Monday, June 30, 2008

From the Editor: The Pride 2008 Report

By the LNewsEditor

Every year, Pride festivals and parades get me to thinking about gay-ish things from a societal perspective. Stuff like "Do we still need Pride events?" or "In order to get acceptance (and legal equality) should we blend in or stand out?" But mostly, it's the little things that really matter, and fresh from the Pride festies in Seattle, these are my observations on...

Maximizing Your Pride Swag and Subsequent Fest:

Preparation is Everything:
Folding camping chair that collapses into its own handy nylon tote bag, a backpack for the freebies you'll get, beverages and sustance. Pride festival food ain't cheap, so either eat lunch first or bring a sandwich. If you have a toddler, bring lots of handheld snackie things that'll keep them busy while they're oblivious to the parade. Goldfish crackers and string cheese are a sure bet.

Location, Location, Location: Gawd, I'll slap the next person who mentions real estate and this phrase in the same breath. But if you want to come home with a backpack full of free rubbers, queer biz phone books and beads you didn't necessarily have to flash your produce stand ("Fresh, ripe melons!") to get, you and your posse need to show up at least two hours early with folding chairs ready. Stake out turf near the middle of the parade route. Set up camp near the end, and most of the really cool freebies will already be gone. Plus, the drag queens may be wilted by the end of the parade, and there's no sadder spectacle than that. Also, put approximately 6-8 inches between each chair for later "skootching down, making room" for that friend of yours who pops out of the swarm and wants to join your parade party.

Dress Queer: Bust out that inappropriate, lesbocentric sloganed T-shirt you can't wear to work ("10,000 Battered Women a Year And All This Time I've Been Eating Mine Plain"), the rainbow beads, the practical dykey sandals and the baggy shorts. Last year, I worn a plain T-shirt, sneakers and the kind of khaki walking shorts favored by pudgy Midwestern moms. Grrl, I got no play at all in that drag. This year, I fagged it up with a rainbow kitty-emblazoned T-shirt tucked into faded, knee-length camo baggies with cargo pockets and a rainbow bead choker. Scored at least twice as many freebies from swag throwers who knew at a glance that I was, indeed "family" and not some damn tourist.

Be Friendly and Approachable: Make eye contact and smile purdy, Sugar! Shout "Hey, over here!" using your nice voice and wave your arms around just a bit, like you're having fun. Be coy, as if you won't die if they don't throw you anything cool, but it sure would make your day if they did. Being all serious, staring and giving off that blatantly "gimme gimme" vibe will get you nothing at all. Actually, that approach could probably work well for seeking singles in the bar next weekend...

Talk Nice to Everybody: Bizarre political pamphlets are some of the most amusing swag you can score, so don't rule them -- or the bearers of such propaganda -- out. Cute, quirky chicks with interesting hair/tattoos tend to pass out these invites to lectures by obscure organizations and all it take to meet them is saying "Hey, what have you got there?" while gesturing to their battered messenger bags. All it takes to send them away is, "Thanks for the info. I'll check it out!" Followed by that purdy smile again, of course, with the appropriate level of eye twinkle. Again, another helpful approach for picking up chicks later if you're single. Or for getting your ass kicked by your partner if you're not.

Establish a Post-Parade Rally Point:
If there's a festival after the parade, stake out your gang's turf immediately with blankets, beach towels and/or chairs. Take turns holding the ground while the other team checks out the booths and chick singers. In the event of a really good concert, two scouts should go -- one to hold the prime real estate while the other returns to rally and relocate the team.

Enjoy The View: Even if that hot, little 20-something only needs an X of electrical tape to cover up her perky boobs, give her a smile even though she's too young for you. No, not the pervy leer. The "Happy Pride to you!" smile. Same goes for appreciating the rich, full-bodied laughter of a group of fat, sassy old women who are a of couple decades too old for you to date. Or that group of young, muscular twinks, bouncing around in wet underpants and feathered angel wings they built at their kitchen table.

Live in the Moment: For 364 days of the year, most of us blend quietly and neatly into society, just doing our jobs and living our sometimes boring lives. We pay rent, taxes, car payments and student loans. We worry about money issues, fret over relationships. We vote and volunteer.

But Pride Day is different. It's every queer person's day to be young, strong, joyful and beautiful. To stand out and be counted, quietly or not, because there are more of us than you think!

This is OUR day and we need to seize it -- along with all those cool beads and trinkets.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Amazon Trail: My Big Butch Gay Aunt

By Lee Lynch

Last fall, I brought my sweetheart to meet my family. In the course of an evening spent looking through old pictures and documents, my brother said something about a great Aunt Jo.

I knew the family on both sides had been riddled with women named Josephine. I knew nothing at all about this one. My brother added, "She never married. She had a friend from work named Vera who used to stay over."

During the 1930s and 1940s my father was mostly at sea. My brother, who is fifteen years older than me, grew up with my mother's family in a big old Boston three-decker, surrounded by aunts. By the time I came along my parents had moved to New York so I never knew the great aunts and uncles.

