the Musings and Rants of a Gay Aucklander, about whatever I fancy
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Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Trying to Focus on the Positive...
So GABA have got their wish and the Auckland Council is going to help fund a new Gay Pride parade!
I guess I should be really excited, but...
I can remember all the shit that went down with Hero too well, the incompetence, the embezzlement of funds that had been donated, the lies, the promises broken, the way HIV+ people were pushed to the side, and the way the last few parades turned into a succession of advertising floats that had nothing to do with Gay Pride - sigh.
And people keep talking about Hero as though it was just a parade - it wasn't. The parade was the last major component. Hero started as a dance party that had a "stealth" public health role as a reaction to how HIV was hitting us in those days - the idea was that if you help build a strong, bonded community they will look after each other and themselves much better. A strong, happy, connected community is a healthy community.
Then Hero grew into a festival with plays, concerts, films, debates and a dedicated magazine - it became an entire festival. There were events catering for all sorts of the community - when it worked it was great. If you were there in Aotea Square that day when Helen Clark declared the Hero Festival open you'd remember the thrill of it.
But then it all turned to shit.
But I'm trying to be positive, honestly.
The plan seems to be to use it to signal the end of a two week Gay Pride festival, with the Big Gay Out being the opening event. Of course the BGO is really our day - it's not for straights - whereas the parade will be for everyone - 90% of those watching it will be straight. Will there be a party? Can we ever have one as good as that night in the Town Hall, with Georgina Beyer rising up through the floor to sing "Somewhere" (If my memory is right, things get hazy). The accepted wisdom seems to be that we can't get three or four thousand people to show up for a party anymore.
And is it about Gay Pride? Or are we going to call it "Queer" ? Or GLBTTIF?
I know older men who completely recoil from the term "queer" to describe them, for them it was a weapon used to humiliate and attack them. They hate it. Young hip queer activists usually show blank incomprehension when you bring this up. But older gay men and dykes are used to being ignored by the young.
I do have a fear the parade itself will be blandly vanilla, they'll aim for something "nice" that won't offend the straights. I hope I'm wrong on that, but I do wonder. Will they kick it off with Dykes on Bikes? Or will they go for "Monogamous Married Gay Couples Who Go To Bed at 9:30 and Raise Fox Terriers" so as not to frighten the straights.
Because don't forget - this whole thing is being funded, at least to start with, with money from the wider straight world - and they just might have an opinion on how it should or shouldn't be spent. Topless dykes holding hands with love may be seen as just too much !
And I think the real weakness that could show up here is that this has not come from the grassroots of the Auckland gay community. It is being imposed from the top down, partly to tick a box for the Council, saying "Look, we're just as much fun and grown-up as other cities! Give us your Pink Dollars!"
Of course the myth of the Pink Dollar has been pretty well exploded, but I doubt that anyone in Auckland Council knows that. We're just as rich, poor or in the middle as the rest of the population. And the work of Richard Florida saying a strong gay community helps build an strong attractive international city, part of the argument in Council for funding, has also been shown to be wishful thinking. So the Council is hoping for some sort of major tourism return on their $100,000 investment. It might work - or not.
Why can't we as a community raise the funds to do this ourselves? I guess because the Auckland gay community, such as it is, is a pretty fragmented beast - there is not much that unites us. I think the parade runs the risk of becoming an inauthentic piece of window-dressing instead of a real celebration of just who and what we are. But I am hoping I am wrong.
Don't get me wrong - it is great to have some sort of public celebration of just who we are. A festival with a parade, if it's done well, could be fantastic. Here's hoping they can pull it off.