Sunday, June 27, 2010

Pride (In The Name Of Love): Why the Gay Pride Parade Still Matters

From "For some gay men and lesbians, the thought of going to the Gay Pride Parade is slightly cringe-inducing (the crowds! the noise! the heat!), vaguely uncool, and spiritually unsatisfying, and so they stay put on their housecoats and catch the highlights online or on the evening news. Gay Pride Parade fatigue is likely more common with older generations who have seen it all, or think they have, but in reality there are gay men and women of all ages that avoid the parade—which to them feels more like an excuse to party, than a political statement.

Cyon Flare (Robert Mitchell) has a unique insight into the minds and hearts of gay men, a skill she’s honed as the popular weekend host for Hydrate, one of the more prominent dance clubs in Boystown. Flare—a Billboard-charting recording artist—gives Chicagoist her take on Gay Pride Parade fatigue, half-naked boys on parade floats, and why gay men need to step away from the computer and start connecting in-person, at the parade. (Readers take note: the “fierce” is strong with this one, Obi-Wan.)

Chicagoist: You’ve heard people criticize the Gay Pride Parade, claiming the presence of outrageous, over-the-top drag queens and scantily clad go-go boys actually puts people off. How do you respond to that?

Cyon Flare: Gays—like a lot of people in this world—are outrageous and over-the-top for what they believe in—so that doesn’t concern me. What hurts us is when we march without a cause, and march without the knowledge of why pride parades exists in the first place. Stonewall was “yesterday” but the struggle goes on. I think we need to spend more time educating people and reminding them why we march—and still be outrageous! We must show our brothers and sisters, along with our [heterosexual] supporters, how to be naked and unashamed. We need our parades for the sake of presence! It’s a powerful tool if used wisely.

C: Is the Gay Pride Parade simply an excuse to party?
CF: It is a time to party openly and publicly, and to celebrate freedom and the right to exist in a world that constantly tells us that we can’t, or shouldn’t, exist or thrive. Gay and straight people do parties and festivals all the time. Why can’t we? Look at the events celebrating the Blackhawks or the Cubs. It is time to party! But, party with a cause, a purpose.

C: What does gay pride mean to you? What are some of your earliest memories of gay pride celebrations and how they impacted you as a person and a performer?

CF: For starters, “Pride” is not just a word, it’s a lifestyle, so come out and live it! For me, [Gay ] Pride started when my lesbian mom would say, after I ran home with bloody noses and black eyes from school or in the ‘hood, “Robby, don’t be afraid to fight back, they can’t take anything from you. Fight back by showing them they can’t stop you. When those that beat you up see you refuse to live in fear—that is strength.”

So, Pride, for me, is about never giving up, even when the odds are against you, and not being afraid to stand up for yourself. It’s funny—being beat up in the ‘hood is nothing compared to what other gay people do to each other. We use hateful words with each other. Some people use the word “bitch” just to say hello, and then use it to insult you. I mean, seriously, the world is watching gay people and how we treat each other! While working in the community, I see fighting and so much abuse, and it’s gays against gays— not straight. Yes, gay bashing and homophobia are still a problem with but we, I feel, are constantly bashing each other, which is far worse.

C: What is your response to those that can’t seem to shake that feeling of parade fatigue?

CF: I think that we’ll always have many age groups that suffer from pride parade fatigue, at some point in their lives. The key is to enjoy what you can [about Gay Pride celebrations], what you feel comfortable with, and to remain visible to the community. We need you 40-somethings; too many are tired, and I understand that, but the power of your presence makes a difference. Rise up, children rise!

C: As online social networking sites like Facebook and Grindr continue to evolve, why do you think participating in gay pride is more important now than ever before?

CF: People are so afraid to get hurt and they are looking for easy ways out or to avoid drama. Ironically, the drama changes form to suit the means. We are so afraid of face-to-face encounters. I know so many people that feel safer playing online games, rather than going out and being man or woman enough to interact with each other in-person.

I feel we need to have another coming out celebration: coming out of the house, getting off the computer, coming out of cyberspace, to enjoy the old fashion way of meeting and connecting. We must learn to celebrate when someone rejects us, because we are not meant to be lovers with everyone we meet or connect with. So, enjoy the moment for what it is, and learn to re-embrace that human side and face one another. Remember, pride is not just a word, it’s a lifestyle—so come out!"