Over the rainbow

Some thoughts on gay pride

Just the tip of the gay iceberg.
Illustration: Jan Feindt

I’m over the rainbow. There, I said it. And I’m tired of hearing gay-gay-gay in the news and on TV and in the movies. But just because I’m weary of it—I’ve been out for 30 years—doesn’t mean I think we should get rid of the colorful symbol for LGBT pride, diversity rights and inclusion. Many need that symbol— especially in a centerless area like Las Vegas—and need to hear about gay stuff and buy gay-signifying souvenirs.

This city’s 13th annual Gay Pride celebration is April 30 and May 1, and while I’m on the fence about attending yet another one—I’ve cheered them on in New York and Washington, D.C., and led the San Francisco Chronicle’s parade contingent—the event always gets me thinking, about parades and protests and parties and people. And rainbows.

Why gay pride? It doesn’t mean boastfulness or arrogance. It’s more like confidence, the opposite of shame—which has been used by others (and ourselves) to keep us down.

Why do we mark our movement for equality with parades and parties? A Pride parade is like an annual reunion, a way to see each other in one place, in a happy atmosphere—not at a demonstration for our rights, for instance. And to remind those still afraid, to welcome those who have accepted themselves, with all that comes with that, to see each other in all our strangeness and familiarity. And partly, just partly, for your entertainment—we’re aware—and maybe to help you see and accept.

It wasn’t always easy to find each other. Gay people used to secretly signal each other by wearing a green shirt on Thursdays, for instance. Gaydar, by the way, is a real, if not always reliable, thing, though it has been replaced by GPS for the early-adopters.

LGBT Resources

Gay & Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada
953 E. Sahara Ave. #B-31,, 733-9800
Las Vegas Pride, (866) 930-3336
Parents, Families, Friends of Lesbians & Gays, 738-7838
QVegas magazine
Spectrum UNLV (students)
Lambda Online LGBT “Chamber of Commerce” for Southern Nevada

“People are more apt to respect gay rights when they realize that they know many gay people,” wrote Randy Cohen in his The Ethicist column in last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine. “They are more apt to support marriage equality when they realize that their teacher, their dentist, their grocer is denied a significant legal status granted to others.”

That’s the hope, anyway.

Besides, who doesn’t like a parade and a party? Being gay has gotten so serious lately, whether you’re gay or not. We had gotten used to being the funny but wise (and resigned to lovelessness) friend, always ready with the laugh line.

You wonder why some of us seem so angry now? First of all, it’s because you can finally see and hear us on the streets and in the media. And because we are finally able to stick up for ourselves. We’re not trying to win, and we’re not trying to take anything away from you. And we’re not after your ass—don’t flatter yourself!

If you’ve seen gay parades on TV or in the paper, it’s easy to come away with the impression that we all wear leather chaps and Speedos and dress like showgirls. Keep in mind that cameras always find their way to the most extreme and entertaining specimens at any event—including tea parties. Remember also that parades and parties only attract the people willing, able interested in going to a parade. What you see, in person or in the coverage, is just the tip of the gay iceberg. There are millions of us, and we span the races, religions and continents—the only gays you see are the pretty young ones who like to go out. But we range from children to elders.

The Archie comic book series now has a gay character. Ugly Betty’s adorable nephew kissed a boy and he liked it. The guy couple on Modern Family adopted a Chinese girl, and their extended family is fine with it.

But in the real world, a whole town recently flipped out over a girl who wanted to wear a tux and take her girlfriend to the prom. Tea baggers were calling Lindsey Graham gay (somehow that’s still the worst thing you can call someone). Politicians and religions have increasingly been using gay people as a wedge issue and scare tactic.

Get used to it. Get over it. We’re here, and we always have been, although it used to be harder for us to recognize each other—and easier to for others to deny our existence, to keep us silent and hidden.

I accidentally typed “gay prude parade” when I started writing this piece. They exist, but that would be another story entirely.


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