Simon Williamson, columnist with Georgia Voice

Simon Williamson: Protecting Pride

In February I attended a wedding of two friends and it was packed full of my people, and it was fantastic. While we were there to celebrate the marriage of this long-term couple, we took the opportunity to kick our knees up even though it was in the tail-end of winter, on a Midtown balcony, outside, 40-something floors up.

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 shoutout 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?