Columbus Pride was this past weekend- one of the largest prides in the Midwest. To start out the weekend I semi-butched it up with the troupe at the Royal Renegades’ annual pride drag show at Wall Street.
[image: four drag king performers looking at the camera, all dressed in white shirts with black coats, looking cool]
The show was a fantastic time, but it reminded me how different Pride – and its spaces, scenes, and people are compared to every other time of year. Maybe folks think of Pride as a way to give a dose of gayness to the rest of the world, to remind them we are here. But out of sight, out of mind. Maybe its just me airing my activist baggage, but I can’t help but get angry during Pride. I look around and see people so excited to be queer, having all this “pride” but try to get a thousand volunteers for something in October, or get people out for an event in February, good-fucking-luck. Its like Queer Pride is seasonal or as needed. What good is a parade to promote community visibility if afterward the majority of the community disappears again, back to their homes to hibernate until next year when its again time to wear rainbows and get drunk in public?
Pride is great because it is like we own the world for a day, all the communities that make up the mass that is greater queer community out and about. But it doesn’t last. The next day and I went in search of brunch (naturally, queers love brunch), but I was afraid to go anywhere. Once again I was thrust back into being aware of my outcast standing. As things are now, pride is the one opportunity I have to be in my own state, my own local community, and not stick out like a nail waiting to get hit. I like pride for that reason, its an opportunity to relax and feel like I’m in a visible community that understands me… but I’m still not. Just like every year, I met several people who didn’t know what I was and when I told them I was a transguy they didn’t know what the hell I was talking about. Its hard to feel included when people still don’t think I even exist. I don’t bother explaining because I think that of all days, I should not have to be an educator at Pride. I just want to have fun too. When I express my impatience, I’m seen as hateful or irrational. I’m supposed to support organizations that are taking their time on trans education. I’m supposed to be proud of a queer community that still doesn’t recognize me. I’m supposed to think its great that our parade is reduced to corporate shills and advertisements instead of education and action.
I find trans-visibility at pride interesting because it is either really easy to be seen, or nearly impossible. I met Chrissie at the parade, and I was surprised and excited to see such empowering, unashamed trans visibility.
Chrissie and Garth, Columbus, Ohio
[image: a couple facing the camera and smiling – a trans woman and her partner wearing shirts reading “meet my girlfriend and boyfriend” and “my girlfriend is my boyfriend”]
“I’ve been a T-girl all my life,” Chrissie told me as soon as we met, excitedly shaking my hand. She said her t-shirt was intended to make her stand out, showing her t-girl pride. “If you pass, people just aren’t going to know… It isn’t easy to find people who understand.” Similarly, a friend of mine walked shirtless, saying his chest surgery scars were his “little way of being seen.” Last year was my first year walking around in my binder, not out of pride but because it was super hot out. But I was determined to not care what people thought I was, and maybe if I got lucky people would know. People didn’t, and as usual I was read as a lesbian. I did the same this year, and like last year, it didn’t gain me any trans visibility with anyone who wasn’t trans and knew what a binder was. Visibility isn’t just an issue for trans folks either. A friend mine who is femme stressed her need to wear stickers “I have to or everyone will think I’m straight. I want them to know I’m queer.” This desire to be seen fascinates me, especially because the majority of the time we are forced to hide in order to protect ourselves. All the more reason to want a moment in the sun, a moment where we can be seen for who we really are and accepted. To want others in our community to know us, to understand us.
I wonder how other activists can be so cheery and excited, walking in the parade so proudly. I’m too angry and frustrated to walk in a parade, unless I was allowed stop and harass each person, demanding to know what they’ve been doing that year to help the cause. I shouldn’t judge people for not all trying to save the world… at least that’s what my conscience tells me. When you’re queer, you’re queer where ever you are; living your life as a queer person in and of itself is a form of action. I don’t dispute that. My frustration lies within actual community building issues; no matter how I try to reason it out, I am continually resentful of people who aren’t making some effort to educate themselves and others, and help the greater cause of an inclusive, accessible queer community.
I don’t know what I’m expecting from the queers, but I know what I want. I want a sense of legitimacy for my community, and I want that same legitimacy for the other facets of the queer community that are not the able-bodied, young, white gay or lesbian majority represented by the HRC and its corporate sponsors. Columbus is sprouting what I would like to see, but as usual there is more to be done. I am strangely optimistic that Columbus Pride will continue to become more representative because I know there are some great people working for it, but when? And what about all the other prides out there?