June 10, 2019 at 5:08 pm EDT | by Richard J. Rosendall
Ghosts of rebellion haunt Pride
Capital Pride, gay news, Washington Blade
Metropolitan Police Department officers dance at the 2019 Capital Pride Parade. (Washington Blade photo by Drew Brown)

It was a balmy Saturday morning for Capital Pride. Friends and I sipped our coffee on the Trio patio and watched preparations for the parade, including volunteers spray-painting the 17th Street crosswalks in rainbow colors. Pride on the Pier began in the afternoon at the Southwest waterfront, with fireworks in the evening uninterrupted by a presidential address.

A controversy arose concerning the June 7 DC Dyke March, in which the Israeli flag and the rainbow flag with a Star of David superimposed were banned as symbols of violent nationalism, while the Palestinian flag was deemed okay. This decision by the organizers was condemned by many otherwise friendly groups. (I regard the West Bank occupation as illegitimate, but Hamas has its own crimes. Selective demonization is no better coming from the left than from the right.) In the event, some women displayed the banned flags and no one stopped them.

Speaking of “dykes” (a term I don’t generally use), one named Donna friended me on Facebook, remembering me from the early 80s when I hung out on Saturday nights at the old Rogue at 9th and Pennsylvania NW. I loved the eclectic crowd that attended the drag shows there. Donna and I happily traded memories of long-vanished friends. The youngsters streaming up and down the street hardly want to hear about ten years ago, much less thirty-nine.

The invisibility that comes with age in a youth-oriented culture has its advantages. You can dispense with efforts to recapture youth and revel in the simple joy of a summer day, as I do.

Another Pride controversy concerns efforts to ban police and corporate sponsors. Another year, another band of bossy radicals with trendy prohibitions scampering like lemmings off a cliff, all revolutionary talk and no productive action.

Pride Month began for me on June 1 with DC Latinx Pride, which was held at the Metropolitan Community Church of Washington DC. All went well until emcee and Latinx Pride founder José Gutierrez invited Lt. Brett Parson of the Metropolitan Police to speak. Brett is openly gay, speaks Spanish, and leads the department’s Special Liaison Branch that supports often-underserved communities. A woman in the back started shouting, demanding that he leave. Despite his being a longtime ally, she treated him like one of the thuggish cops at Stonewall. He carried on despite her rudeness.

The fetish for banning is tied to a cult of fragility that regards police as monolithically evil, time as frozen in 1969, and facts as subject to whim. Decades of reform efforts are dismissed.

Abusiveness and indignation are poor substitutes for reason and argument. Diversity includes diverse opinions. Shouting someone down may feel good, but accomplishes approximately as much as a losing chess player overturning the board.

It is fashionable among some to use “white” and “cis” as epithets. This illustrates the politics of subtraction. Those on the receiving end just walk away, their minds unchanged. The people wielding such epithets deserve to be locked in a room with the “Straight Pride” organizers in Boston who chose provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos as grand marshal.

Cheers rise from the street below my window. Our celebrations are a victory in themselves.

On Friday evening, a day before the main parade, the Dyke March went smoothly, complete with radical slogans and the old Lesbian Avengers logo of a bomb with a lit fuse. The organizers hadn’t applied for a permit and didn’t announce the march route until shortly before they set off. Who responded calmly and professionally and cleared the streets ahead of them for their safety? Metropolitan Police Department officers, of course.

On Saturday evening, when minor injuries resulted from panic following false reports of a shooting at Dupont Circle, it was again police who responded quickly and calmed the situation.

Still, I think of those who fled in terror, running into buildings and banging on doors to escape the perceived threat, which was all too reasonable given America’s recent history.

Unfinished business calls us. It requires that we resist self-absorption and reach respectfully and creatively across our differences. The large, benign crowds at Pride, like so many we have formed before, give cause for hope.

Richard J. Rosendall is a writer and activist. He can be reached at rrosendall@me.com.

Copyright © 2019 by Richard J. Rosendall. All rights reserved.

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