I remember the first time I went to our local Pride. The boys and I drove up to the site seven years ago to find the place empty with a dozen trash containers sponsored by Astroglide. It has since grown from an afternoon event to a two-day extravaganza drawing a crowd over 14,000.
At first, I went as an ally. I wanted to support Alex and Max and have a little fun out of the house. Usually it was just a time to see some old friends and people watch. I was always a little nervous around the girls. I didn’t want to get hit on. I would often hide behind Alex or Max.
A few years ago, the organizers was able to secure RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant, Pandora Box. As huge fans of the show, the boys and I were stoked to see her. It was a moment that shifted Pride from being a place where this fringe group of eccentrics partied to an actual event.
Corporate sponsors began backing up the festival. Our local brewery brewed an exclusive beverage for the event. Food vendors started setting up shop, and families began to bring their children down.
Last year, I had come to terms with the realization that I was a lesbian shortly before Pride. Although I had gone several times, I was so nervous to go as a lesbian. I don’t know what I was so nervous about. Manilla Luzon, another one of RuPaul’s girls, came out to host our own local drag pageant. I decided that I had to go, but Max was busy at a musical rehearsal and Alex was in L.A.
I went by myself and texted Alex all through the show. I gave him short videos of the performances, updates on the costumes and music, and even scored a photo with Manilla, herself. I was convinced that Alex would wipe the floor if he were there. After the pageant, a band was set to perform but I began to get a little nervous. I left and came back with Max the next day.
We went from booth to booth. There was representation from AIDs organizations, health clinics, sex shops, churches, and some trinket vendors. I actually had a good conversation with a person from a Quaker church. Max told them I was a lesbian. It was the first time I had heard a third party say that to someone in my presence and it still felt odd.
This year, Alex was with me to see the drag pageant. Lady Bunny, a legendary queen, was the Master of Ceremonies. After you watch RuPaul’s Drag Race, your expectations for what a drag queen can do is elevated. Alex agreed with me that could definitely join the ranks of these other queens and quickly took mental notes of what was and wasn’t working.
I took in the crowd. I didn’t have the same anxiety as I did the year beforehand. I looked at the girls. Several of them looked like me, an overweight Girl Scout with a penchant for sweets. Still, there were several that fit other lesbian stereotypes or none at all. I felt in a way that I sort of fit in.
Alex determined that he wasn’t a “festival” person. He felt like he could be doing something more fun or productive somewhere else. Max and Alex reluctantly agreed to come back the next day with me. The only real reason we did was because I had bought us all two-day passes.
The next day, I felt a little different. I had only gone out the previous year with four or five girls, but two of them were present. One was particularly focused on following me around with her new girlfriend in tow. She told me while we were together that she wore a corset to the previous year’s Pride to make a girlfriend jealous. It was clear that she wanted to repeat the performance.
I was actually relieved to see her with another girl because it meant that she was hopefully over me. As I saw her and her girlfriend dressed up in matching boys clothes, I understood that we were never meant to be together. As much as I was over her, they must have followed me for an hour.
Again, I stayed close to my boys. Manilla Luzon was back for the second year in a row. Alex enjoyed getting to see her live. The last band of the night was an Abba tribute band. All three of us were fans of the music. In order to last long enough to see them, I went to buy us some corn dogs.
On my way to the food court, I was stopped by the last girl I had a date with. We had a lot in common, but our date went sour when she convinced me to leave a coffee joint to join some board meeting for a local gay hippie theater group. I felt really uncomfortable and started to resent the fact that she had obviously forgotten her commitment to go to the meeting and thought she could do both. She said hello and we bantered for a few minutes. I was uncomfortable and made an excuse to get going as soon as I could.
With a snack in our system, the boys and I were able to enjoy the music. We danced and took video. Alex even caught two freebies thrown from the stage, a little stuffed tiger, and a CD.
Like Alex, I am probably not a “festival” person. I don’t know what I wanted to feel while I was there. Was I hoping that I would find someone to date? Often, I go to a lot of these festivals out of boredom. I thought if everyone else was there, maybe I should be too. Alex and Max don’t need a festival to feel comfortable with their sexuality or their choices. Even though they are gay, they don’t always feel like they need to be plugged into the “community.”
I don’t know where I am in the whole scheme of things. I am more comfortable with who I am, but is that because of events like Pride and positive portrayals of gays in the media? Honestly, I think it is just because I trust in the love and guidance of my boys. Maybe we don’t need to seek support from such events. I think the boys have taught me that you need to search for what is right for you and release all the boxes or categories someone might pin you in.
Still, I am proud of the event my city has created. I am proud that so many people were willing to attend it. And if nothing else, maybe it is just what someone needed to come to terms with how to be themselves.