I asked if he remembered anything else about Great Aunt Jo. It turned out that she and Vera worked in a laundry. My brother said Great Aunt Jo was big and strong and operated the wringer. Wringers were large wooden rolls, operated with manual cranks. Smaller versions were used in homes, often built into or set on top of washing machines. They were used to wring laundry dry by compressing clothing or linens and squeezing moisture out. It took enormous stamina and well developed muscles to operate one of those things eight to twelve hours a day, five or six days a week.

I gleefully concluded that Jo Murphy was my big butch gay aunt. Finally, I had identified another gay gene in the family.

There were other possibilities. When my mother told me that a younger third cousin had divorced his wife, become a vegetarian and moved in with another boy, I said to myself, "YES!" But we are of the same generation. I wanted queer ancestors.

There was another, longer-lived, great aunt, who kept house for her two single brothers. I have wondered what the brothers got up to when they went out with the boy-os. None of that was conclusive though. Where had I come from? Did the lavender stork bring me?

I can imagine what a difference it would have made to have grown up knowing, or at east knowing about, Aunt Jo... My mother, Aunt Jo's niece, probably had no inkling. Lesbianism just wasn't in her frame of reference. As a Catholic, it's possible my great aunt never came out at all and her relationship with Vera might never have crossed into sin. Since I wasn't out to them, no one in my family would ever have thought to tell me about her even if Aunt Jo had marched in the gay contingent of the Patriot's Day parade. Even today, how many families announce to their offspring that there's a queer in the gene pool?

Aunt Jo herself might not have been very helpful. Say Vera stayed over now and then. Say they felt romantic about each other. Say they were both willing to physically express how they felt timidly, passionately, with great shame or with the glow of multiple orgasms making them fearlessly affectionate in front of their bemused – or amused -- families.

It still would have been verboten to come out to a kid, no matter how clear that I was headed for no-man's land.

So I went though the severe depressions, the suicidal thoughts, the misery of being bullied and the isolation of secrecy just like my great Aunt Jo may have. Instead of offering intergenerational support, my family suffered from a common disease. I don't even want to call it homophobia. Most people are so uneducated about homosexuality they never think of it as an option for their kids, even though they may have lived and interacted with lesbian or gay male people all their lives.

Like any kind of abuse – and I consider the withholding of information about sex education and life style options to be abusive – the cycle must be broken. Thanks to the courage of 1960s liberationists and would-be revolutionaries, thanks to the societal tectonics that altered the gay landscape way back during World War II, I was able, a number of years ago, to get past my fears enough to come out to my brother. As a consequence, his kids, neither of whom seems to have been fortunate enough to inherit a gay gene, know and embrace their gay aunt.

I hope Great Aunt Jo and her Vera had some happiness together. I love the idea that they may somehow be blessing us when my sweetheart and I have our wedding. Maybe, some day, I'll be a great gay aunt myself, and can help some kid feel part of the family.

Copyright Lee Lynch 2008


Lee Lynch is the writer of more than a dozen dyke books, among them "Sweet Creek", as well as book reviews, articles, feature stories and a syndicated column. You can read more about Lee here . You can check out her Lee's Myspace page . And visit Lee's Tripod homepage. Lee's most recent book, The Butch Cook Book, Edited by Lee Lynch, Sue Hardesty and Nel Ward, is now available at:

Labels: , ,

Sunday, June 01, 2008

The Colors of Pride

By WordyGrrl

The rainbow flag has become the most easily-recognized symbol of the worldwide gay and lesbian community. But as Pride month arrives, how many of us really know the meaning and history of the colors we wave around so happily at the parade?

The rainbow flag made its first appearance in the 1978 San Francisco Gay and Lesbian Freedom Day Parade. It was designed by San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker in response to a need for a logo or symbol that would encompass the entire community and could be used on an annual basis for pride-type events.

Baker and a team of thirty volunteers created two huge prototype flags for the parade, dyed and stitched by hand. These original flags featured eight stripes with each color representing a facet of a very diverse community: hot pink for sex, red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sun, green for nature, turquoise for art, indigo for harmony, and violet for spirit.

The next year Baker approached San Francisco Paramount Flag Company to mass-produce rainbow flags for the 1979 parade. Due to production constraints, hot pink was removed because the color was not commercially available, thus reducing the number of stripes to seven.

The November 1978 assassination of Harvey Milk, San Francisco's first openly gay supervisor, led to further changes in the flag. So that the gay community could display its sense of solidarity in the aftermath, the turquoise stripe was removed and indigo was replaced by royal blue. This enabled the colors to be divided equally along the parade route -- three on one side, three on the other.

This six-color version spread from San Francisco to other cities worldwide, and is now is officially recognized by the International Congress of Flag Makers. In 1994, a huge 30-foot-wide by one-mile-long rainbow flag was carried by 10,000 people in New York's Stonewall 25th Anniversary Parade.

But regardless of size or variations on the rainbow theme, the Pride flag serves as both a celebration of unity and the diversity that our community represents. Let it also serve as a reminder of past struggles for acceptance and inclusion and the work that remains to be done, not only during Pride Month but all year 'round.

Labels: , , , ,