Monday, June 27, 2011

Pride, Assimilation and History

I did a lot of parading, marching and observing this past weekend commemorating 41 years of open gay and lesbian pride. I attended the rally prior to the Dyke March as well as the Pride Parade here in San Francisco, as much out of habit as committment. The events were huge. Gone are the days when heterosexuals feel shame and fear that they may be mistaken for queer at events like these.

An article on by, what I assume is a young lesbian, (she refers to herself as a "girl" which, in my generation meant a female child under 12), who believes that "pride" is only applicable in situations where a person actually accomplishes something. After reading it I'm sure that I am very proud to be queer. It's true, I didn't choose it. But I have chosen to be open about it since I was 18 and 42 years of braving the winds of hatred and oppression is something to be proud of. So much has accomplished so much in my lifetime.The victory of same-sex marriage in NY signals that we are well on the road to full civil rights and societal acceptance.It makes me wonder if we will see the total of assimilation of queers into the social fabric.

Another minority community of which I am a member has assimilated considerably in my lifetime. At some point in the future, full-blooded Jews, like myself, will be very rare, almost non-existent. The religion will thrive, of course, but what of our angst-ridden, self-deprecating, humorous and intellectually overactive culture? It is already disappearing.

Will the Nelly Queen and the Stone Butch go the way of the Yiddish language? The toll of oppression and discrimination is overwhelmingly negative. But there are also positive aspects to outsider identity. Pinky rings, code words, belonging to a special club, these are the obvious ones. But viewing oneself as part of a larger whole, a strong community that has proven its mettle in the face of adversity can be something precious, yet somewhat inexplicable to folks who have never experienced it.

Queer folks still have a long way to go before we have to worry about this issue. Will anyone gay, lesbian, straight, trans or gender indeterminate have the right to a secure job in the future? A place to live? Enough to eat? I think the problems of the upcoming not-so-brave new world will defy simplistic and self-limiting labels.

Buddhism, a philosophy I respect greatly, stresses that we are all one and need to let go of our stories, our attachment to the trappings of the past that separate us from our universal humanity. I can see the rationale of this approach but also feel that "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." In that spirit I am compelled to tell my story as well as listen to yours. With pride.