One of the privileges that able-bodied, straight, cis, white men like myself can enjoy, and need to combat in our own heads, is the idea that things are always getting better. I remember naively allowing myself to believe, when President Obama was elected, that racism was going through its final death spasms in this country. “A couple more generations and it’ll cease to exist,” I remember thinking, with certifiable stupidity.
Because look what happened. The presence of a Black man in the White House apparently emboldened the racists. It gave them a new cause. And it wasn’t just the old farts spouting crap about immigration and replacement theory. There was a whole new breed of fascists in the halls of Congress, on the news, and on the streets. It’s fucking gross. I was surprised at first because I could be. Many people of color weren’t surprised at all because they live this shit.
Ditto the LGBTQ+ community. I wanted to write a Pride column two weeks ago, and maybe one before that as a preview, but kids had been shot in school, Roe v. Wade is under threat — shit has been diabolical. But that’s not to undermine and downplay in any way the fact that homophobia and transphobia are very much still things in this country and around the world. Don’t let the Pride parades and gay celebrities keep your heads in the sand. Because, like Obama’s presidency, those things only serve to embolden the ’phobes.
Want proof? Because it can be healthy to know your enemy. Check out the social media posts from any sports franchise celebrating Pride Month, and then scroll through the comments. To paraphrase Star Wars, “You’ll never find a more wretched hive of scum.”
But it’s not just the opinions of sports fans that we should be concerned about — Republican lawmakers are continuing to make life as difficult as possible for gay and trans people. On the day that I write this, June 20, the Texas GOP has adopted a platform that, as well as rejecting the results of the 2020 election, contains a section entitled “Homosexuality: An Abnormal Lifestyle Choice.” It opposes “all efforts to validate transgender identity.”
Meanwhile, the same reasoning within the Supreme Court ranks that could see them overturn Roe v. Wade could also see them delegitimize gay marriage on a federal level. Make no mistake, evil is at the very, very top in this country. She might be a fucking wingnut but Marjorie Taylor Greene remains a Member of Congress and it’s only been a year since she openly mocked the trans child of fellow Member of Congress Marie Newman. These people are unimaginably cruel and vile.
So that’s where we are. Any thoughts that homophobia and transphobia are dying out are swiftly, scarily extinguished by a look at our leaders, and the occasional social media post. There might be more people willing to stand up for the LGBTQ+ community and call out bigotry, but that also serves to embolden hate. It’s a shitty circle. “I have the right to my beliefs,” say the ’phobes, ignoring the fact that their “beliefs” hold people down.
It’s not intolerant to not tolerate intolerance.
We can be positive too. I spoke with LA alt-pop star Zolita prior to her performance at LA Pride alongside Christina Aguilera and she said, “It’s my hometown and I can’t believe that I’m playing the main stage. I’m super, super excited. All of my friends and family will be there. LA Pride is actually the first Pride I ever went to, in 2012. I was a senior in high school, and I was still in the closet and went as an ally. I knew that I was queer, and the feeling of being there was so much excitement, that I was going to be entering that community. So much love. A Pride crowd is always the best one, so I’m really looking forward to it.”
There is, at least, much in the way of gay representation in entertainment. Back in 2017, Jon Ginoli of queercore band Pansy Division told me, “One of the reasons I started the band was that I just didn’t see any gay bands. There were a few gay people who were out in music and a lot more who were rumored. But at the time we started, I hadn’t been looking to start this band — I had been waiting for one to come along. When it didn’t, that was the impetus to start the band. The only way I’m going to hear what I want to hear the way I want to hear it is to do it myself. When we appeared, a few other bands appeared right about the same time. It seems like the evolution of acceptance of gay people in our society had evolved to the point where a whole bunch of people had similar ideas and acted on them at about the same time, which was the end of the 1980s and beginning of the ’90s, when there really weren’t gay musicians out, at least in rock ’n’ roll.”
Since then, things have opened up somewhat. Artists don’t have to keep quiet about their sexuality, as the likes of Elton John, Freddie Mercury, George Michael, even Boy George had to in the ’80s and prior. Now, they can fly their queer flag and not fear career repercussions. But not everyone, in every career, in every part of the country and world, is as fortunate.
So yeah, Pride is still a vital event. As is Juneteenth, which has literally just passed too. There’s still so much work to do.