Every conversation comes back to Stonewall.
Each June, the history of gay rights is boiled down to a single night over 50 years ago, reducing all that came before to the confines of the closet and serving as a Rorschach test for each new generation.
Remember when the Story of Stonewall was about Judy Garland’s death? (No? Too young?) Then it became a rallying cry as gay bar culture began to decline. Then it was a lightning rod for identity politics and the underwritten history of trans activism. Now, in 2021, it has become a beacon of kink, of all things.
Yes, as members of the trans community are murdered with such frequency sites like Out.com keep a running tally and celebrities forego public silence to make their views on trans women clear, there is one aspect of the culture that is free from all trans discourse: the 2021 Pride March. Specifically, the demands to remove kink from it.
As so many things were laid at the feet of millennials (sorry, chain restaurants!), this particular ask is being blamed on Gen Z, the generation that has embraced homisexuals and Lil Nas X—although the argument dates back to at least 2019. “What is Pride without a jockstrap?” horrified gay men sniff on Twitter. “How dare you ask us to assimilate to make straight people and families comfortable!”
Indeed. Why should they be asked to leave behind their pup gear to mount the float paid for by Absolut Vodka, the one between JetBlue and Bank of America, to walk down the street throwing air kisses and condoms at the congregated throngs in thongs? Never mind that condom use among gay men is dropping as STI’s are rising. Never mind that the very act of marching in step with the NYPD in previous years was counter to the actual march against the cops that began the annual parade. Sexuality belongs at Pride, and to remove it would… make it boring? Make people feel left out? Make it less celebratory?
No one can really articulate their knee-jerk reaction beyond a general dismissal of this newest generation as “puriteens.” But here’s the really kinky secret: The Pride March is boring. Like most mainstream aspects of gay culture, all of its rough edges have been sanded down by big money and a quenchless thirst for middle-class respectability.
Yet still we cling to the roots of the march as if the landscape hasn’t cracked and shifted a hundred times since then. My god, why would we ever cling to the way anything was done in the late ’60s (unless quaaludes come back)? What the LGBTQ+ community takes for granted today is worlds away from what the marchers then could begin to conceive of. Back then, they wanted to drink at a gay bar without being arrested. Now, we’re pouting because maybe it feels like we’re supposed to downplay our sexuality to make a public event feel more child-friendly—even if that event is really nothing more than a corporatized excuse to spend a Sunday day drinking with your friends before joining the masses on the piers for an overpriced tea dance.
You can’t halt progress, and unfortunately progress too often looks like this: anodyne, inoffensive, and family friendly. This is the cost of acceptance, and is it really too much? Aren’t there plenty of other ways we can shove our sexuality in the faces of prudes—I mean, Instagram influencers have been showing us the way for years now.
Here’s what I suggest: Ban kink from Pride. Let Pride finish its transformation into a turgid, overly expensive theme park attraction, which is what it’s crying out to be anyway. Pride is no longer about the LGBTQ+ community; it became a very public arena for corporate and governmental virtue signaling long ago. You want kink? You want radicalism? It’s not going to be found on Sixth Avenue in Manhattan on a Sunday in June. You have to go out and create that for yourself.
Besides, Folsom is still in full swing, proving once again that the West Coast is the best coast.
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