Monday, August 9, 2010

What's Missing from Gay Pride?

- by Tim Popanz

Sometimes I need to step away from an experience for a time in order to gain perspective. In the moment, my feelings can become jumbled like some type of word puzzle and meaning doesn’t show through. Such was the case this year with Gay Pride.

I have been celebrating Gay Pride in one form or another for almost 25 years. In the beginning, the experience was a revelation: the shear breadth, diversity of experiences, and history felt remarkable (at some level they still do). As a young Gay man, there was both this sense of carrying on the tradition started after Stonewall and a feeling of complete public honesty of who I am. To experience both this responsibility and freedom with my community was exhilarating.

The Gay community is one also marked by trauma. First, there’s the collective, generational trauma of oppression, which expresses itself, in part, in disproportioned rates of mental illness and substance abuse. Added on to these experiences have been the losses associated with AIDS. As an adult Gay man, I’ve never known a world or a new sexual encounter without the threat of HIV transmission. To implicitly link sexual intimacy life-long with illness and premature death is anxiety producing in and of itself.

Even with these experiences, most of the Gay community responds with resiliency. This is the primary experience anyone would see participating with Gay Pride. But, under the surface there is a more complicated ritual going on. Which brings me to my question: what’s missing from Gay Pride?

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