Thursday, June 25, 2009

feeling proud?

it is gay pride week in helsinki this week. for those of my readers who fundamentally do not understand why lgbt-people think it is cool to prance around the streets once a year, i could always point out that the rest of the 364 days of the year are reserved for hetero pride. it does not seem to occur to many people that such elementary gestures as holding hands and kissing in public still arouse staring, mockery and violence on our streets if the couple are not of the opposite sex. the basic safety people usually associate with showing affection or communicating with their families is still threatened in non-heterosexual families. it is disturbing.

the origins of gay pride stem from violence. known as the stonewall riots in 1969, the gay community of nyc stood up repeatedly and violently against police persecution after an early morning police raid at stonewall inn in greenwich village. it was almost exactly 40 years ago, and lots of improvements have been made whilst many basic issues remain unsolved. the term 'pride' signifies an opposition to 'gay shame' promoted by many people who wish lgbt-people stayed closeted. the yearly pride weeks are not only carnivals and parties, but also important reminders of a reality not yet a history.

although pride week may seem to some like an in-your-face harassment of hetero-sensibilities, it is not an event the whole lgbt-community embraces. obviously for many the events are just tacky parties with crappy music. also many members of the gay community agree that a closeted or a quiet gay reality is better: keeping private matters private. at the other side is the queer pink block that sees pride as a celebration of gentrification and giving in to heteronormativity. both views are understandable. out'n'proud actions often invite negative consequences -- sometime personal losses. the queer radicals see all of society as distorted and do not want the lgbt-community to start acting "straight" because it would imply an acceptance of hetero-society's norms as just.

i believe everyone has the right to keep their closet door tightly shut if they wish so. the public political debate in finland is still too laden with gay-hatred and ignorance that it is understandable that someone does not want their share of it. then again a mass coming-out event would show quite a different side of our society to those who are drawn to bigotry and hatred.

i also think queer politics have a point: the present social order is everything but pleasant. people are blind to the variety of sexuality even within heterosexuality thinking it gives them a right to marginalize people, and they seem oblivious to the restrictive ideals heteronormativity holds true. the pink block wants to remind people that lgbt-lives are still very much stigmatized and gay shame is very much alive; a viewpoint that sometimes seems born in a privileged theoretical position, since it does not seem that most attendees of gay pride thought their lives were without stigma or shame even nowadays -- gay shame is the reason gay pride happens, right? i just do not quite grasp how detrimental a week of celebration is for a queer future even if the main message of pride was that the gay community is a group of ordinary citizens with ordinary problems in addition to being marginalized in a society that rests on ideals oppressive (albeit not equally) to all.

that said, i am happy to say that i'm participating in the pride week at the wedding of two friends: tomorrow a dear couple of boys are saying their vows and we'll party till early morning. no matter how i twist it i cannot see their act as something they ought to hide or as a sign of submission to requirements of normalcy. knowing their history and the troubles they've suffered, i can only interpret their promise to each other as a single act of bravery, courageous and deserving of great pride.

here's lily allen having her say at homophobics all over the world. not the subtlest of lyrical expressions, but at least her point is loud and clear...

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