Friday, June 4, 2010

It's Ok To Be Me (Even if I'm a Drag Queen)! - QueerBomb.

It's hard to write this post without getting gossipy.  Because there's an (awesome-sounding) party tonight that is, in fact, born out of a very real controversy. A controversy here in Austin.

So Austin Pride is this weekend, hosted by The Austin Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. It is a two-day event with some MONEY and some extremely well-selected entertainment (Mario Cantone, haaay!) behind it.  This is the 8th year of the festival, and may I just say that after living north of the Bay Area for two years in California, and losing my "Pride virginity" in Los Angeles of all places roughly four years ago with my gay besties, I was thrilled to move back to Austin and see that it HAD a Pride. My little Austin!

However, the official line from Austin Pride is that it is "family-friendly." I.e., no assless chaps. And the subversive, carnivalian, perhaps shocking forms of dress and behavior that come with an assless-chaps-embracing community.

The goal of Austin Pride - again, from organizers - is to be educational, to not alienate, to not scare anybody.

Which I can understand ... sort of. Ross and I were talking about this in the car the other day, and he said: "Well I see their point. They want to be taken seriously."

But that's just the thing. The standards that define "serious" and "silly" in our culture are shaped by heteronormative rules.

(And friends, at SF and Los Angeles Pride, you witness those rules being gleefully broken.  Even though I'm not gay, or a man - though I've sometimes wondered if I might be a sweet gay man inside a woman's body? - that wild anything-goes spirit gives way to some exhilarating celebration. I enjoyed the longest dance party of my entire life at a Paramount Studios back lot that year in LA, a vast sea of shirtless and sweaty pectorals, with me, blond Tolly, happily bobbing away in the center of it.)

"But I know several serious drag queens!" I retorted, to Ross. Which is a lie. All the drag queens I've ever seen, in my life, are hysterical broads. They want to make you laugh.

You're laughing because you begin to see what a made-up thing gender is, where hormones and nature-bequeathed DNA strands stop, and social constructions take over.

Anyway, without getting too off-topic here, a group of queer activists in Austin have organized a "counter-Pride" march and party for tonight: QueerBomb. The idea is to celebrate queer culture in ALL its diverse, eye-popping glory, which I think is AWESOME. 

For context, I give you some Pride background by the Austin Chronicle's Kate Getty, in an analysis she wrote back in 2008:

"The concept of Pride originated out of a riot in Greenwich Village, New York City, June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn to be exact, a speakeasy gay bar. After the events of that fateful evening, Stonewall became known as the place where, for the first time, gays, lesbians, drag queens, and those deemed "different" stood up to the oppression they regularly faced. In 1969, even the simple acts of same-sex dancing and canoodling were enough for search, seizure, and a nice beat-down. Police would raid gay bars on the regular. Queers were sick and disgusting and an easy target. But on that June night, after a day of laying beloved icon Judy Garland to rest, those angry Stonewall patrons pushed back in revolt. The event is cited as the beginning of the modern American LGBT movement. In honor of Stonewall, most communities celebrate Gay Pride in June with locally sanctioned celebrations without the threat of being beaten bloody, thrown into jail or a mental institution, or just plain killed dead."

Kate Messer's also has an article in this week's Chronicle, about QueerBomb, here.

Republic of Austin's Chris Apollo Lynn's insightful, personal post about QueerBomb is here.

And now, I give you tonight's QueerBomb details!:

MARCH: Friday, June 4, 8:30pm (details below)
PARTY: Immediately following march at Independent Studios (501 Studios)
FEATURING: Little Stolen Moments, Christeene, Kings & Things, DJ Jay Jay Booya and DJ Chelsea Starr (of Hot Pants Party fame)

The march will leave from The Independent and march down 6th, looping back up 7th for the party. Outrageous, gender-bending dress is encouraged.

In the words of one of my buddies (and a QueerBomb ring leader), "let's all look like Xanadu vomited on Sid & Nancy, mmkay?"

(PS: What are YOUR thoughts on Austin Pride and QueerBomb? Would love to hear how you all feel about any and all of it, no matter where you stand. Truly I am trying to take a nuanced viewpoint myself).


Austin Eavesdropper said...

I admittedly wrote this post before coffee, with a TON of typos in it. Sorry guys if you read this while it only halfway made sense.

Heather Howell said...

SLC's Pride is this weekend as well. I'll be moving to Austin in September and can't wait to see Austin Pride next year! My little sister is a lesbian and I have many "gay besties" as you put it. I wish we had QueerBomb here!!

