and Aaron Schock’s cock, but if we’re going to survive and thrive and keep our rights, we can no longer afford to take a backseat to the world around us.

We’ve gotten soap-opera obsessed, giving more credence to Kathy Griffin’s misguided victim vendetta against Anderson and Andy than to the principles of ethics, democracy, and taking the steps needed to ensure our futures remain intact—journalism 101 teaches us that no reputable news organization would keep Griffin on the payroll after a presidential decapitation photo-op. Snore, right? So much more fun to play favorites and base our gay politics on who we think makes for the most interesting protagonist. If your response is “but Fox doesn’t care about ethical journalism” then you’ve answered any further questions. 

At the gym the other day, a gay man of about 35 couldn’t decide if he wanted to watch CNN or Fox. When I suggested the former, he said, “same thing.” All cable news has taken on an element of performance art, but his comment was a bit like saying Melania and Michelle went about their business with equal aplomb. When I get hit with remarks like “You seem rather biased yourself,” I have to (unfortunately) explain that I’m an opinion writer, not a reporter. There’s supposed to be a difference. 

And, in case you’re still not convinced it’s one big episode of “As The World Turns in the Direction We Dictate,” pretty much every Alec Baldwin film set shooting story revolves around not what happened on that fateful day, but what we think of the actor’s politics. Suprisingly, those who don’t like him are certain he committed murder. 

The possible reversal of Roe v. Wade could be the worst thing to happen to this country since we started putting actors and Reality TV stars in political office, and many experts have suggested the next step will be to end same-sex marriage, part of a bigger plan to reverse LGBTQ+ rights. Have you looked at the majority faces of SCOTUS? It’s “Animal House” meets Aunt Lydia with a little help from a conspiracy-driven, coup-supporting, deplorable wife—Hillary’s D. word is her wisest yet. Meanwhile, in the mental state of Florida, where Disney characters are more three-dimensional than politicians, the now-infamous “Don’t Say Gay” bill is causing national outrage from the queer community and kudos from petty little pedophile supporters who are the first to cast stones—see, we heathens can reference the Bible too. 

“What?” you ask, while practicing preferred pronouns and Peloton-ing in Lululemon athleisure-wear. “We are united against that bigoted bill. Why would you suggest otherwise, you big ol homo who I’ll eviscerate in the comments section?” Because, and this breaks my heart, not only did we take our rights for granted for way too long—as an addendum, never take your rights for granted—we got greedy in the process. We took the world for granted and forgot unicorns don’t come cheap. It’s no coincidence that “trans rights are human rights” is the slogan of the day, because that quee sector is under direct seige. Blink and, tag, you’re it. 

After the 2016 Clinton defeat disaster (Susan Sarandon really, really didn’t like her, and we let foolish pride, and over-confidence, blind us to the reality of what was at stake–everything), we almost did it again with Biden-hate, even after four years of Confederacy-lite, white-supremacy-friendly rule. 

In 2020, a 40-ish lesbian, and a writer I strongly admire, told me early on she’d never vote for Joe, no matter the consequences, because of his inappropriate hugging. When I stated the consequences of staying home, and the, um, “inappropriate” everything from the other guy, she switched the subject to the impending revolution—it’s like arguing with Bible thumpers who change the subject when you ask them to reconcile the parts of the book they ignore. Ironically, my writer friend might get a revolution, albeit a bit off-track than the glorious parade of freedom fighters she imagined. 

Around the same time, a 30-something gay, male friend of mine lectured me on the differences between Trump and Biden (none, basically), and told me all was lost anyway, casue Bernie was our only chance to take back the Oval Office. I’m still waiting for his apology and he’s now waiting to see if his same-sex marraige remains legal. Or AOC gives him new guidance. It’s lazy to take an all-or-nothing approach to world leaders (everything seen in black or white cuts off the need to tackle details), not to mention a whopping dose of white privilege arrogance. Sometimes you do have to settle for second best to get the best deal. 

For those of you who think the blame game is pointless, I would argue that, if we don’t learn from past mistakes we’re bound to repeat them in the midterms. I’m making assumptions, of course. Assumptions that our votes won’t be discounted by 45-appointed thugs. 

Our pride suffered in other areas, too. As we grew more visible to the rest of the world, too many of us forgot our roots, our togetherness, and decided the best next move would be to expand the Bitch Brunch into social media land. We’re Mean Girls much of the time, hating Madonna for aging in a way that doesn’t fit into our personal belief system (now, there’s gay irony, White Party and Botox disciples), while hating Isabella Rossellini for looking old (she was a model, for Christ sakes!), hating men on PrEP for having condom-less sex, hating monogamous men for being prudes, hating Gen X-ers and Baby Boomers, hating Millennials, hating Hollywood for normalizing us and hating the fact that we’re still not considered normal, hating each other and hating ourselves.

Meanwhile, the world’s on fire…literally. 

But don’t panic, folks, because if you do express an unsuitable opinion, or dare to question what’s been P.C.-, #metoo-, and Woke-approved, you’ll be eviscerated beyond recognition—all in the name of advancing “the conversation.” While I’m certainly in favor of cognitive improvement and rewriting past mistakes—and we’ve made more than a few—the focus-grouped-thought mentality of the younger generation, in its present form, is more often than not suppressing inspiration. One queer sector is squashing the “uninformed” with almost-daily rewrites of what’s acceptable grammar and social behavior (and who gets final say on our new vocabulary, anyway?), and the other is terrified to speak out. You can’t have a productive dialogue, and you certainly can’t make a great film, book, play, or any work of art, without taking risks, but you can alienate half of your neighborhood while the hateful grifters take over the megaphone. The only true offense in self-expression is mediocrity, and empty, endless apologies only build us a pity party. Differences strengthen us, while infighting is rocket fuel for the Right. 

During the Gay Holy Month, sometimes tough love is the thing we need most. 

Yes, I have pride in this life, this year, this week, as I write these words, and, yes, I’m awestruck over the accomplishments and perseverance of my queer brethren. But I can’t pretend to love the roses when I’m handed only thorns. We’ve got work to do, and we have to start paying attention from the start, not just after the missiles have been launched. Laugh and cry all you want over the climate-change metaphor of “Don’t Look Up,” as long as you recognize it’s about anyone who ignores the warning signs. 

Nothing comes from nothing, and all the rights, pleasures, and achievements we’ve earned in the past few decades are as tremendous as they are fragile. The older I get, the more I witness our gay history being erased, as if we just landed on Planet Earth with marriage, kids, and the simple ease of kissing our sweetheart in public on a moonlit, forever night. If we forget the journey that got us this far, and the need to maintain it at all costs, the parade that just passed us by will be the least of our worries. 

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David Toussaint

David Toussaint is the writer of five screenplays (with six film festival awards between them) and four best-selling non-fiction books. A professional journalist since the age of 15, he’s written for such publications as Huffington Post, Queerty, and Conde Nast Traveler. Toussaint is also a professional playwright and actor.

David Toussaint has 24 posts and counting. See all posts by David Toussaint

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