Why we deserve Pride

  • Wednesday June 20, 2012
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Why we deserve Pride

Why we deserve Pride

The publication of Michael Biehl's letter to the editor [June 14] enrages me to the core of my being. His arrogance, naivety, and sheer lack of respect not only makes me angry, but breaks my heart. He clearly does not know LGBT " and more importantly Pride movement " history, of which there is a lot.

I am a proud gay man who has the battle scars to prove where I've come from and where we've all come from. What have we done to deserve Pride, Mr. Biehl? We have survived and continue the fight for equality, which goes far beyond just LGBT people " it is a call to action for equality for all people, dammit. How dare you question our history, our movement, our Pride. How dare you impose your self-hatred on any one of us who stands up and stands proud.

I know our history intimately, many don't, and I encourage everyone to know it, and take it to heart; it is important. So many have gone before, so many have fought the good fight and lost, so many still live in fear today, even in San Francisco. Pride is more than a day, it is more than a parade, it is the outward symbol of a movement and people who have been marginalized long enough. So, Mr. Biehl, why do we deserve Pride? Because we are here, we are queer, and dammit, we will be equal.

You point out only a few examples from our community, ignorant to what most of them represent, when they do great work and they move us forward into the light of equality. So we have our glitter, we have our bare bums, we have our drag, why should we not enjoy ourselves along the way. Or have you forgotten, Mr. Biehl, times when the Oak Room was raided and men jailed just because they wanted to love another man. Or have you forgotten Compton's Cafeteria. Don't know it, Mr. Biehl? Look it up. It is part of our history. Oh wait, maybe you have forgotten when Metropolitan Community Church was burned in the early 1970s, Stonewall, Harvey Milk, Mayor George Moscone. Shall I go on, Mr. Biehl? You ask why we deserve Pride? I am appalled and offended to the core of being and ashamed that anyone calling themselves gay could ask such a thing.

At first I was angry that editor Cynthia Laird printed your letter. Now I am glad, because maybe, just maybe, it will further ignite an interest in our history and a deeper devotion to the cause. So Mr. Biehl, thank you for allowing me to share my passion for why we deserve Pride. Because we most certainly do, that's why.

 

Troy P. Coalman

San Francisco

 

No lack of Pride here

To you the parade may have become a blase anachronism that has long since outlived it's usefulness. But for me, this is what it reminds me of: A starry-eyed kid fresh from the South, hope and joy at finally being able to come someplace where I can't be discriminated against, where the hated word "fag" was commonly looked down on, where I am free to express myself and live as open and lovingly as I can. Where I come from, and where so many who sought refuge here have come from, are places of great hatred for us "fags." They still would gleefully beat and kill us rather than try to understand that we are just human beings living and loving as best as we can.

The parade means an end to Proposition 8, and a true chance at marriage equality. I don't know about you Mr. Michael Biehl, but I don't like being a second-class citizen. I like the idea of knowing that everywhere I go, wherever I may be, my husband to be (someday) will be able to hug me and kiss me and openly declare his love for me legally and proudly. Unlike June 12, 2002 where I had to literally threaten an orderly to see my dead lover in a bed at a hospital even though I wasn't "legally family."

The parade means people releasing society's restrictions, being freer about themselves, and even proud of their own skin. There is no shame in the human body. The human spirit is beautiful and we all carry that beauty openly. Isn't that what Pride is about, being joyful and happy in our own skin, in our own being, amongst not only "our own" but all people?

This isn't a gruesome display of fetishes and carnal fantasies, and I guess if that is all you see that would be why you are so bored and bitter. Perhaps it's time for a change of scenery. Just a thought.

 

Phillip Cooper

San Francisco

 

City is a place to live freely

In his letter, Michael Biehl, a self-professed local gay man, asks just what "we fags" have done to merit a Pride Parade, and what we've (collectively) contributed to human civilization.

Rather than simply list Socrates, Sappho, da Vinci, Jane Adams, Walt Whitman, Eleanor Roosevelt, Michelangelo, Billie Holiday, or many thousands of other LGBT people who have expanded human awareness for thousands of years, and who represent both the cornerstone of western civilization and mark its highlights, let me speak simply as a San Francisco resident " a gay artist and activist " who has traveled for decades, living long stretches of my adult life in Africa, India, Nepal, Mexico, and several countries in Europe, and Australia.