Alex said...

i am in favor of both the family-friendly celebration as well as the eye-poppppppping gLeeful celebration; i definitely think both have their place.

having lived the last several years in highly conservative places (which also have PRIDE celebrations - take Bismarck, ND of all places! ZOMG!) that have the eye-poppoppopppppping celebrations that fully embrace (or don't?) assless chaps (can you be embraced by an assless chap? do you see where i'm going here? it's totally missing the embrassing ... anyway ...), i can see that even in the most closed minded, conservative places they have had super successful PRIDE celebrations - even if they may be small.

that said, if there's any way that the LGBT community can continue to educate an inoculate folks who may be less familiar (read: comfortable) with LGBT issues, and that means having a "family-friendly" PRIDE event, then more power to them. i think the two events in Austin should complement each other ...

Digital Aaron said...

Excellent insight. Thanks for covering this. Pride shouldn't be political!

David said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David said...

Listen to the beginning of Episode 189 of Dan Savage's podcast:
He makes the case for exactly what's going down here. I'm pretty indifferent to the drama that sparked this thing. QueerBomb is here and it's here to stay. Pride committees everywhere need to take note if they want to embrace this, otherwise QueerBomb can and should go viral on its own.

Hipstercrite said...

I will be there!

Rachel said...

I see both sides here (I think... it was hard to glean much from that Chron article which, as usual, is so close to the story that they fail to aptly explain anything at all) but I'm going to have to side with the more normative and sanitized parade. I have absolutely no problem with fist shaped butt plugs and assless chap, if that's your thing, go for it. But it has a place and I don't think that place is on the streets of Austin. A pride parade can be a great experience for a child, to see families with two moms or a woman who looks a little tall and..different...that's a good thing and a great opportunity to open that discussion between people and with children. But children and families don't need to be exposed to some of the hypersexuality that is often injected into these parades. Gay people are more than just what happens between the sheets and that's why I think that the parade, which is a community event, should show that. Gay pride week is a whole damn week, there are plenty of times for sweaty shirtless nights at Rain, twinky gogo boys tossing rubbers and trannies making dick jokes, but I think the parade needs to be family friendly.

Frank J. Rivera said...

Tolly, you're the awesome-est. If there was an Academy Award for Awesome & you didn't have to be in a movie to get it, you'd totally have 12 of them. Meryl Streep would be envious of your statue count.

Jeff said...

Yay for "dance injuries" at L.A. Pride!! And as one of the said gay bessties, who has been to many a Pride in many a city, I think the QueerBomb idea is great! Pride was first and foremost a day to feel liberated and be who you are without judgement. We can spend the other 364 days of the year "educating."

Jon said...

As the other "gay bestie" (and non-shirtless pointing guy in that pic [memories!]), I--also diplomatically--can see both sides.

For me, the high camp of Pride has always been a not-so-subtle middle finger to the oppressive gender norms placed on all of us. A reclaimation celebration! And whereas a throbbing, shirtless sea of men in a back lot studio in Hollywood can be viewed through so many telescopes (mine was manufactured by Irony, Inc.), at the end of the day: IT'S A PARTY. HAVE A DRINK, STFU, AND DANCE!

But, I can also appreciate the clipboard-wielding, Equality Now button-sporting masses that use the opportunity for education. "Family-friendly" can be a tricky term. Mostly because its subtext often stinks of the implicit martyrdom of "I'm-going-to-try-to-judge-you-less-in-spite-of-your-difference" vs. "I'm-going-to-accept-you-as-you-are."

Hey, we're the LGBT community. Spend this much time at the margins and you start to realize something: we, by our very nature, embrace everyone.

Now let's dance.

Austin Eavesdropper said...

I love my friends SO fucking much.

Jon and Jeff! I want to (as always) clutch you to my bosom and never let go!!

@Alex - While captivated by your response in general, I was especially tickled by the "assless chap embracing" catch-22 road you started down in your comment...I was right beside you on that road, giggling all the way. :)

@Rachel - I am so glad you weighed in here. Especially since you've been in Austin since the beginning of our city's own Pride, and have watched the different sects of our gay community congeal, unite, fight with each other, and party with each other.

I have more to say but am going to pause for now; my brain stopped working about an hour ago.

Claire said...

Can I just say that I love that Austin has a counter-Pride party to complement a Pride parade! I would dance with Jon at BOTH venues.


Maybe it's a little stuffy that the original organizers insisted on a staid, safe parade, but now y'all get the best of both worlds. Maybe next year there can be a transition between the parade and the more glorious after-party with the "Dykes on Bikes" motorcade? YES!