Sunday, September 4, 2022

I Used to Be With It...

Going to Gay Pride Duluth made me feel like Grandpa Simpson.

Mark and I have been together for 35 years now. so you would think our "Gay Cred" would be all charged up.  Think Again.  Somewhere along the way, they changed was Gay was, and now we don't seem to fit in, anymore.

We didn't realize that this was "Gay Pride Weekend" in Duluth (just Labor Day) when we booked our stay here.  But we thought, what the heck, we'll check it out.  Well, it seems we've once again been turned into a marketing demographic - a demographic we are no longer part of, as we don't spend money like 20-somethings anymore.  No one markets to our demographic except the AARP.

Duluth Gay Pride was held at a downtown park, and it was interesting to see.  They had a line of food trucks, but no beer tent (perhaps that was available at the rap concert that night - we didn't go to that).  Wisconsin brats - with soda-pop?  No thank you.

So we moved on to the "vendor tents" and expected to see at least some crafts and art for sale by local artists.  There were two - out of 100 tents.  The rest were corporations - insurance companies and hospitals, mostly - giving away free "pride" merchandise with their logos on it.  They wanted us to know they were gay-friendly the next time we opened our wallets.  Since we don't open our wallets anymore, I guess they weren't interested in us so much.

A few tents sold "Pride Merchandise" such as flags and t-shirts and whatnot, all emblazoned with rainbow colors or the weird new colors of the trans flag and the dozens of other flags whose colors I don't understand.  You need a decoder ring for this stuff.   Of course, it was all cheaply made merchandise from China and the distinction between this and a MAGA rally seemed pretty thin - same shit, different logos, different politics.

Now, maybe it was because we were there in the afternoon (we don't stay up late anymore, and staying up late to listen to rap or EDM doesn't appeal to us - we're old and deaf already!) but what was really weird were all the kids there - and by kids, I mean children under the age of 15.  Oddly enough, the only demographic missing (other than old people like us) were teenagers.  It seemed that everyone there was a 30- or 40-something parent with their kids.  And the kids were all running around wearing "pride" flags as capes, or wearing rainbow-colored tutus or other pride gear.  I got the impression these kids just thought it was a fun day out, with rainbow colors.  They even had a children's activity area.

Maybe this is the new norm, and I am not "with it"anymore - I strongly suggest this is the case.  But back in my day (Grandpa Simpson) these gay pride events were mostly for adults.  In fact, it was something of a touchy issue back then, as the NAMBLA people tried to march in New York (and other cities) and it generated "bad visuals" for the movement.  The only children you saw were the occasional kids of gay parents.

Well, either there are a lot of gay parents in Duluth (again, this is possible - I am so out of the loop) or straight people just want to go to a party in the park with their kids.  I am not sure what the actual score was- I didn't feel comfortable going up to people and asking them their motivations for being there - not that it was any of my business.

I am sure there were some parents who were there for their gay or transgender children - again, I cannot tell for sure.  And while it is a good thing to be open-minded and let your kids know you love them no matter who they decide to love, I think such decisions as to gender identity and sexual identity can wait until age 18 or so.  No need to rush things.

Now, it seems we are selling homosexuality like Proctor and Gamble sells soap - by branding it and advertising it on television.  Whatever it is, it isn't very gay, at least in the old sense.  It seemed to me there was far too much emphasis on drag queens and transgender this and that and not so much on traditional gayness.  Time to put the "sex" back in homosexuality, I say!   But again, we were there during the day and maybe there was a different vibe in the evening.

Nevertheless, I felt old and out of place. Since I wasn't wearing "pride merch" I guess people thought we were straight or something. We got dirty looks from Lesbians because we bought a bottle of water (boo! hiss!) and I put the empty in the recycling bin. Why didn't we bring our own eco-friendly water in a reusable container with a macramé cozie? Because I was counting on there being beer. I got dirty looks from Lesbians again, as we parked our F150, even if it does get better gas mileage than their old Subaru wagon does (no, really). And no, you can't tow bubkis with a Subaru. It seemed like more of a political correctness party than a gay pride event.

We didn't stay long.

The presence of all these young kids in "pride" gear was a little unsettling to me - again, I guess I am from the old school.  Maybe this is progress.  Maybe this is what is disturbing the far-right, with their claims of "grooming" kids and calling trans people "pedophiles" and calling for them to be murdered (no, really, they've actually said this).  Of course, these same tough-guys on the right get all butt-hurt when Biden calls them semi-fascists - half because of the "fascist" label, the other half because of the "semi" part.  But hey, you try to overthrow the government, you have to expect some push-back.

The fascist label is apt, if in fact, you want to overthrow the government and install a dictator-for-life. On the other hand, throwing around labels like "groomer" and "pedophile" is dangerous - you are equating non-criminal behavior with some of the worst sort of criminal behavior their is. Being open-minded and telling your kids it's OK to be gay is far different than trying to have sex with them.  The far-right is throwing gasoline on the fire of political debate.

A reader writes, suggesting an interesting tome about mass-movements, which is available free online from a number of sources as a downloadable PDF file (or you can buy it on Amazon).  The book basically describes every mass movement in history and notes that they are pretty much interchangeable - which explains why some "Bernie Bros" became MAGA-hat-wearing Trumparians when Bernie didn't get the nomination.  It is a thin line between Proud Boys and Antifarts (maybe the two need to get a room!).  The book is basically a roadmap of how Trumpism and Qanonsense got started.

But what is interesting about the book is how mass-movements require an enemy.  From the Wikipedia entry about the book:

Successful mass movements need not believe in a god, but they must believe in a devil. Hatred unifies the true believers, and "the ideal devil is a foreigner" attributed with nearly supernatural powers of evil. For example, Hitler described Jews as foreign interlopers and moreover an ephemeral Jewishness, alleged to taint the German soul, was as vehemently condemned as were flesh-and-blood Jews. The hatred of a true believer is actually a disguised self-loathing, as with the condemnation of capitalism by socialists while Russia under the Bolsheviks saw more intensive monopolization of the economy than any other nation in history. Without a devil to hate, mass movements often falter.

Fascinating stuff.  And over the years, the GOP has found one enemy after another.  During the McCarthy era, it was "Communists" (always a popular whipping boy) - although to be fair, Democrats jumped on that bandwagon as well, lest they be considered traitors.  Then it was the hippies, drugs, civil rights, or whatever bogeyman they could dream up - longhair unwashed Manson-cultists coming after your nubile daughter.   The gays have always been a reliable piñata for the far-right.  It is all about the two-minutes' hate, as George Orwell noted.

I have digressed a bit - or have I?  I guess what was interesting to me, being from the "old school" was how corporate America wanted to market to us as a marketing segment - not only to elicit the business of gays, but of progressive people.  And it seems that the rainbow flag has been co-opted, to some extend, by progressives, who embrace it not as a symbol of sexual freedom, but of leftist values in general.  And woe be to the gay person who doesn't profess leftist values!

We lived though the Stonewall era, the AIDs era, the gay-bashing era of the Reagan administration (which the right seems to want to repeat as of late) and now this.  It has been a long strange trip it seems, and all we wanted was to be left the hell alone and not used as some kind of political stalking horse by either side.   But I guess nothing in life is as simple as that.