Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Parades: We've Got Something to Be Proud About

By WordyGrrl
LNews Columnist

Last weekend, I went to the first non-Pride parade I've witnessed in years. The stark contrast between that small-town mobile display of Fourth Festivity and the Seattle Pride Parade confirmed for me the difference between "them" and "us."

Our parades are a helluva lot more fun.

They're also a helluva lot more colorful. For example, "their" colors were limited to red, white and blue. Our flag has at least six colors -- red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple -- something for everybody! Add in the leather fans and the SM contingent and that's three or four more flag colors right there.

And speaking of leather, we've got lots more of that in our parades. Even if you're not into the "leather lifestyle" 24-7, you have to admit it adds a certain mystique to the wearer. You've seen those active senior gals, strolling along the sidewalk in their exercise uniforms of denim skirts and sensible white walking sneakers. Put a black leather collar on one of 'em and you've got a whole new set of concepts about Granny, don't ya?

Pride parades are fashion-conscious. Straight parades are not. For every sequin they wear, we flash yards of glittering material -- usually topped with a charming and brightly-colored feather boa. And behold the tats and piercings! And lots more skin, too. Not all of it tanned, toned and buff, but displayed proudly and casually just the same.

Political statements abound at our parades, with flyers, treatises and tracts being passed through the crowd by teams of the cute, bright, concerned and socially-aware. I came home covered with stickers to remind me that PFLAG loves me, Washington Mutual celebrates diversity and that the ACLU believes freedom is for everyone. Smiling, energetic candidates for office worked the crowds, shaking every queer hand they could reach while their faithful minions passed around bits of paper outlining their statements and stances on the issues of the day.

At the straight parade, the candidates rode in convertibles, clearly marked with the name of the dealership providing the ride, and blithely waved to onlookers on the sidelines. The closest thing to a political statement (aside from the tiny copies of Old Glory waving around) at the straight parade were the numerous T-shirts plastered with the requisitive levels of WalMart Patriotism: "These Colors Don't Run", "USA" or splashes of red, white and blue with a few token stars on them. The irony that most of their togs were 2 for $10 purchased at Old Navy and made in non-democratic China seemed to have escaped them.

"Bling" is also a concept apparently unknown at straight parades. Unlike Seattle Pride, there were no glittering beads or candy flung by the handful to a grateful throng. No balloons or safe sex packets, no cartoon booklets about Mr Healthy Penis, no fortune cookies (Thanks, Toys in Babeland!), beach balls or other cheap and colorful swag. Instead, two or three floats featured a single generous rider who carefully pressed one piece of saltwater taffy into the hand of any child bold enough to approach the float. Woo hoo.

For every one of their debutantes, we had 20 divas resplendent in sequins, feathers and high-altitude shoes. We had dozens of Dykes on Bikes to each of their placid PT Cruisers for Jesus. Our dancers and drummers were louder, more numerous and more energetic. Our EMT hotties performed exaggerated comedy CPR on the "helpless" women who dashed from the sidelines to fling themselves on the street in front of the firetruck. Theirs just stayed on the truck, smiled and waved.

To sum it up: Our parades and the people who attend them are a lot more fun. There's more color, life, excitement, noise, glamor, music, dancing, diversity... just more of everything that apparently the straight people don't bother to include anymore. Maybe shouts of "Go USA!" and Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA" blaring from tinny boombox speakers is enough for those blase about having had 229 years of independence.

But for the rest of us, still struggling for freedom in the same society, celebrating the little bits we've earned is a real cause for celebration. Maybe someday things will even out and we'll have all the same rights, responsibilities and protections "they" do. Until then -- and as often as we can during Pride Month/Week/Day -- let's keep those parades loud, wild, joyful and a helluva lot more fun than theirs!

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Mourning the Revocation of our Marriage

By Flying99Fingers

I was driving home yesterday and heard on the news that the Oregon State Supreme Court had ruled our marriage license, and thus our marriage, unconstitutional.

My partner and I decided last year, almost on a whim, to drive from Seattle to Portland to stand in line for a marriage license and tie the knot. We had different reasons for going - she, to be part of history. Me, to make a political statement. We agreed that it had little to do with committment -- we had just celebrated 16 years of togetherness the month before and were firmly committed to a full life with each other.

Much to our surprise, our whimsical action turned into a deeply meaningful and empowering celebration of our love and our lives. Friends and family drove down; coworkers arranged for a minister and rings; and voila -- a day later we had a beautiful ceremony in the Rose Garden. It meant something to us -- exchanging vows, signing the marriage certificate, sharing the celebration with friends, being congratulated by strangers in the city.

It was overwhelming -- and filled an empty place in our hearts that neither of us knew we had. We had been affirmed by society. Sure, not everyone affirmed us. But the spirit and joy and welcoming atmosphere in our hotel, our restaurant, the park and even the flower shop filled us with something we never knew we were lacking: acceptance.

We always knew the license could be revoked. Law suits were filed. Religious figures postured and pontificated about the ruination of marriage. We ignored it all. We had the paper. It's on our bedroom wall. It didn't matter. We told ourselves it didn't matter if the courts overturned it. We thought no one could diminish the surprising joy we felt.

We were wrong.

My partner, my spouse, my wife, is four states away visiting her parents. She took with her a beautiful photo of our wedding, which was to take its place next to her siblings' wedding pictures in her folks' photo gallery. She delivered it to them yesterday. Probably at almost the exact same time that the ruling from the courts was delivered.

Null and void. Is our committment changed? Absolutely not. Is our love any different than it was before last year's wedding, or after the wedding? No way.

So why do we both feel so bereft? We talked on the phone tonight about it. Both of us carried a small lump of sorrow around with us today -- she, as she spent time with accepting, but not understanding parents. Me, as I spent the workday with my wonderful co-workers who were so supportive of our wedding.

We compared notes and realized that we didn't talk with anyone about the ruling. It's a quiet, almost private kind of sorrow. Nothing is really lost, right? We still love each other. We're still committed.

But, in the eyes of Oregon's courts, we don't count. We don't matter. We aren't equal. We've been disenfranchised -- again. Maybe that's it. The ruling probably wouldn't have mattered to either of us if we hadn't had that unexpected rush of joy, the giddiness of affirmation, the gurgle of love and acceptance from strangers.

I would do it again, if I could. Actually, I guess now we can. We can go to the next county or city or state that is brave enough and just enough to realize that lifelong committment should be given equal protection under the law.

Perhaps the best we can hope for is that by the time we celebrate our 20th anniversary, we can have been married and unmarried all over the country. Sooner or later it has to stick, doesn't it?