I received an email from a friend soliciting clothing donations for the CHRIS Rainbow House, and I opened my closet thinking, “I’ll bet I’ve got a couple of things.”
Six hours later, every article of clothing in the house is stacked around the bedroom in piles which only make sense to me. I’m learning so much about my personal taste.
For example, at some point someone with a highly valued opinion must have told me, “Hey, you look really good in that blue Oxford shirt.” Which explains why I now own seven of them.
“Here. All done,” says my husband, presenting me with a stack of maybe 10 items. My husband owns approximately 90 sweater vests, which is one of the two reasons I call him Preppy (the other involves a “Saved by the Bell” fantasy we needn’t address here.) He can do better. I tell him so.
“Baby, there’s bound to be a teenager with a penchant for collegiate-chic who’s got a fashion itch only you can scratch. And try to pull name-brand stuff. These are gay kids. Labels matter.”
As our donation pile grows, I picture a couple of teens around the same age I was when I moved to Atlanta. They’re at the park, wearing the better parts of my former wardrobe. These young folks had the courage to be true to themselves, lost the support of their families as a result, and now they’ve joined our community.
When Ellen came out, they were in kindergarten. DADT is all the more absurd in their eyes because they have no memory of what the policy was prior to the great failed compromise.
I say this not to make anyone feel old (that’s what the inexplicable popularity of Justin Bieber is for), but to clarify that while a lot of us weren’t looking, a new generation arrived, and many will be attending Pride for the first time this year.
Our critiques of Pride often sound like people discussing “Saturday Night Live”: Everybody claims the institution had an era of greatness, nobody agrees on when that was, but we all concur that it’s now significantly less than it once was.
Maybe it was before the move to October. Or the year the Supremes struck down anti-sodomy laws. Might have been the height of the AIDS crisis, when a community under siege joined together in an unprecedented display of unity. It could have been 40 years ago, when merely showing up for the parade was a bold act which could get you fired, evicted, or attacked.
I have a suspicion that people’s individual perception of The Best Pride Ever is directly tied to whenever they declared their own identity.
It’s true that Pride has changed over four decades, but haven’t we as well? The top item on our agenda is no longer visibility. They see us. We’re everywhere. Now it’s a fight for marriage equality, adoption rights, open military service… concepts which weren’t even part of the conversation when I attended my first parade.
Preppy and I got married last year in Massachusetts. Our marriage license is only valid in certain states — it fades in and out of effectiveness depending on location, like bad cellular service. But it’s significantly more legitimacy than the generation before me had when they were 30, and I fervently believe the young queers I’m giving my clothes to will have full equality by the time they’re my age, provided we teach them how to fight.
Pride is more than just a celebration and a chance to load up on rainbow swag. It’s a team meeting — a family reunion, where we welcome the new arrivals and plan the next steps in the journey. Give ‘em your time, your support, your shirts. Do everything you can for them to one day moan, “Pride is nothing like it was in 2010.”
It’s a tall order, to be certain. But I do love a huge project.
Editor’s note: “Domestically Disturbed” debuts this week and will end each issue on a note of humor and reflection, exploring the triumphs and challenges of work, friendship and married life.
Topher Payne is an Atlanta-based playwright, and the author of the book “Necessary Luxuries: Notes on a Semi-Fabulous Life.” Find out more at topherpayne.com.