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My mother requests your feedback! - the funcrunch files

Jul. 4th, 2008 07:48 pm My mother requests your feedback!

I had a phone conversation with my Mom tonight. She was reading my blog post about Pride and followed the link to the my photos of the BABN contingent. She said she was very proud of me and thought it was great that we were marching, but had a serious question. She wanted to know why so many in these parades felt it necessary to wear such flamboyant and provocative outfits. She said that it would lend our movement much more legitimacy if we just dressed in, say, jeans and T-shirts to prove that despite our lifestyles, we were just the same as anyone else.

I tried to come up with some answers (including suggesting that she look more closely at my photos, to see how many people in my contingent were, in fact, wearing jeans and T-shirts), but Mom insisted I post this to my blog and get my friends' feedback. So, what say you all on this topic?

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Date:July 5th, 2008 03:57 am (UTC)
I say that people in parades always dress like idiots. Has she never seen a majorette? Or a St. Patrick's Day parade patron? How about Mardi Gras?
Date:July 5th, 2008 10:32 pm (UTC)
That was one of the arguments I used, in fact...
Date:July 5th, 2008 04:24 am (UTC)
I think people often dress-up to express their natural selves at special events - whether they dress in suits and ties at weddings, Hallowe'en costumes, clown costumes at little children's birthday parties, football fans at ball games. Ever see a bunch of rednecks from Wisconsin with cheese blocks on their heads at a Green Bay Packers game?
Date:July 5th, 2008 10:32 pm (UTC)
Exactly... although dressing up for a wedding would not be expressing my natural self, personally, unless it were an unconventional sort of wedding ;-)
Date:July 5th, 2008 07:19 am (UTC)
Answer 1: On a normal day, going to work, or hanging out in the park, we ARE just like anyone else, and dress the part. But Pride isn't about proving ourselves - it's about celebrating difference.

Answer 2: Well we're NOT just like anyone else! That would be boring! The world is a better place for being full of more different kinds of different people. Conformity is boring.

Answer 3: I do actually find some of the things people wear at Pride to be kinda over-the-top. For example, strapon-dildos displayed prominently without cover goes beyond what I think of as flamboyant personal expression and into overt sexual display. I wouldn't forbid it, but I find it tasteless and offputting.
Date:July 5th, 2008 10:34 pm (UTC)
You mean like my friend Lacey? ;-) But yeah, I can see both sides of the argument as well.
Date:July 5th, 2008 07:24 am (UTC)
But we're not the same as anyone else. We're as worthy as anyone else is of respect for our lifestyles... but we're not "just the same."

Some people dress flamboyantly in honor of the drag queens who fought for queer rights at Stonewall.

Some people do because it's another way of legitimizing being different.

Some people do 'cause it's one of the few days of the year where it's permissive to show one's full palette of expressive peacock colors, like Halloween or Mardi Gras. Like the song goes from Hair --

I would just like to say that it is my conviction
That longer hair and other flamboyant affectations
of appearance are nothing more
than the male's emergence from his drab camouflage
into the gaudy plumage
which is the birthright of his sex.

There is a peculiar notion that elegant plumage
And fine feathers are not proper for the male
When ac--- tually;
That is the way things are
in most species.

Some people dress provocatively because it's an expression of sex-positivity.

And, "blending in" doesn't really convince the homophobes not to hate us, anyway... so why bother blending in?
Date:July 5th, 2008 10:36 pm (UTC)
I loved Hair, played piano for it at my musical theater school back in high school. But I digress...

I feel sex-positively is good independent of whether the participants are gay, straight, or in-between. I tried to make the argument that straight culture gets away with sexually provocative displays in advertising, etc., all the time, but my mother didn't feel that was appropriate either...
Date:July 7th, 2008 03:29 am (UTC)
I tried to make the argument that straight culture gets away with sexually provocative displays in advertising, etc., all the time, but my mother didn't feel that was appropriate either...

Oh, my father also uses that excuse:

Him - "I don't think that couple should kiss in public, it's flaunting."
Me - "But straight people kiss in public all the time."
him - "Well, I don't think that's appropriate either!"

Sounds even-handed? It's not. The hypocrisy of it is... he never mentions out of the blue how inappropriate it is for straight people to kiss in public. The topic only seems to come up when it's gays doing the kissing.
Date:July 5th, 2008 07:33 am (UTC)
Huh. I thought only a few of us were dressed flamboyantly... certainly not me. Yes, we did have one woman in orange with an amazing strap-on and a man in a leather harness, and one woman wearing stickers as a bra. But that's it... I think the rest of us were relatively tame in attire.

Why? Because it's like the 4th of July. People are celebrating their freedom. Their freedom to not only be queer and out about being bisexual, but also about being sex positive, and also about being fun-loving outrageous people with spirit.

It isn't that they're trying to shock people or make others not take them seriously... it's that the general message is that too many people take too many things seriously and are easily offended, and in a space such as the Pride Parade, self-acceptance about being queer and it being not only okay but something that's celebrated... While there, it's only one step away to imagine that *other* things be celebrated and accepted as well, including sexual lifestyle or clothing/accessories which represent the ideas behind alternative sexual practices.

I'm not sure when or how such things began, but if you look back in time and do research on the Stonewall riots, that's how pride began, and the transvestites/drag queen community was very involved in that, and became even more exaggerated in their attire and self-expression after that event. Probably as a protest. Probably to also revolt against social norms that being a transvestite or gay or lesbian is something that one should very much be ashamed of, and go through great strides to hide, in order to appear heteronormative.

