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Lesbian & Gay Pride '89

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by Judson N. Kempson

Well it's June, Gay Pride Month, the time of year when all good fags and dykes revel in their sexuality. Workshops, marches and rallies abound as our community celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, the beginning of the modern gay liberation movement. It is a time when we all come out and en masse and in public are open about the love and lust we have for one another. For many, attendance at a gay pride march is the first significant act in coming out. For others, Pride is a time for political action or simply a good party.

I find thinking about Pride, however, an arduous task. The rallies and marches are either diatribes against all the evils that plague us or an attempt to recapture the carnivalesque revelry of a decade ago.

At Pride I feel neither joy nor anger but fatigue. We are overwhelmed as a community. The legacy of the Reagan administration has been a conservative backlash in which gays and lesbians have come to represent everything that is antithetical to the administration's definition of "the American family," their panacea for all society's evils. Our rights are being challenged in the courts with the Hardwick decision in which anti-sodomy laws were upheld. The present challenge of Roe v. Wade threatens our right to privacy and control of our own bodies. And the increase in anti-gay violence points to the lack of compassion our society holds for us.

The progressive community has entered into the era of coalition politics where all oppressed minorities unite to fight the common fight. The gay community, which cuts across all lines of class, gender and race, acts as a logical leader. It is exhilarating to be out on the edge. However, there is also a heavy strain that goes with it. There is the added burden to try to be perfect, to be the sort of people who can right all the wrongs of the world instead of addressing the immediate needs of our community. Even within our own community, where lesbians and gay men are trying to work together, debate rages over the priorities of the movement.

And then there is, of course, the burden of AIDS. The gay male communities in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles have been decimated. All over the country more men are getting sick and more men are dying every day. The epidemic has been with us for eight years and still there is no end in sight. We need room and time to breathe, to relax, but how can we when there is so much work that needs to be done?

Pride should be a time when we hang up our political armor for a while and stop lambasting the white heterosexual men in the boardrooms of America. To be honest, they get enough of our attention during the rest of the year. Pride is our time, a time to appreciate ourselves and what we've done.

First and foremost, we should be proud that we are still here and still a community. We can be proud that in the face of governmental and societal indifference and outright hostility, we've taken care of our own. We can be proud of the support organizations that we've formed and prouder yet that we are now using our knowledge to reach out to help other communities affected by the epidemie. We can be proud of all the men and women who have given their time, money and themselves to combat this epidemie. We can be proud that lesbians and gay men have tried to put aside, or work through their differences to work together. We can be proud of all the people with AIDS (PWAs) and people infected with HIV who continue to live their lives with dignity. We can be extremely proud of all the PWAs and people infected with HIV who have come out and been visible and fought for their lives.

We can be proud of all the men and women, of all ages, who still have the courage to come out in a world of AIDS and increasing hostility toward gays and lesbians. We can be proud of the butches and femmes of both genders who have the courage to be themselves even among their own brothers and sisters who wish they would fit in more.

Those of us who are activists can be proud that we have maintained a niche in society where we do have a modicum of safety. Our work is helping to ensure that the world will one day be a place where anybody can love anybody else and feel proud and happy to be so human.

And we can be proud of our allies, our friends and families who have stood by us and have not abandoned us.

All this joyous appreciation of ourselves and our allies, however, might not lead to dancing in the streets. We are acommunity in mourning. Pride is an appropriate time for us to grieve as a community in the midst of our joy . The numbers of the fallen are enormous and the tally rises daily. Although it might be impossible to grieve fully, we can grieve sufficiently to carry on.

Only through grieving can we maintain hope for survival. And I do have hope. One day, I hope to have my child, or some other young person, come across a four-letter acronym and look up and ask me, "What was AIDS?" And I will be able to answer, "AIDS was a horrible disease that was caused by a virus that came out of nowhere. Millions of people died but it showed the strength and greatness of our humanity. We comforted the sick and dying and we put every effort into research and education. Finally, we found a cure and the disease and its virus slipped back into oblivion."

So, let us grieve and also let us continue our work. But let us not forget that we are a community defined by what we do in bed. Let us cel├ębrate the way we make love or have that occasional fuck in the sauna with a complete stranger (practicing safer sex, of course), for sex is good and we are wonderful.