“Pride is love, pride is respect for yourself.” – Aretha Franklin, “A Deeper Love”
You don’t have to be Gay or Lesbian to have pride, but you probably won’t see straight pride parades anytime soon.
“We haven’t seen a straight pride parade because the world is 90-something percent straight. They don’t have to have a pride, because that’s already the way it is,” said local musical talent Lucifers Axe when I spoke to him at this month’s Gay Guy Happy Hour (G2H2).
G2H2 is a monthly event that ‘provides Sarasota’s Gay professionals a different venue to network and socialize.’ I really enjoy G2H2 because I get a chance to chat with friends such as Lucifers Axe and his partner Mis Sadistic, an actor/director who appears frequently on the red carpet for roles in horror and thriller movies. This month I spoke to them about June’s designation as “GLBT Pride Month.” I asked them why it matters, and what the word “pride” means to a non-heterosexual, a member of the GLBTQ (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, or Queer) community.
“Pride matters because I came from a generation where Gay bars did not have a door; they had a door man. They had red lights inside and when the cops would come, barkeeps would flash the lights so the guys would separate and you wouldn’t get busted,” said Mis Sadistic. “If they caught you in drag — and I’ve been a big drag queen since way back when — they would wash your makeup off in a mop bucket.”
“High hopes we have for the future and our goal’s in sight.” – Sister Sledge, “We are Family”
That grim history is part of GLBTQ cultural memory, and it’s a reminder that the beneficiaries of today’s equal rights movement have activists from previous decades to thank for many of our recent accomplishments as a community struggling to be recognized as equals in society. Cindy Barnes, President of Sarasota Pride, says, “Pride was created after the Stonewall Riots. The month of June was designated as ‘Pride Month’ to celebrate and remember the history of the GLBTQ community.”
In Sarasota, our Pride celebration occurs in October because it’s very hot in June, and GLBTQ History Month is another important month for our communities to celebrate and recognize.
“Sarasota Pridefest is an opportunity to celebrate our community — both the GLBTQ and GLBTQ-friendly communities — an opportunity to enjoy a day of total freedom, to be who you are and to let all people see that the GLBTQ community is no different than the rest of the world,” Barnes says. “We are families; we are your doctors and nurses; we are your school teachers, and we do not have two heads. We are who you are: people getting up every day to go to work and provide for our families.”
“It’s important to take pride in who you are — there is nothing wrong with who you are,” Mis Sadistic says. “The ones that tell you there’s something wrong with who you are, they are the ones who have the issue. You have to forgive them for not being educated, and help them to understand. Anyone can have pride — teach them that.”
As Barnes points out about Sarasota Pridefest, “The majority of the attendees are of the GLBTQ community, but we also have a huge attendance from gay-friendly supporters. We have families with kids who come to enjoy a day OUT in the community being who and what they are.” Everyone is welcome at GLBTQ Pride events, and that diversity and inclusion is part of the spice of life and one of our great assets as a community.
“It’s the power that gives you the strength to survive — pride!” – Aretha Franklin, “A Deeper Love”
Pride events do sometimes get portrayed in the media as debaucherous excuses for a party, but when I asked Mis Sadistic if the stereotypes about GLBTQ pride events had any merit, the answer was clear: “There is no debauchery. And god, I would love to get laid the way they are all talking about in the media! It just doesn’t happen. We are out there — we know what goes on. Pride is serious, and it won’t change until everybody’s equal … then it can be a party! We don’t see the debauchery. We see people out there from all walks of our lifestyle, whether it’s leather people, drag people or Trans people, Lesbian people, Gay people, cross dressers. Everyone is out, everyone is the norm. Everyone has a good time, but there is a serious purpose to these types of events.”
“We definitely have a party — the GLBTQ community can party as no other — but if it ever becomes ‘just a party,’ then we will have lost our Pride and our purpose. People who do not get it will always see it as just a reason to have a party.” Barnes says. “If we had equal rights and were viewed as just another sector of the population, would we still have a party? Absolutely. We are celebrating the Stonewall Riots and where we have come since then. We do not have equal rights, so we will continue to fight the good fight.”
“Living life is fun and we’ve just begun to get our share.” – Sister Sledge, “We are Family”
“Pride is being able to be out there and be who you want and express your feelings, and in an open and free manner without judging,” Lucifers Axe says. “Every day we watch television and it’s 99.9% straight, but we accept it. We accept straight commercials, straight movies, straight books and magazines. They need to accept us in the same fashion. That’s what pride is to me: being able to do that and step out as equals.”
To learn more about why GLBTQ Pride Month is celebrated, I suggest watching the PBS documentary Stonewall Uprising (available free online!). Also, check out Sarasota Pridefest in October and visit St. Petersburg Pride on June 30 — look for me in the parade as I represent Step Out Sarasota and wave from the back of a convertible. The queen of England isn’t the only queen with an amazing wave and lots of Pride!