What A World

What A World: Why Pride?

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We’re here, we’re queer, and everybody’s used to it. Almost.

NancyFord at desk
Nancy Ford

By Nancy Ford

There’s an annual tradition I try to adhere to in early June.

Driving east down Westheimer Road, I take note of the quiet, empty sidewalks, and visualize the exuberant throngs that will soon line the route on Pride parade night.

It’s impossible not to notice how much our queer little neighborhood of Montrose has changed in the 26 years I’ve been trolling it. Fast-food franchises stand where family owned retail stores and gay bars used to eke out a living. Strollers are parked in front of the coffee shops. Townhomes now loom over the landscape, towering tributes to urban renewal, scouring the neighborhood of its bohemian legacy.

Likewise, our Pride parade itself has evolved with the landscape. Formerly dominated by drag queens, hairy leather daddies, and butchy dykes, the parade is now comprised of and witnessed by far more straight families, church groups, politicians, and G-rated contingents than its decadent forebear.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But it would seem that activists like those we read about in this magazine should finally be able to sit back and enjoy a well-deserved rest. Lawrence vs. Texas is five years old, for God’s sake. California and Massachusetts queers can now marry, with authorities speculating that it’s only a matter of time ’til the rest of the states follow suit.

So we’re gay. So what? Being gay just doesn’t seem to be the big deal it once was. We’re almost “normal.”

Case in point: Most mornings as I’m dressing for work, my background noise of choice is provided by Good Morning America . Nobody kicks off my day better than Robin Roberts, especially with that taut and hot chemo ‘do she’s been sporting lately. Woof!

But I digress. GMA leads into Live with Regis & Kelly , an admittedly embarrassing guilty pleasure. This particular Live found Regis absent, with the openly gay Neil Patrick Harris sitting in as co-host. Following innocuous patter about recipes for “Grill Friday,” the new Sex and The City movie, and Fleet Week in the Big Apple—all gaygaygay topics, in my experience—Doogie veered the chattiness into talk-show no-man’s-land.

With no activist’s fanfare or melodramatics, NPH announced that his boyfriend of four years, David Burtka, had just lost his mother. Harris somberly went on to say what a wonderful woman his boyfriend’s mom had been and how much she would be missed, sending his love to the rest of the obviously close-knit family.

Guess what happened then, following this unscripted, in your face, not-heterosexual announcement on daytime network TV that beams out to millions of unsuspecting, decent, American households?

Nothing happened.

Well, that’s not exactly true. In response, the program’s bubbly co-host, Kelly Ripa, gently acknowledged the couple’s grief. Offering her condolences, she added that she often saw Neil and David out together at various events, saying what a nice guy David is.

Guess what happened then?

Still nothing. No audible gasps of righteous indignation from the audience. No suddenly blank TV screen, the interruption being blamed on “technical difficulties.” Not even a follow-up e-blast from the tres antigay WorldNetDaily.com about how Ms. Ripa has a secret agenda of her own to clandestinely indoctrinate her viewers with The Gay Agenda.

Ever-increasing spontaneous visibility and acceptance like this has caused me to ponder if our Pride celebrations are still necessary. After all, it’s no longer that unusual to see a same-sex couple walk hand-in-hand in Houston, even in a month other than June, is it? Gay mission accomplished, right? Maybe it’s time to retire our parade attire to an honored place in the archives.

Maybe this year’s Pride celebration, Houston’s 30th, should be its last.

I switched off Kelly and Doogie, drove into my office, switched on my Mac, and read a news story from Gambia. Ripping a page from the playbook of Iranian president Mahmoud Abineedinablowjob who has stated there are no homosexuals in his country, Gambia’s President Yahya (he’s a bad mamm-a) Jammeh said last month he would “cut off the head” of any homo in his country. Citing the fact that Gambia is a country of “believers” (90 percent Muslim, according to www.cia.gov), Jammeh also ordered the closing of any hotel or place housing homosexuals.

To his credit, Jammeh has given his queer citizens a running start, warning them to flee the country before antigay legislation stricter than Iran’s would soon be signed into law.

But let’s be real: with no Gambia Galleria, Internet access, or Starbuck’s, most of the gay men I know would probably consider beheading a favor. And if there are lesbians in Gambia, chances are they would have already built an Aqueduct system to solve the country’s pervasive drought, and still have enough recyclable construction material left over to build a stage for the first Gambia Women’s        Music Festival.

So. Robin Roberts’ hairstyle and Doogie and Gambia and Pride. What have we learned from all this?

I can’t speak for you, but I’ve learned that our Pride celebrations are indeed still important and necessary. Beyond the party and the people and the pretty beads, Pride reminds me as we advance to full equality, to “normalcy,” that we—as a people, as a culture—must never forget what it took to achieve that “normalcy.” Never.

And if I do forget, maybe I should spend a few weeks in Gambia with Robin Roberts and Kelly Ripa.

See you at the parade.

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