As the US and other nations gather to celebrate Gay Pride during the anniversary month of the Stonewall Riots in New York in 1969, social media has again proven itself to be a place where everyone can come together, have a laugh and generally take the piss out of people being bogans.
Last week I noticed a hash tag trending on Twitter. The Hash Tag I Need Straight Pride Because made my stomach clench. I set my mind to work. What was this bullshit? I needed a cutting, comedy gold reply in 140 characters or less. Those of you who read this blog on a regular basis know that was going to be a problem for me. But I was determined.
“Do your research first,” came the phantom voice of my old Freelance Journalism teacher. “Get your stats prepared, be ready.”
So I clicked on the link and almost wet myself when I saw the tweets clogging up the hash tag. I need not have bothered trying to reduce my comment to 140 characters or less. So many people all over the world had done it already, and they were doing it better. What was a guy to do then, but sit and retweet some of the best.
Long ago, in the dark ages when dinosaurs ruled the Midnight Shift and Disco Balls were almost crushing me – that’s a story for later – I was a miserable closet case. I remember sitting with friends on my verandah before I came out bad mouthing the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.
“Why on earth do they need to make such fools of themselves,” I said sipping a nice glass of box-o-wine and sucking down carcinogenic chemicals by the score.
As everyone sat around me dumbfounded at my brilliance – later to find out they were all amused at my ignorance – I followed up with “you don’t see doctors and nurses strutting down Oxford St with their dicks and tits out! It’s time the gays got over themselves.”
As you can see I was a dead set idiot.
I was also living my life in absolute terror that the world’s worst kept secret would somehow “come out” and I’d be a “gay” and then, as we all knew, I would die alone and bitter, unloved and made fun of forever.
When I did come out – not long after that ridiculous conversation – it was something of an anti-climax. Everyone I told greeted the news with similar responses along the line of “Yes Mike, we know.”
My father’s response of “I think we need to paint the house,” is still my favourite response to me coming out. Although the friend who greeted the news with “cool, now you can help me pick out a dress for my formal,” was right up there. Bugger knows why she thought I’d be any use. I didn’t then – nor do I now – know anything about fashion.
Once the fear got out of my way, I realised the importance of LGBT Pride. I made it my business to know why it was important. I researched my communities history. I read up about life before my generation.
I read about how being gay was illegal. I read about people whose lives were destroyed, who were arrested and jailed because of who they loved. I read about the Stonewall Riots and how a bunch of drag queens and club patrons finally said “Fuck You” when the police raided their underground club.
My generation was probably one of the first to be able to walk the streets in relative safety. We weren’t forced to marry to hide ourselves. We weren’t forced into underground clubs, dancing with the nearest lesbian while our boyfriends danced with her partner in case there was an undercover police officer at the bar drinking a fruity cocktail with an umbrella in it.
For the most part we had legal protections against discrimination in the workplace and in the rental market.
My mother tells the story of Uncle Billy and Uncle Ronny. They were friends of my Grandfather’s. When I came out, to say my Grandmother didn’t take the news well was an understatement. A conversation with her the week before pre-warned me it was about to get nasty. We’d been watching a documentary about the late Peter Allen and at the end of it she turned to me and said “If any of our family were like that, I’d give them the bullet they deserve.”
Nan wasn’t overly happy when I came out and relations between us became frostier than a snowman’s balls. In an effort to cut the Cold War to the quick, my Aunt and my Mother talked about Uncle Billy and Uncle Ronny. My Grandmother was horrified when Robin (my Aunt) pointed out they were gay. They weren’t according to my Grandmother because Uncle Ronny (I think) brought a female date to my Mother’s wedding. When my Aunt pointed out that Ronny and Billy had lived together for decades in a 1 bedroom flat at Milson’s Point in Sydney with a collection of fine crystal my Grandmother told my Aunt she had a dirty mind.
As I get older I often wonder how life was for Uncle Billy and Uncle Ronny. That they had each other is a beautiful thought, but to have kept it a secret from everyone, even their closest friends is mind blowing to me. While my Aunt and Mother came to know when they got older, my Grandmother was oblivious to it for decades. I assume my Grandfather was too. What must it have been like to be forced by society to hide who you were and who you loved, even from those you loved the most?
So when I think back to my nasty self before I came out, the only justification I can give is I was fucking terrified. I was convinced that if anyone ever found out my life would be destroyed. Forever. I was always a bit of a drama queen, even before I came out.
When I hear people these days say “Gay Pride Parades have had their day, time to grow up and stop putting on glitter covered speedos and dancing down Oxford St.” I half want to kick them in the face, and I half want to sit them down and ask some very pointed questions.
As long as there is discrimination, inequality and countries in the world who criminalise who a person loves there is a need for Gay Pride.
In Australia the community is currently pushing for Marriage Equality. It is something that should have been done years ago. Instead we have an idiotic Prime Minister who won’t even discuss it. We have Federal Ministers calling for a “breather” on the debate because quite frankly it must be fucking exhausting to do absolutely stuff all.
When Straight people can be arrested, jailed, have their lives taken from them, can lose their homes and livelihoods simply for being straight, then you can have Straight Pride. Until then, you can suck it up.
Gay Pride is not about the minimal clothing, the body glitter, the disco pop and the tits out motorcycle riders. It’s about expressing yourself. It is about saying clearly for all the haters out there that no matter what you do, no matter what you try and do, the LGBT community is here, it has always been here and it will always be here.
To close out this post – which I’ve had to write twice cause the first one went all Ranty Old Man Shouting At Clouds While Wearing an Onion on his Belt due to having the flu – I thought we could have a bit of a giggle at some of the tweets I saw on the I Need Straight Pride Because Hashtag.
— ken (@kennagreenwood) June 12, 2015
#INeedStraightPrideBecause I’m a whiny pissbaby who doesn’t understand that not everything is about them
— char | 111 (@COVENPHIL) June 12, 2015
#INeedStraightPrideBecause I need a parade celebrating all of the hardships that straight people endure, like advocating gay discrimination
— Aaron Robinson (@AaronNeverWrong) June 12, 2015