At least two things are almost certain to occur in the run-up to D.C.’s 40th annual LGBT Capital Pride celebration this weekend. You’re going to see one-too-many rainbow feather boas and the predictable dissident lament about how the whole gay rights thing has turned out will rear its head as if set on a timer.
The latter has already occurred.
Washington City Paper arts editor Christina Cauterucci last week penned a feature piece in the weekly publication’s annual Gay Issue harshly criticizing the “commercialization” of the local Pride celebration, titled “Swallow Your Pride.” If you can wade through the proffered “queer”-obsessed, lingo-laden and polemical condemnation of both the Saturday evening parade and Sunday daylong festival you will also find my voice offering more history and less histrionics. Be forewarned, however, that Cauterucci’s obsession with radical sloganeering and extremist terminology may require the assistance of an open browser to define trendy terms like “cismen” for the uninitiated.
On the any-moment verge of what is widely anticipated to be a Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide, some still whine that the astonishingly accelerated advancement of civil equality for lesbians and gays hasn’t included our rejection of mainstream culture and the demise of capitalism.
This has been happening for the 20 years since the then-named “Lesbian and Gay Freedom Festival” first launched as a re-imagined high-profile downtown event on America’s Main Street in 1995.
I should know. I produced it.
I can attest to one simple reality as a result of that experience: change proves difficult, even for us. That’s something that continues to this day and is reflected in the anxiety-ridden adjustment for some to acceptance and assimilation. Despite these being achievements of local LGBT leadership and rank-and-file residents by both political and cultural measure.
D.C. is a poor choice of hometown to languish in disgruntlement about threading into the fabric of local life. The ethos of the city is accomplishment, not angst. As Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance president Richard Rosendall is fond of remarking, gay people in the District “like to get things done.” The resulting advancements in equality are the envy of any locale nationwide.
The radical-left disaffected and disappointed might be happier living amongst the brutal, bruising and bitter battles notably associated with the infamous internecine strife of places like San Francisco. Perhaps better to find solace on a goat farm in New England – or even a planet like Pluto, given that the chronic complaining sounds so strange.
The central premise of Cauterucci’s essay is that the Capital Pride committee should reject support from the business sector as a poisoning influence, a feeding from the trough of racism, misogyny and all else evil. She prefers something “rooted in the reclamation of historical oppression.” She also fails to mention that her own employer, the City Paper, has been a prominent sponsor of Capital Pride as recently as last year.
Ironically, Cauterucci touts as idealized model the alternative “Dyke March” that “eventually sputtered out” sometime in the last decade. She fondly recalls a speaker at the event imploring attendees “to wage the broadest, most diverse struggle against capitalism.” Attempts to revive the event this year didn’t pan out, but it might be that the coordinator will again bring a sign to the parade reading, as Cauterucci reports, “Happy Pride, Fuck Corporate Sponsorship.”
I am quoted offering the observation that “the biggest ally to the LGBT community at this point in its history is the business community, and they’re driving our progress. They’ve demonstrated that they want to be part of our community and they want our business. We should happily be willing to share the cost of producing our events with them.”
Ignoring LGBT distinction as a disproportionate demographic of entrepreneurs and both business creators and leadership is also to deny part of our own heritage.
My advice this weekend: Don’t look left during Pride, it’ll ruin the celebration.