I think that your mother points something out that is an interesting point, and something that has been an issue of conflict within the LGBT community itself: The issue of just being the same as anyone else.

I think a lot of queer people want to be accepted as normal, and get accepted by the rest of society in their quest for legal gay marriage. And being able to adopt children. And being accepted by their churches. All that is fine. But not everyone in the queer community makes those choices. They want to make different choices. Maybe they want to have multiple partners they're committed to and no children and have no interest in church. Maybe they are different from others in the queer community and even get marginalised as a minority within a minority. So they end up having to make not the point of "we're just like you" but "we are different, and kinda out there, but we are harmless and fun-loving people who just want to be our different, not-like-you selves and have that be okay". At Pride, this is one of the few spaces they can risk doing that... they sure as hell aren't gonna do it at the Westboro Baptist Church or the Republican National Convention.
Date:July 5th, 2008 10:40 pm (UTC)
Right, I specifically mentioned that several of us, including you and Rich, were just wearing pretty ordinary clothes. (I really like this photo of you two, by the way, in case you haven't seen it.) And I thought Kinnari's stickers were very strategically placed! ;-)

In any case, I really like your sentence: "we are different, and kinda out there, but we are harmless and fun-loving people who just want to be our different, not-like-you selves and have that be okay". Excellent summation.
Date:July 5th, 2008 10:00 am (UTC)
My dad asked me a similar question (and that was before he saw pictures of me in my outfit), and I've been mulling it over. I think it's a few different things for me:

*I see Pride as a celebration of freedom: freedom to be myself and love who I please and live my life the way I want to, and dressing sexy and/or silly in a very public place is a way to express that freedom.

*I don't like the idea that we (for any value of 'we') should be accepted only when we look and act 'normal'; while it's certainly true that many/most people involved in any sort of queer or alternative lifestyle aren't that much different than straight or monogamous folks, looking and acting just like everyone else shouldn't be a requirement for being treated like human beings with equal rights.

*It's a freakin' parade, and the whole point of a parade is to get attention and celebrate and have fun, and dressing up is attention-getting and celebratory and fun. :)
Date:July 5th, 2008 10:43 pm (UTC)
Right - who would come watch a parade where everyone was just wearing their ordinary clothes anyway? The LGB group at my college tried to make a point by announcing that on a specific day, everyone who supported gay rights should wear blue jeans. It was an interesting gimmick but kind of backfired I think...
Date:July 5th, 2008 09:24 pm (UTC)
This sounds like a line from the classic Gay Assimilation versus Queer Liberation argument: http://queersunited.blogspot.com/2008/05/open-forum-queer-liberationist-or-gay.html

So the answer to your mom's question is pretty simple: We're not all assimilationists, nor (IMNSHO) should we all be.
Date:July 5th, 2008 10:44 pm (UTC)
Good article. I support people fitting into mainstream culture as much or as little as they want to, as long as it doesn't interfere with my life or my rights...
(no subject) - (Anonymous)
Date:July 9th, 2008 06:46 am (UTC)
I agree on the unfairness of having different rules for men and women. I have thought about going topless at this kind of event, but haven't quite gotten up the nerve yet...
Date:July 7th, 2008 09:12 pm (UTC)
I second the assimilation comment.

"Don't flaunt it" typically starts with clothing, but ends with us not being able to actually be queer. It's a losing game - no matter how nicely you dress, no matter how nicely you act, queer-phobes hate you for who you are. So, you're better off being yourself and flaunting it whenever possible.

Also, for many people, the way they dress is intimately tied up with who they are. I was wearing a skirt, which could be read as "flaunting it", except I wear skirts in my day-to-day life - it's part of my particular approach to gender.

Similarly, people wearing leather or PVC were making a statement about their lives as well, in many cases something to do with BDSM. Asking them to dress in different clothes is *really* asking them to be someone else.
Date:July 9th, 2008 06:48 am (UTC)
Good points. Interesting thing is my husband boyziggy wears skirts most days and my Mom doesn't seem to mind that... :-)
Date:July 7th, 2008 09:25 pm (UTC)

Token straight white male response

I think that there's a difference between dressing flamboyantly and dressing in tasteless sexually explicit attire (yes, I think that strap-ons and buttless chaps are tasteless when worn in public).

The Onion had a really funny article about "Gay Pride Parade Sets Cause of Gay Liberation Back 50 Years," with straights watching saying things like "I used to think that gays were just like you and me, but now I don't want them near my children." I wanted to march with the ACLU this year, and joked that as a marcher with the ACLU, I would probably be spared all the really extreme attire.

I know this isn't what you want to hear, but I agree, to a point, with your mom. While wearing "party clothes" (or, for drag queens and transvestites, cross-dressing in flamboyant opposite-sex clothing) is part of the event, a parade, as other posters have said, I don't think the near-nudity and fetish gear attracts people or advances queer liberation--it makes watchers think the marchers are weirdoes.

Again, my opinion only, and I realize it won't win me any friends. But you asked.
Date:July 9th, 2008 06:51 am (UTC)

Re: Token straight white male response

Well, some of the marchers are weirdos. ;-) The fetish gear turns me off somewhat too, to be honest, but then based on the crowds at Pride, it doesn't seem to be turning throngs of people away in this particular city...