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Pride Protestors

Yeah, I know I talk about Pride Fest a lot, but it’s coming up soon, and if you can’t tell, I’m kind of jazzed about it. Now that we are on the same page, in case you were unsure of this before, let’s talk about the strange phenomena of people coming out to protest thousands of people celebrating together in the joyous harmony of self empowerment. Seriously, what’s up with that?

Last year as we stood around waiting for the parade to begin, my friend’s spouse came up to me and suggested we take a short walk and check out the other floats. After a little bit, she stopped me and said, “Michelle, there is something I need to warn you about…” Just great. I have probably been walking around all morning with the hem of my skirt tucked into my pantyhose. No, phew, that wasn’t it. “During the parade there are probably going to some groups of people shouting some really mean things, so I wanted to warn you so you aren’t surprised and have hurt feelings.” Can you believe how sweet that was? Really, I wanted to hug her on the spot it was so nice when she barely knew me and was already looking out for me. I assured her I would be just fine.

Sure enough, my side of the float passed by two small groups of people, with cardboard signs and nasty writing, plus megaphones for shouting out biblical verses and whatnot. Funny enough, they all looked like people one would naturally assume are in the hand painted sign and amplified ranting business. I was really tempted to jump off the float and dump some change in the hat I assumed they had in front of them. If anyone looked like they really needed a beer, it was these guys. Unfortunately, I was wearing the exact wrong shoes for vaulting off a moving vehicle, so reconciled myself to waving at them cheerfully and enthusiastically. Mooning would have also been fun, but that one guy who had been following the float from the get go and looked way, way too excited to see us was still there. He still had film left, even though I saw him reload his old timey camera like six times already.

I tried to get into the heads of these protesters and failed miserably. Clearly this wasn’t some kind of impromptu thing. They must have had the date and time marked on their calendars. They stayed up late the night before with their little pots of paint and repurposed sides of appliance boxes, using their open King James to make sure they got the wording and spelling just right-ish. That morning they woke up, loaded their cars up with the signs, hopefully dry by now, put fresh batteries in the megaphones, made sure they had some good zingers of quotes memorized right, found parking a mile away from the parade route, and set up early enough on a clear patch of sidewalk. Lots of time, energy, and even some cash just to… what?  Shout helplessly into the din of Gaga on every speaker? Hoping to get on the news? Receive a hand signed note of approval from that jackass Phelps? The reasoning is beyond my comprehension.

We can guess that this is something they feel Jesus wanted them to do, even though he didn’t have a big rep for razzing people from the sidelines. Even if this had a heavenly driver, I’d have to wonder what the big guy was thinking in the first place. I mean Pride Fest? I don’t think I saw many people there who looked even a smidge unsure of themselves. The tee shirts printed with ‘I Dunno, Can I Hear Both Some Gay and Super Duper Ultra Conservative Options Please?’ were pretty cold sellers. Buffalo isn’t exactly backwoods, so I imagine everyone in attendance was well aware already of the really crabby god these hucksters were flinging about willy nilly. I’m also guessing this wasn’t a onetime deal for them either, so I would think expectations could not have been good. You don’t have to be Einstein to know that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results. And there you have it. Insane in the membrane. Case closed!

This year I think I’ll print up my own pamphlet to hand out to them. ‘You And Your Crabby God: 11 Ways To Please Him At Home (Not Here)’ I think they’ll like it.

A Blushing Bride of PRIDE

Does the whole concept of Pride ever strike anyone else as rather odd? Naturally I’m talking about LGBTQ Pride, and not your everyday kind of humdrum pride gotten from remembering to lug out the trash on garbage day or stopping yourself from eating your roommates’ leftover pirogues. Don’t get me wrong, I’m totally swept up in it all and actually had the Buffalo Pride Fest weekend surpass my love of Christmas in terms of anticipation and overall enjoyment. I wear my colors with a great swelling in my bosom, but here and there I have to stop and think, “wait Michelle, what are you actually proud of?”

I think the whole Gay Pride movement began shortly after the epic Stonewall riots back in the 60’s that counter intuitively did not feature fighting for either side by Gen ‘Stonewall’ Jackson. It would have been nice if he could have stood with our camp, but nevertheless. The idea, if I understand correctly (dubious given my previous statement), is that one should have pride in their sexual identity and gender expression. Both are inherent to a person at the core, unchangeable, and therefore the opposite of ‘shame’ should apply to any feeling regarding this. I can dig that, certainly. I don’t feel any shame in my gender identity, even though it means I’m transitioning into a less empowered class.

What makes me wonder though if ‘pride’ is the right expression is that I didn’t actually do anything to be born this way? That’s really it. I see tee shirts all the time that say things like ‘Proud to be Irish’ or even for some reason ‘Proud to be Polish’ and shake my head. What is there to be proud of? That your ancestors through a zany chain of mishaps, invasions, and forced relocations found their way to someplace the stronger tribes didn’t want, slaughtered or absorbed the indigenous populations, and were randy enough to produce descendants? Yay them, but what the hell did you do? If you are here in America, you don’t even live there anymore. All kind of baffling.

I do have pride in being transgender, but also recognize I didn’t really contribute much to my own state of being. I survived, sure, but I get to feel proud of that on my birthday when everyone acknowledges that I somehow managed to not die in the past year. I’m kind of proud about transitioning, but as we discussed many times in the past, it was kind of a necessity, like jumping off a burning boat, so again, I can’t take a whole lot of credit there, even if I’m like a cat water and deathly afraid of sharks.

