Monday, June 30, 2008

This Is The Life!

“There seem to be more of them than usual.”

Many years before OverheardInNewYork, I overheard in New York a woman talking to her husband about all the gay men on the subway train. She was right of course. It was June 1994 and my boyfriend of the time and I were there for the 25th anniversary of Stonewall. The Gay Games were also happening and we were on the subway going to Yankee Stadium for the closing ceremonies. A year earlier we had flown to DC for the March On Washington where we thrilled to the sight of RuPaul in a red white and blue outfit spinning her heart out, our very own Barbie come to life and dressed as Wonder Woman. It was a great time to be gay.

We didn’t know at the time that the AIDS crisis was at its zenith, but there was feeling in the air that everything was changing. The Act Up protesters at the March On Washington slowed down the parade with their chalk outline demonstration in front of the White House, so the massive California contingent, annoyed and relegated to the back of the line, ditched the parade route altogether and beat everyone to the mall to get good seats at the show. There we all were. A sea of white Don’t Panic t-shirts and denim shorts as far as the eye could see. A year later in New York, not much had changed. We felt a real momentum going, like the first twenty five years were good but the next twenty five would alter the whole world.

I live in New York now. Thanks to the AIDS cocktails, the crisis as we once knew it, on the streets and in films like the devastating “Silverlake Life: The View From Here” is a distant memory. At the parade today, a massive section near Rockefeller Center was set out for the protesters, but only four people showed up, including one very cross old lady holding a very expressive cross. I joked with Jack Mackenroth that next year we should come as protesters so we can get a good seat and really spread out with some lawn chairs and maybe an ice chest.

Jack and I were invited by Clay to the parade viewing party thrown by In The Life, the long running PBS documentary series. How fitting that my mind should wander to the early heady days of the Clinton administration, when gays felt a real visibility and force and In The Life was born. Their offices overlook Fifth Avenue, just across from the stoic yet lovably quirky Flatiron Building, a perfect place to view the parade. Personally I think the parade is too long. At this point, as the gay community reaches middle age, it is time to step it up people. Inclusion is a nice buzzword but it makes for one exceedingly long and boring parade. When the name of your organization is too long to fit on a single line on the side of a float, you are just overreaching. And maybe it is time to rethink your mission statement. And those shoes.

At this point, I think the gay pride parade in New York should be like the Rose Parade in Pasadena. Narrow the number of entries down to less than fifty and make people submit their float concepts or audition, and only the best get in. Our parade should be a show piece. The Lion King performed with anti-gravity! Grand, spectacular, and televised nationally to awe Middle America with the wonders and ingenuity of the gay community. Instead it is just like any other boring parade but with what seems like endless supplies of both welcome and unnecessary nudity (some people are so hot they should be barred from ever wearing clothes while some women of a certain age and size just should NOT be in only tassels).

Steven and Marty were also there, although I learned that most people call him Martin and somehow I accidentally nicknamed him all on my own. That has not deterred me. This is Marty’s first summer in New York and Steven is visiting from Kansas City, so the parade was new to them, although it would seem they shared my lack of enthusiasm. Later Jack’s friend Chris joined us too and for the longest time I couldn’t figure out where I knew him from. After an hour of conversation, Jack mentioned that his sister found him on my blog in an entry about fisting, and suddenly all of the pieces fell into place. “I am the cute blond guy who never fucked Michael Lucas,” Chris declared, his initial irritation at having his Connexion page linked to having long since subsided.

It was a charming gathering but after three days of partying and what seems like non-stop blogging, I was just worn out. The weather had been alternating humid heat and torrential downpour, so I used a brief break in the bad weather to make my exit when everyone else decided to abandon the party and head out among the people. For most of them, the Pier Dance awaits, but for me, I am on gay overload. Time to pack up my gayness, condense it into blog form and head home. And along the way, my mind drifted back to the whole reason we gathered together today in the first place.

Like me and a few others I know, Jack is a 1969 baby. We were born the same year as the Stonewall riots that launched the modern gay movement. And in a way, it is approaching middle age in the same way we are. It was a happy go lucky childhood filled with promise, and then just before puberty, AIDS struck, leaving those of us in the Stonewall Generation with the prospect that as soon as we lost our virginity, certain death awaited us. It was an awkward adolescence, raised suddenly by the lesbians who took charge of everything when the gay men died, and we had to find our own identities as men after the generation before us was decimated. But once we got into our twenties, things really smoothed out. We came out and became accepted and went on with our lives.

Next year, we and Stonewall will be forty. Maybe the gay community is waiting for fifty to make another big splash but let’s face it. In the gay world, forty is the new fifty. The gay community is facing an identity crisis. Our institutions we relied on as our backbone (GLAAD, HRC, etc) have lost their √©lan and we have questioned their current purpose. And maybe it is our midlife crisis that has us abandoning the Clintons (our first loves) in droves for that fresh young thing Obama. It’s all botox and biceps now in our struggle to remain relevant, and we seem as generationally disconnected from the gay teens coming up now as we were from our own parents so many years ago.

So let’s ditch the overly long parade, the vodka cranberry and the worn out circuit party. It’s time for something new. As the gay community marches into middle age, it is time for an extreme makeover: homo edition. Let’s bring together our best and brightest reality show contestants to whip up something really amazing for 2009. It’s time to show the world that we can still be cool, still be bold. After all, being seen in something you shouldn't be wearing is not cutting edge anymore, it's how the rest of America goes to the mall. But let’s just make it one reasonably short day and have plenty of comfortable seats in the shade. Because let’s face it, we aren’t as young as we used to be.

1 comment:

Cody916 said...

I am TOTALLY in love with you for going off on Mary Cheney. That was a great rant! She is one worthless, selfish, sellout whore. Love your show.