So much irony! They came in matching shirts and hats. They brought special effects to liven up their display. They came from far around to gather and display their pride–they brought trucks, to pull floats perhaps? There was a U-Haul, which is ironic given that old LGBTQ U-Haul joke… They even wore bandanas! I’ll bet they played music on the road… what kind of music do you play, when you’re a white supremacist traveling to Idaho from Texas? Is there Neo Nazi death metal country western?
There was a second group, too, that chose this Pride month, this month that marks a history to commemorate a riot. The original spark for June to be Pride month was the Stonewall riot in June of 1969, when a group of spunky drag queens (that’s probably redundant) stood up to the cops and decided not to put up with the abuse any more. How ironic that this new group of Proud Boys chose to be disruptive! Although instead of standing up to oppression this time they decided to be oppressive–to harass a bunch of little kids at a library story hour.
Land of the Free and the Home of the Chickensh*t
You’ve probably read by now about the U-Haul full of good ol’ boys that drove up to Idaho. This group, which called itself the Patriot Front, wore matching outfits and had apparently come from eleven different states. Their aim was to disrupt a Pride in the Park event in the booming metropolis of Coeur d’Alene.
Have you ever been to Coeur d’Alene? It’s a town of 50,000 people, which is to say slightly larger than my little northern California village, Castro Valley. Three freeway stops and a Petco. Coeur d’Alene does happen to be the only population center across a large rural area. So it’s probably the “big city” to the locals.
We are a few days away from Opening Ceremonies, stumbling and bumbling our way into a Games postponed a year and now without live spectators. But the athletes have waited and trained and practiced and now it’s Their Time.
There will be some changes for Tokyo 2020, not the least of which will be boxes of face masks and gallons of hand sanitizer. It’s not even really weird that the year these contests are being held is not the year they will be named (Wha? Not Tokyo 2021? Nope).
Consider that the Games of the VI Olympiad were in Berlin, in 1916. Didn’t know about those? They were cancelled because of World War I, but the IOC kept them in the official list. Whereas the IOC didn’t include the 1906 Games in Athens, which are now called the Intercalated Games, because the IOC didn’t run them. Whenever you wonder why the IOC is doing something out-of-touch with reality, just remember the VI Olympiad.
But these changes are exciting, so let’s discuss. Let’s talk about some of the new sports, the new Mixed Teams, and the new peoples we will see competing.
As 2019 is the 50th anniversary of Stonewall and the 49th anniversary of the San Francisco LGBT Pride March, this seems the perfect essay topic to round out the month of June. It’s also the 30th anniversary of the first time I marched in pride, the 26th year since I was at the 1993 Million Queer March in Washington D.C., and the 7th year since the last time I did that slow walk down the mile or so on Market Street in June, tweeting on a whistle, waving my rainbow flag, and wishing I could sit down soon.
American Pride, American Anti-Pride
Our unique cultural history is full of expressions of pride and also full of disapproval. After all, some of the original European settlers were Puritans, “thrown out of every decent country in Europe,” as Bill Murray says in Stripes. Puritans were excessively anti, weren’t they? Plus the Catholics. Pride is the first and, therefore, worst deadly sin. Being proud in some religious interpretations meant you were unwilling to surrender–theoretically to a higher power–but logistically to the control of the straight white man standing on the pulpit.
It’s always seemed a bit ironic that the Puritans were seeking religious tolerance in the New World so that they could practice their religious intolerance, but we’ll let history sort that part out. Certainly, the New World liked the tolerance part of it and established that clear separation in government between church and state, which started to let different attitudes about sinning and behavior–including pride–blossom throughout society. When the writer of the Declaration of Independence becomes a Deist, fire and brimstone speeches naturally become less popular.
The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.
Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia
At the same time, these new Americans in 1776 were ecstatic about the nation they were bringing into being. John Adams wanted “pomp and parade” and fireworks, and the United States has celebrated just so for centuries now. Americans love to revel in their pride of country on July 4th, now replete with parades and festivals. It’s coincidental that the holiday comes right after LGBT Pride Month, but great that we can continue the celebratory spirit.