Pro­tect­ing Pride

Si­mon Williamson lives with his hus­band in het­eronor­ma­tively-as­sim­ila­tive fash­ion in Athens, af­ter a year of sur­viv­ing ru­ral Ge­or­gia.

GA Voice - - Outspoken -

In Fe­bru­ary I at­tended a wed­ding of two friends and it was packed full of my peo­ple, and it was fan­tas­tic.

We had a mag­nif­i­cent time be­cause it was one of the few oc­ca­sions that we just got to be with peo­ple like us and do things that we like do­ing and be sur­rounded by peo­ple that know how to sing and per­form “I Will Sur­vive” in uni­son. It might sound some­what self­ish, but as gay men we un­der­stand the First Amend­ment doesn’t al­ways ex­tend to us with the ease it does oth­ers, and that for the other let­ters in our ab­bre­vi­a­tion even less so. It is why be­ing able to so­cial­ize in what could be un­char­i­ta­bly termed a “safe space” is so in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant.

The first col­umn I ever wrote pro­fes­sion­ally, as a con­tro­versy-seek­ing 20-some­thing, whined at the idea of Pride. But as a wiser adult I am glad to say I ut­terly re­ject my own words in spite of Pride’s very ev­i­dent and well-doc­u­mented faults, like its usual sheen of white­ness, rain­bow po­lice cars and cor­po­rate friend­ship.

Like the wed­ding, we get a week­end a year to be our­selves across our city, with­out hav­ing to give a fig about who is watch­ing. We are with our­selves and, en masse, we care not how ev­ery­one else feels about us.

Even in a city like At­lanta, be­ing openly gay at work is a big de­ci­sion. Be­ing trans is dan­ger­ous. Choos­ing not to square one­self on the gen­der bi­nary is laden with po­ten­tial push­back. While we might feel com­fort­able most of the time, we’re dom­i­nated in num­bers and cul­ture by straight peo­ple, and no mat­ter how much we like to stay within our com­fort bub­ble (eg. Mid­town), we are al­ways go­ing to have to leave it at some point, or have it pen­e­trated.

Which is why Pride is such an im­por­tant week­end. I don’t re­ally care for the par­ty­ing that goes on dur­ing the whole pe­riod – I am 33 go­ing on a whiny and quiet-seek­ing 65 – but WE are the dom­i­nant folk dur­ing this pe­riod ev­ery year; the city (at least part of it) be­comes ours, and those of us who can’t af­ford to live in Mid­town still get to come and par­take in it.

It isn’t of­ten that we don’t have to worry about the out­side world, and even dur­ing Pride we vastly out­num­ber the ass­holes who can’t re­sist com­ing to tell us we’re go­ing to hell, as if we don’t know that al­ready, hav­ing all, at some point, ex­pe­ri­enced the world those peo­ple want us to con­tinue to in­habit. A shout- out to those sta­tioned up and down Peachtree Street who block them out with the giant flow­ers – sin­gu­larly my fa­vorite part of the whole week’s fes­tiv­i­ties, and a pro­tec­tive and large “fuck you” to those that want to come and de­stroy the one week­end we get each year.

The im­por­tance of Pride can­not be over­stated. We can ad­vance it, and in­clude more peo­ple, and refuse more cor­po­rates, and welcome those who have a jus­ti­fi­able fear of the cops, and never for­get all the peo­ple to whom we are bound, but we should never let it go. It is an in­sti­tu­tion that must be im­proved and main­tained, be­cause when the hell else do we ever get our own thing in our own cities, where we can avoid the gaze of straight peo­ple, and not have to give any sort of a fuck about any­one ex­cept our­selves?

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