The marketing of LGBTQ Pride has become so strong that soon we won’t make it through Easter or Mother’s Day before stores erect rainbow-themed displays. While there’s a tinge of progress in Target having kiosks of queer water bottles, beach towels, and men’s rompers, or every shoe company from Adidas to Toms releasing a sneaker that looks like Roy G. Biv vomited on it, the line between support and sucking-up continues to fade.
The pandering commercialism of Pride isn’t as nauseating as the opportunistic epiphanies about the value of LGBTQ Americans that politicians experience every June. President Trump tweeting his support for Pride month was as psychotically detached from reality as his every utterance, considering he’s ejected transgender soldiers from the military and allowed medical providers to cite religious beliefs as an excuse to refuse care to LGBTQ patients.
The LGBTQ establishment sneered at Trump’s idiocy, but Joe Biden received hoots and cheers at the Human Rights Campaign dinner in Ohio when he vowed to make LGBTQ rights his top legislative priority if elected president and deemed our movement “the civil rights issue of our time.” Instead of reminding Biden that ours was a noble effort for much of the 36 years he spent in the legislative branch while voting for the Defense of Marriage Act and an even crueler version of what moderated into Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the bow-tied rubes rejoiced as if Biden were Baby Jesus, born yet again.
Pride long ago evolved into a sort of queer Christmas, and every year there are new reasons to fall out of the holiday spirit. The more mainstream, non-orientational our celebration becomes, the more our story is diluted and distorted, such as when Bill Maher left his HBO audience with the impression the Stonewall Riots were triggered by Judy Garland’s death.
If Pride is our holiest season, then Judy Garland is Santa Claus: a retroactively created myth who has become a defining character for why we celebrate. Despite no real-time evidence or testimony to support it, the fairy tale of Stonewall Inn patrons being in a fighting mood because they were verklempt over Dorothy’s death is told by many LGBTQ elders on the night before Pride.
Some older LGBTQ folks resent historical research bursting the Garland bubble, which brings us to another bah-humbug for the fiftieth anniversary of Stonewall: it’s hard to meet a gay man over forty who wasn’t at the riots, risking everything for the ignorant and ungrateful generations that followed.
“It’s like how every black person over sixty was at the March on Washington,” my friend observed.
We have many queer ancestors — flaming homosexuals and transgender pioneers, young hustlers and stone butch lesbians — who had no choice but to challenge the world, and others who volunteered to be on the front line in the war for LGBTQ liberation. We have many more who believe attending a ’70s pool party qualifies them as a freedom fighter, but who laid low and accepted the status quo while they waited for children to make the world safer for them.
Ever since the opening flames were lit at the Stonewall Inn, our movement has been strengthened and advanced by younger generations. While it is important to revere those young people as they age, it’s also possible our fiercest leader is attending her, his or their first Pride later this month.