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.
And, this year’s Pride in the Park was the biggest celebration ever in northwestern Idaho. But we’re talking 7-800 people, which is about how many come through my town’s library parking lot on Pioneer Days. My point is, if you’re going to choose a pride event to disrupt, and you come from eleven different states across the entire west, is Coeur d’Alene, Idaho really the best you can do? Couldn’t you try maybe Austin? Portland? Or even Reno?
Moreover, if you’re so flippin’ brave that you’re going to “stick it to all the queers” and show them a thing or too in your riot gear with your smoke bombs, why are you covering your faces? Is it possible that you don’t have a thimbleful of pride compared with the people you’re targeting?
Thanks, Patriot Front. Thanks for the stark reminder that this is about visibility. Pride is exactly specifically about being SEEN being Proud. For all your desire to disrupt and take back, you can’t execute if you are unwilling to be SEEN.
Shout-out to the Idaho police that arrested these buffoons and the alert citizen who noticed 31 similarly-dressed and masked guys pouring out of a U-Haul with riot gear in a Walmart parking lot. And shout to Coeur d’Alene, too, for holding a successful Pride Event. Special shout because they have the best huckleberry milkshakes in the world!
Don’t Worry, Panda Dulce Didn’t Miss a Beat
The same day this past week, a bunch of yahoos here in my home town (or just across the border known as the freeway) decided to be the “A” Team and storm … the library. Our local Proud Boys decided to take on Drag Queen Story Hour at the San Lorenzo Library.
A little bit of history here. DQSH was created back in 2015 by San Franciscan activist Michelle Tea with the purpose of inspiring a love of reading while also acknowledging community diversity and appreciation of others. It has been opposed by anti-LGBTQ factions of the far-right community and has been the subject of protests and harassment since day one. But drag queens are kind of used to that level of ordinary anonymous trolling and rude shouts on the street. Meanwhile, moms and kids love it, and they’ve been able to expand the program to multiple states and have opened dozens of charters over the past seven years.
This particular set of local citizenry, the handful of Proud Boys who dared to take on drag queens and little kids of San Lorenzo, descended upon story hour and proceeded to shout ugly slogans and rude epithets like “pedophile” and “tranny” at Panda Dulce and the crowd. The police were called and the situation calmed down, although the public intimidation factor was high. Even after Panda left the room briefly to help settle everyone down, the men continued to scream at the librarian and parents and “flash white power hand gestures.”
The result of the attempted intimidation? Security and the police landed firmly on the side of the kids and the drag queen. Local law enforcement is considered charging the men with hate crimes. And Panda Dulce finished the reading: “The [Proud Boys] have obviously never met a drag queen, because drag queens don’t do obscurity. We’re not going to shrink back into the shadows simply because their myopic worldview fails to comprehend the diversity that is our world.”
Frankly, who do you actually find scarier? This?
Or these yahoos? Who do you think looks more like a pedophile?
Why We Keep Marching
I could say that I’m tired of having to do this marching thing. But I’m sure I would hear the same from #BLM, the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, the Anti-Defamation League etcetera etcetera etcetera. No time for a pity party here.
The first time I marched in a Pride Parade, in 1990, you could still get fired for being gay. Happened all the time. You could have your kids taken away. If you went camping with your same-sex partner, you might be murdered. Lesbian acquaintances of mine would have nasty slogans spray painted on their car. The remedy that we all learned was that there’s safety in numbers. Visibility was the cure to intimidation.
The second time I marched, when I was pregnant, my wife and I tried to have T-shirts made which said, “I’m Having Her Baby.” The T-shirt shop wouldn’t make them. We found someplace else.
You want to be brave? Brave isn’t showing up with 30 of your bro-dudes in khakis and face coverings to descend on to a park in a tiny town in Idaho. Brave is getting on a park stage there in Coeur d’Alene or Fresno or Apex, North Carolina, places that aren’t as welcoming to diversity as San Francisco, and telling your neighbors something about yourself that you know they aren’t going to like. But asking for their acceptance anyway.
Brave is coming out in a national magazine when it wasn’t trendy, when there were no LGBTQ people in films or media, when you could get fired for doing this. I hate this “deer in the headlights picture of me,” but I’m happy I did this Fortune article. Never looked back. Have your picture taken, you maroons, none of this standing in the shadows or with a bandanna over your face. Go big or go home I always say!
Brave is having a guy with an AK-47 T-shirt get in your face and call you the worst possible names, after receiving all the hate mail and trolls and death threats, and then coming back out and reading a story to kids with a big smile on your face. Anyway.
I’m getting too old to march, maybe. But if these motor-scooters keep trying to put our genie back in the bottle, then I’ll go find my rainbow suspenders and Love is Love shirt and get back out there. Because the whole point of Pride is to display, to be visible, precisely because people don’t like it. And the more they try to push us back, the more we have to be there.
It is the Land of the Free– to be You and Me– and the Home of the Brave–and there’s nothing braver in the good ol US of A than being proud to be exactly who you are.