So if you take a quick trip over to Philadelphia Magazine, you can find an article by one Mr. Michael Callahan, in which he carefully lays out his position against the continuation of the Philadelphia Gay Pride Festival and Parade. He basically calls for an end to the festival, indicating that he finds the whole celebration “gross.” It’s a position taken by a number of people, including those fine folks at RepentAmerica who have taken a serious liking to attending Philadelphia queer pride events with their signs and bibles. But surprisingly, Callahan is not a member of RepentAmerica. No, he’s a member of the gay community.
Callahan’s argument, at its core, is that the gay community needs to start showing that we are just like the straight community: we wear three piece suits and have baby showers and and shop at Shop Rite and show affection, and that’s fine. That’s what will get us equality: being just like everyone else. He seems to think it’s our affinity for dressing in drag or wearing biker shorts that poses the problem: these things are not at all like the straight community, and that will ultimately be our downfall; that will be what keeps us from being able to have what everyone else has.
He seems to miss the whole point of Pride, though: after rambling on about the inappropriateness and vulgarity of the public self-expression by the “fringe” groups (transvestites, daddies, bears and twinks, in case you were wondering), he declares that the tactics that won Round 1 of the fight (that would be Stonewall, 1969) won’t win us Round 2 (now). But isn’t the purpose of Pride to show that really, no one is part of the fringe – that the fringe is an invention by a group of people who are uncomfortable with anyone not terribly like themselves? Isn’t Pride a chance to celebrate that there are people just like us – and just like you, and her, and him? It’s an opportunity to recognize both diversity and similarities, to honor our brothers and sisters, and perhaps those cousins we didn’t know much about.
I’ve considered myself part of the queer community for less than three years now. In that time, though, I’ve learned a considerable amount about my queer brethren – and one of the things I’ve learned is that the queer community, like every other community, has its own divisions and cliques and subcliques. There are too many ways to slice up the community, and one set of categorizations is too easy to spot: there are those of us who take pride (yes, Mr. Callahan, I said it) in being slightly different; and then there are those of us who want to blend in, never draw any attention. It’s all too clear which group Mr. Callahan belongs to.
But it’s not enough that Callahan’s “Contrarian” article is used to lob criticism at the community as a whole – no sir, he took the opportunity to aim his scornful gaze at several groups in particular. After spending the bulk of the article mocking gay men, lesbians make two bief appearances: at the bottom of page 1, Callahan references an “exotic zoo of lesbian bikers,” as if these women were nothing more than a group of strange, foreign animals to be gawked at. This single characterization of a particular group of lesbians gives away more of Callahan’s attitude about women than I think even he realizes. Lesbians are mentioned again on page 3 of the article, where Callahan’s use of “quotes” and dismissive language convey his clear contempt for women in general, and lesbian relationships in particular (see the bit about Rosie O’Donnell “blathering on” about her “wife”).
And after taking on lesbians, Callahan quickly and efficiently dismisses the trans community with a throw-away comment:
“Frankly, I have nothing more in common with someone who wants to switch his gender than
with someone who embraces Rush Limbaugh’s politics.”
Apparently Mr. Callahan has forgotten that those individuals who “want to switch gender” (as if it were that simple) are as likely as he is to experience discrimination and harrassment. And perhaps he fails to realize that those same individuals will often look to him as a brother, as someone who will understand their frustration and sadness. Perhaps he’s forgotten his history, despite how ardently he claims it. And perhaps he fails to realize that Rush Limbaugh caters to those folks who can most often be pinpointed as sources of the discrimination and harrassment. Because whatever he thinks he has in common with those three-piece-suit wearing straight counterparts who have baby showers and go to Shop-Rite, he really shouldn’t forget that they’re always looking at us with their heads cocked just a bit, always ready to point out the differences. And despite the differences that may be easily identifiable among the queer community, those individuals who “want to switch gender” are generally more ready to point out the similarities and shared experiences.
It’s not likely that Michael Callahan will suddently change his point of view – and it’s even less likely that any of his self-centered, dismissive rambling will change my point of view. But hey – this is the point of Pride: I’m proud of my overly-zealous activist spirit, and I plan on being at Penn’s Landing on June 8th to celebrate that. And nothing Michael Callahan says can stop me.