Yes, yes, you all know I’m eventually going to get to the point, so here it is. We need to be proud because we have opposition. Without opposition, we could just go about saying, “I’m basically OK, in a status quo kind of way”. Because we have sizable groups of people dedicated to denying us rights, denying our basic existence, and even wishing to deny us the right to continue breathing, we have to express something stronger about the whole thing. Blasé indifference could easily be misconstrued as a passive means of admitting we are wrong for who we are. We simply can’t have that.

I suppose another positive adjective would have worked just as well – exuberant, munificent, supercalifragilisticexpialidocious – but pride is probably the best choice. We all stand a reasonable chance of spelling it correctly, and I also like the fact that it’s personal. When we talk pride, we talk about ourselves and ourselves only without putting anything on anyone else. We don’t need society to be proud of us; all we need is to recognize that we exist, we matter, and frankly we are pretty freaking awesome.

So, as June finally rolls around in Buffalo, and Pride Fest blooms again, I’ll be out there and hopefully so will you. If you can show your pride at Dingus Day, an obscure festival that involves getting whupped with pussy willow branches, this should be a no brainer.

Dawn of the Day

OK, I know this sounds like it’s about zombies, but seriously, it’s not. I’m talking about that very first magical time we step out the front door, out get out of the car, in broad daylight just like real people do every day. Yes, I do mean dressed gender appropriate. Those of you in the trans community know what I’m talking about, or at least plan to sometime I would imagine. Since this is kind of a one way forum, I’ll begin by sharing my own tale of terror and how I somehow did not burst into flames of have a mob of spun up villagers chase me with pitch forks. Really, I told you, this is not about zombies!

In earlier, much more confused days, I used to take walks in the wee hours of the morning when no one sane was awake. It was good to get out of the house as myself and found the experience invigorating, even if the chance that I would encounter another human being was next to nil. I was still well in “this is something I feel I need to do for some reason but it doesn’t mean anything” land, and many, many moons from “this is who I am” space. Our awkwardly painful trans adolescences can span decades. At the time I could scarcely imagine making my way though crowds in downtown Buffalo, or nipping into Tops to replace the rutabaga the dog got to first. Had I any inkling those exact things lay ahead, I would have dramatically uttered “the horror, the horror!” and quickly expired.

Last summer my time came around at last. Sure, I had been to a few Belles and Spectrum meetings already, but they started after dark and I was able to park right nearby. In early June Pride rolled around and I had volunteered to ride the Spectrum float in the parade; an event that started at high noon. I didn’t have anyone to go with, my friendships with the other members still in the nascent stages, to whom I was still “that other Michelle or something”. I got in the car, drove downtown and parked on some random side street; something that would haunt me later that day, but not because there are zombies there.

OK, I have to come clean before everyone starts cooing, “Ooooo! You’re so brave!” and all. Dropping myself off in the middle of a Pride fest, I could not have picked a safer location. I was nervous anyway, partially because there was a big empty spot where the Spectrum float was supposed to be. I stood fidgeting amongst the twinks, bears, and hoards of teen dykes, standing out like a sore thumb. I was dressed waaay too conservative in a black dress and pantyhose, plus was still under the impression that shellacking on pounds of Maybelline foundation looked good. A woman came up to me out of nowhere and launched into a conversation about both her recent marriage and the whole history of the Buffalo trans movement, something I was grateful for, even though I had no idea who she was or how she was able to tell (seriously) that I was trans.

It turned out to be an immensely empowering day all things considered. The float and friends showed up soon and I had a dilly of a time whooping it up on the float with my girls. It did occur to me that riding a float right past the Channel 4 news camera covering the event might not be so wise considering I was still out to less than 5 people. It was OK though. I had on shades that the Olsen twins would consider way too big hiding 75% of my face. It felt really, really good to be alive and under the sun.

Trying to get home, well, that was a bit scarier. My finely detailed planning ability didn’t account for the parade taking me miles and miles away from my car, leaving me to wait until the festivities were over to catch a ride back. I probably could have walked, but the people I considered allies were all clustered around the waterfront and would not be there to protect me. Plus, I wore the exact wrong shoes that were already cutting into my instep. Braving the certain gauntlet of roving gay bashers in bad shoes did not seem like something I wanted to do, but did so anyway due to a clerical error. After waiting for my ride, I had myself dropped off over a mile still from my car. Someone misremembered of the side street name.

Oh and what a gauntlet it was! Keeping a brisk pace as my shoes filled with blood, I was assaulted with half disinterested glances and head turns as I blazed down Elmwood, occasionally ducking down one of the plethora of ‘L’ named side streets in case my car was there. Sheer and utter brutality! Somehow, in spite of the callow disinterest in my existence, as well as a dearth of zombies, I made it back to the car. Phew! Turning down my street, however, I encountered the old lady who’s always walking her dog giving me a big dose of the hairy eyeball as I dashed from my car into the garage. So much for months of peering out the front window for the exact right moment to leave so the neighbors didn’t see.

Mild tribulations and all, it was an incredible feeling breaking the seal like that. I have to smile looking back on it now. My long held belief that the world would crumble or trumpets would blast from the heavens just because I let my true self be seen were dashed. It’s proven to be a much friendlier world out there than I anticipated, aside from some occasional mild awkwardness like a waitress cleaning the same table three times just to get a better look at me. And of course, still no zombies.

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