As a youth volunteering for Martin Luther King to this past winter, everywhere I've gone or lived I've seen that San Francisco represents far more than merely a city. Its name is a worldwide coda for people who yearn to live in dignity, in safety and with pride, and who realize that it's possible because they've heard about San Francisco. What happens here gives them heart for their own struggles. These aren't only LGBT people; they're women forced into arranged marriages, as well as the underprivileged, as evidenced by a young bicycle rickshaw worker I recently met in India.

"Salu" earns $5 on a good day, and is the sole support of his family. But he knows about this city and dreams of it. To him, just as to we who live here, San Francisco and its various forms of self-celebration aren't just about gender, race, origin or any other distinction or definition. This city radiates inclusion; a spirit of welcome; progressive truth-telling and the courage to be individual on a planet fraught with medieval prejudice, riven by war, and ecological ruin.

Despite issues shared by all high-density urban areas, ours is a city of peace, of good will, and experiment. This comprises the nexus of humane society, of truly vivid culture and civilized values we can be rightly proud of. It's sad that Mr. Biehl doesn't grasp that on our admittedly often-bumpy, sometimes self-destructive path out from bias and/or self-inflicted pain to healthier consciousness and full social inclusion, we gather together to affirm these convictions in a spirit of fun and tolerance.

From Gold Rush times to the present day, such is the nature of this very special place.

Is some of it deliberately silly? Of course. Still immature? Yes. But when weighed against the chilling Stalinism or mind control of what polarized "pc" thought police do in the name of standards, I suggest that from Gandhi to King to Harvey Milk, great souls agitate for the value of the individual's path and such vital recognition. I know no better embodiment of such guiding principles than our little city. I say this as a quiet person, one not particularly drawn to crowds or the Pride Parade. But they are my people, my tribe, and I love every single one of them.

 

Adrian Brooks

San Francisco

 

More specifics, please

I wish Michael Biehl could be a little more explicit and a bit less vague in his vitriolic rant against gay Pride, etc. Actually, he does make a few interesting points. His comment about the naked men in the Castro (ugh!) is interesting, in that he is doing in a more literary way what they are doing; i.e. drawing attention to himself in a nice (safe), outrageous way (without having to display his physical imperfections and/or shortcomings). And it does get his name in the paper.

What I think is really demonstrated here illustrates precisely why the whole gay Pride thing is necessary.

The kind of internalized self-hatred that most of us as members of any oppressed minority " gay, black, Jewish, Asian, you name it " have had to deal with, to a greater or lesser extent, comes through loud and clear in Mr. Biehl's tone and content.

For one day, week, month, whatever, we're saying "Yes, we exist, we have always existed, in all families, cultures, societies and civilizations, making positive contributions in every facet of human endeavor, and we have survived! And, we can afford to laugh about it."

So lighten up, Michael. Hey, if nothing else, it brings in millions of extra tourist dollars. Not a bad thing in difficult economic times, right?

 

Frank Brooks

San Francisco

 

Need to think about why Pride matters

Many readers won't see it this way, but the Bay Area Reporter did a service by publishing Michael Biehl's sad, bitter letter. We do need to think about why Pride matters.

It speaks volumes that in mockingly pondering our community's "unparalleled contributions," Biehl reaches for sing-along Sound of Music and naked guys in the Castro, and not the achievements of Bayard Rustin, Tennessee Williams, Representative Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin), or so many others. But since Mr. Biehl seems unclear as to why this annual celebration is needed, let me offer the following:

Right now, in some less accepting town " Modesto or Turlock or Corona " a queer kid is contemplating suicide. His schoolmates harass him and vandalize his locker while the teachers do nothing. Her preacher tells her she's a sinner who's going to hell " and her parents agree. He or she doesn't see much reason to live. Mom's sleeping pills are handy. It wouldn't be that hard to end it.

And maybe, just maybe, this kid will turn on the TV and see a glimpse of our parade. He'll see our straight mayor and other elected officials marching with us. She'll see contingents of LGBT service members proudly serving their country, and groups of same-sex married couples celebrating their love and commitment and happiness. And maybe, just maybe, this kid will start to think it's not so hopeless after all. Perhaps there really is a reason to live, and maybe it's worth trying.

That, Mr. Biehl, is why Pride is needed. And if you can't handle it, go fuck yourself.

 

Bruce Mirken

San Francisco