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Pride and self-hatred.

If you have a difficult time enjoying gay pride season, try writing a compelling column about it. Go ahead. I dare you. Remember, I said compelling. That means you can t condescend to your reader about how the real meaning of pride is an adorable and eccentric boyfriend, a cabin in the Poconos, and an adopted child (and a six-figure salary to support all three). You can't delude yourself into thinking that anyone wants to read about how you and your girlfriend were laughed at for wearing Daisy Dukes and cut off in the drink line because you had breasts instead of rock-hard pecs.

If drag queens and half-naked boys make you uncomfortable, join the club. It's a big one--and no, it's not called the Christian Coalition. It's nameless and includes just about anyone who isn't a drag queen or a boy with a good reason to shed his shirt in public.

When June hits I won't be gearing up for the pride parades themselves. Instead, I will be preparing myself for all the nasty things that will be written about them in the gay press. Why? Because in my reasonably short career as an out gay man, pride celebrations have not been defined by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence so much as the bitching and moaning that follows in their wake. More often that not, arguments for and against pride events form a kind of sweaty lockstep that heads off any meaningful cultural debate:

"How can a single celebration represent the diversity of gay and lesbian experience?" "How could any nitwit expect it to?" "If you don't like it, don't go." "I don't go, but you morons always end up on the front page of The New York Times!"

These arguments usually butt heads until someone gets a bloody nose and runs screaming for the protection offered by that great cancer of gay political and social discourse--the self-hatred defense. It's leveled against any gay man or woman who dares to turn a critical eye on some aspect of the community that's either unsightly or killing people. It implies that the detractors secretly engage in the very behavior they are criticizing or are smoldering with resentment because they don't have the guts to join in. Either way, it's a cheap shot designed to strip opponents of their self-respect--and maybe even their sexuality--and nowhere is it used to more immediate and dire effect than in discussing pride ideals, discussions that never make it out of the gate as a result.

But still, the bitching goes on. Year after year gay men and women return to the same argument like moths to a flame. Rarely have I heard critics of pride observances suggest a single change or improvement. Indeed, most of them just want the phenomenon to vanish; time hasn't done it in, so they have taken it upon themselves to eradicate it. Meanwhile, pride supporters seem to view any attack on their communal celebration as an assault on their very being, and they go for the throat as a result. Somewhere along the way bouncing drag queens and crepe paper-strewn truck beds become either a march to Valhalla or a one-way trip on the river Styx.

It is the persistence with which so many of us continue to engage in tiffs barn-handed back-and-forth that strikes me as the most significant aspect of the gay pride season. Why do so many of us return? Is it because we're genuinely invested in the impossible goal of stitching together a pride celebration that fairly represents every single member of our 10% demographic across the board? I don't think so.

For some of us, it's not the parade we want to change--it's the debate that follows it. We're looking for the magic turn of phrase that will push the discussion past the realm of histrionic personal attacks, past the false and suffocating dualities that come about when the self-hatred defense is used against those who hold unpopular viewpoints, and into the realm of an objective and reasonable debate, a debate that could enhance our community's powers of serf-analysis by including twice as many participants. In other words, a celebration that would include everyone.
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Title Annotation:coastal disturbances
Author:Rice, Christopher
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Column
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 22, 2004
Words:698
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