That most fabulous of seasons, where glitter snows from the apartments and beads are as popular in Chicago as in New Orleans at Mardi Gras. Where Speedos are conservative wear and body paint is de rigeur. Where if you haven’t heard “Born This Way” yet, you’re just not paying attention.
My coworker Sue threw a lovely pre-parade brunch with her fiancee Michelle on Sunday, and I got to meet tons of new people, which is pretty much my jam. There were even babies! Babies, mimosas, proud gay people and allies, and breakfast foods…all the things that I love.
We headed down to the parade around one, and found some prime real estate outside of a Thai sandwich restaurant. We lost the straight couple who came down, so it was a whole lot of ladies who like ladies crowded around. And by my not vocally insisting that I was straight, I think everyone assumed I was a lesbian. Which, you know, was totally fine.
We watched the Dykes on Bikes go by, saw the gay marching band and Gay Men’s Chorus, got thrown Doritos (really? Doritos?), and politely waved at tons of politicians and their supporters. We were having a great time. And then something happened that really soured the day for me.
The Bisexual Queer Alliance Chicago marched by, and the ladies I was with started scoffing and rolling their eyes.
Not my coworker or her girlfriend, not anyone I had known before that day, and not anyone who knew I was bi. Just a few of my new friends who had made an assumption about me the way people no doubt often make assumptions about them.
In that moment I really didn’t know what to do. We were in a crowd, I’d just met these people–it didn’t really feel like the forum to stand up and shout, “Oh yeah? Well I’M bisexual and if you have a problem with that then let’s go!” So I didn’t say anything. But then I felt guilty for not saying anything. We went back to Michelle’s place and suddenly I was really not in the mood to be out. I ended up leaving and running into a couple of other friends who know what my deal is.
Here’s the thing. I know that there are tensions between the lesbian and bi community. I mean, there are tensions between the lesbian and gay community a lot of the time. I know that lesbians, along with the majority of society, tend to think of bi people as “experimenting,” or looking for attention, or lying about being gay because they’re scared to admit it. I know that in their personal lives many gay and lesbian people have been frustrated by dating a bi person who then dates someone of the opposite gender or whatever. I know that sometimes people are more questioning than secure in their bi identity, and that bi people “pass” more easily.
But it’s mutha-effing Pride, guys.
You’re cheering for the twinks in body oil. You’re cheering for the drag queens, the trans people and cis allies, the companies that slapped a rainbow on their float, the politicians who realize that, living in a liberal city, they’d better court the gay vote. You’re cheering for parents and siblings and friends of LGBTQA people. You’ll cheer for all of them, but you can’t find it in your heart to cheer for people who go both ways?
Maybe I’m misreading the signs that scream that love is the most important thing, not what the gender or sex is of the person you love. Because it seems to be that that’s EXACTLY what being bisexual is about. And whatever your beef at other times of the year, whatever the complexity of your relationship, if you can’t be supporting of people who encounter the same kinds of attractions as you and face the potential same discrimination and social disdain depending on whom it is with which they find themselves in love during the month of celebrating exactly that, then I don’t know what to say to you.
Except maybe to remind yourself that you’re hurting people during what is supposed to be a safe time and place for exactly and specifically those kinds of people.
It’s not cool.
And I don’t want to hang out with you if that’s how you’re going to be. And if I were straight I wouldn’t want to. And if I were gay I wouldn’t want to. And if I were trans I wouldn’t want to.
What you’re doing is rejecting part of who I am, and this is supposed to be about celebrating all of who I am.
I did not have an easy time figuring out my identity. I am not posing for the brownie points of some oppressed group. I get judged when I come out to people. Just like you. And I love people. Just like you.
All I wanted was a day–not even the whole month–to be happy and public in who I am.
…I’m getting emotional, writing this, and I don’t want to get too heavy-handed, but I haven’t really talked in depth to anyone about it, and I’m realizing just how much it upset me. And, you know, do I think that much worse of these women? No, not really. I understand the reaction, especially because they assumed they were in a group of people all reacting the same way. Sometimes I say less-than-kind or generous things or make stereotypical statements when I think I’m around people who don’t think highly of a group like, say, social conservatives. I don’t feel great about it afterwards, and I’d hope not to be judged for who I am based on what are not my finest moments. I don’t know the personal contexts for these women. I just wish they had felt moved, in the spirit of Pride, to accept everyone–to embrace people who genuinely identify as queer while they were embracing the Doritos company and the twenty people running for Alderman.
Because I was having a really good time being happy with and for everyone. And that’s what I think Pride is supposed to be.