Monday, June 25, 2018

A Long Way To Go

On Friday, I shared an old post about the Fremont Summer Solstice Parade, a self-consciously outside the mainstream community art event, one that I've participated in for the past 15 years. I've never been in Seattle's Pride Parade, but I've been attending it for even longer. Back in the day, Pride was, like our solstice event, a thumb in the eye of convention, and to some extent it still is, but as I watched the floats and ensembles pass me by, I couldn't help but reflect upon the fact that so much of what once made this event outrageous has now become, at least in Seattle, mainstream, for better or worse.

Sure, the parade is still lead by Dykes on Bikes, revving their engines, making noise, showing off, and generally having a grand time. I was moved to tears as they circled in the street in front of us, honking their horns, waving, beaming with pride, being celebrated by the city of Seattle. This has not always been the case for Dykes on Bikes. They were followed by an ensemble of Native Americans, then veterans, then the scouts. You can't get much more all-American than that. Every single local elected official was there as well, glad handing as politicians do. Every city department was represented from the police to parks and recreation. Civic groups, churches, and non-profits came out to fly the rainbow flag. And the corporations, they were all out there: I can't think of a local major employer that was missing. It was almost tedious to see them parade past, one blending into the next, in their matching rainbow t-shirts.

As I watched, I reflected upon how mainstream Pride has become in my city. I'm not normally one to celebrate convention, but over the course of the past decade, Pride has come in from the cold. I'm not saying that discrimination no longer exists, because it does. I'm not saying that there are no bigots here, because there are. And I'm not saying that prejudice is a thing of the past, because it isn't, but there has undeniably been a major cultural shift. Everyone, it seems, wants their share of Pride, to show their support, to be a part of it. Indeed, many of my gay friends complain that Seattle Pride has gone too mainstream, that it creates a false sense of social progress, that it provides politicians and corporations and soft-bigots an excuse to pat themselves on the back, while not always acting in the best interests of the gay community on days other than this one. And I share their critique: I have no doubt that there were a lot of people out on the streets yesterday just for the party and not the cause, and perhaps even more who are lulled by a mainstream celebration like this into a state of complacency.

If I've learned anything over these past few weeks, it's that we can never stop fighting, even when, especially when, it looks like we have already won. I can't believe, for instance, that I'm having to, in this day and age, fight for a dark-skinned child's right to not be taken from her parents and put in a cage on a concrete floor. I guess I made a mistake when I assumed that that kind of heartlessness, at least in America, was in the past. I'd gotten complacent, thinking that my fellow Americans were at least on the bandwagon of how to treat children.

Still, things have changed: the battle ground on gay rights has clearly shifted into the mainstream, at least here in Seattle. Our Dykes on Bikes didn't scare anyone as they once did, but rather seemed right at home with the veterans and corporations and local politicians. For a day, at least, the city of Seattle wrapped itself proudly in the rainbow flag, an indicator of progress, but the very fact that we still need Pride at all is evidence we still have a long way to go.

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