Taking pride in Pride: Here's what it means to be an ally
Settling in to write about my feelings on this year's Denver PrideFest, I was interrupted by a text message from my friend David, a grown man I lovingly refer to as Liza, my "gay husband." His texts, like his real life persona, are always worth my undivided attention: He thinks like Hillary Clinton, speaks with the conviction of Julia Sugarbaker and does better impressions than Carol Burnett.
The text was a link to an op-ed on dudes who date dudes who look like them -- "Why Do So Many of Us Date Our Clones?" -- along with a note from Liza himself that read, "This is something we have both seen, and I know how much you love reading about gay shit."
He was right -- I love reading about gay shit. I love watching gay shit, immersing myself in gay shit, listening to gay shit and unabashedly supporting gay shit. I have loved gay shit since before I knew what it meant to be an ally, long before I even acknowledged the idea of feminism as a necessary reality. I have a vested interest in gay shit because I think, as humans, we are all entitled to the same shit -- gay, straight and every degree of orientation between.
As a kid, I didn't know anyone who was "openly" gay. Even in high school in the '90s, there weren't many kids willing to be that open yet; as a very straight person shoved into her locker by kids who hatefully labeled me a "lesbian" (to no harmful avail, as I didn't see the term as a slur), I couldn't blame anyone for not wanting to be fully themselves.
But I also grew up surrounded by liberal adults, a child who loved John Waters films and Pee Wee's Playhouse, a House of Style junkie who received information from the golden era of MTV News, as it reported on the post-height of the AIDS crisis and pushed the heavily musician-backed campaigns for safe sex.
These are the pop culture-connected things that I attribute to my young-ish desire to be an ally -- but in reality, I don't think any of that matters. The mountain of surface interest I have in what Liza calls "gay shit" is part of it, I suppose, but I think my motive to support stems from the complexity-lacking notion that we are all people who deserve equality on all levels.
We don't have to "know" someone who is queer in any capacity to want basic human rights. In the not-so distant future, I don't think a label like "ally" will even be necessary, because we're evolving socially every single day. Though the idea of queer culture is hardly new, it is more ubiquitous than ever; Pride celebrations will probably never become obsolete, but perhaps morph into an even more unifying celebration of people who care about other people.
This year's Denver PrideFest theme is "Focus on the Families," which I love for many reasons -- but mostly because it flips the script on that scary entity in Colorado Springs with a similar name. As evidenced by the "Focus On Your Own Damn Family" bumper stickers still found on Colorado cars, we've been in on the joke for a long time.
But now, in light of the recent civil unions measure passing, we get to celebrate the idea of actually focusing on all families, as family rights are getting their due time in the legislative spotlight. When we recognize people as people, the focus shifts away from the arbitrary ideas around sex and sexual orientation and turns toward the level playing field we're all entitled to.
I understand that PrideFest isn't for everybody; many of my friends -- queer and straight -- don't like or desire to participate in the weekend of activities for a variety of reasons. But as we approach Denver's upcoming celebration of equality, I think it is important to look at what you value in people. I know that my love of gay shit comes from loving people enough to support them being themselves. So here's to you, and here's to the word "ally" eventually dissolving completely, and everybody being able to just be.