Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Gay Pride and a Feminist

In a week and a half Saskatoon will be holding its Gay Pride Parade. At first I thought that I would not be able to go as it's my daughter's grade 12 grad and she informed me it was a no-brainer as to where I should be. However, God works in wonderful ways. It turns out that Jay wants her hair done at a small salon in the city right on the parade route. The appointment will take one and a half hours so athough I may not be able to march in the whole, I will still be there for some.

Each year that I am here there seems to be a theme in the questions I am asked. The first year was - "So, what do you think about this whole gay thing?" The second year the question was around same-sex couples raising children. The third was - "Why can't they just stay in the closet?"

This year is - "Why do they have to have a parade? You don't see so&so's insisting on one. I have thought on this a bit. I haven't come up with a whole response but I do have some thoughts. (Surprise! Surprise!) I am not going to defind the right to march as that is a given. I think that this question is an extention of last year's question. It comes from our own discomfort with our sexuality and the tradionally perceived roles of the sexes.

There is now a tacit acceptance that same-sex couples exist. People realize that they are not going to go away and the old euphemisms we used to hide them will no longer work. But we're still uncomfortable so we prefer couples remain where we don't have to acknowledge the relationship.

The Gay Pride Parade challenges that. The very fact that we are uncomfortable should challenge us to look more deeply. Instead, the reason given for opposition barely scratches the surface. We know that it is not PC to wish GLBTTs back into the closet so we voice our concerns by pointing out that no one else holds special parades. We won't mention Anglicans parading in downtown Saskatoon (albeit a relatively short distance) in 1976 from the Cathedral to a larger church. After all, that was a religious procession. Nor will we mention cross town walks on Good Fridays. Those are a form of the Stations of the Cross. Nor will we mention Marches for Jesus.

I would point out to those who question that the parade is a statement that gays are no longer willing to live in the closet in which society has placed them. "Fine," is the response. "But they are no longer in the closet. Why do they have to be in our face about it?"

Unfortunately, our very discomfort shows the whys. Because society still wants them in the closet. We still don't want to see that sexuality and relationship is not just a man-woman thing. We still don't want to publically acknowldege that sex is good in itself, that it can be fun, wholesome, and meaningful without producing children.

And, of course, there is the discomfort over the challenge to stereo-typic roles. It's a threat to see women dressed and in the role of male husband. Heaven forbid that women should ever discover that we can survive and find meaning in life without a man. Or the challenge to those of us who choose to emphasize our femininity but, due to socialization, feel that our very femininity is inferior.

And, certainly, only women should ever wear skimpy clothing to sell our sex. Men doing so is just gross. Who do they think they are? (I will admit that the Saskatoon parade is actually quite sedate in this matter but people conflate it with the parades that get TV time.) Only cheer leaders should advertize their sex.

And then there are the male couples. We all know that, because the ideal couple is male-female, one of those men has got to become like a woman. And the female role is definitely inferior - so one of those men must be letting all of his macho brethern down. How could he?

So, for me, it is not just about being gay or being hand-holding same-sex couples in public. It is, on a less public and acknowledged scale, also about challenging centruies old mis-perceptions about human sexuality and proper (and inferior) role of the feminine.

On the 14th, I will march with my friends to state their right to live their lives fully in public - to the potential for which God has created them. But I also march as a feminist demanding that we celebrate the whole range of sexuality and that we accept all as valued and equal.

Love and Prayers,
Ann Marie