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Friday, September 14, 2012

One Big Family ?

The Auckland  Pride Committee (let's not mention the "Lesbian/Gay/Queer" words -  they scare the sponsors) has announced more details of the upcoming fiesta, a daytime parade along Ponsonby Road, a two week festival building on the long-standing success of the Big Gay Out, and even a closing ceremony. Just like the Olympics!

Pride festivals are not new - the photo on the left is from 1972, and lists picnics, parties, food, ,usic - and workshops. They were a bit more political than we seem to be today.

I am a real believer in the idea of Gay Pride, or Queer Pride or as it is now, just "Pride" if you must. Rainbow Pride just sounds slightly icky to me, it always makes me think of My Little Pony, but I'm sure we'll see enough of that as well.

But Pride is important, it's the opposite of shame - it does matter that we can show the world, and especially our youth, that in fact there is nothing to be ashamed of in being queer. We have nothing to apologise for, in fact, the straight world should apologise to us for the violence, oppression, misery and murder it has heaped on us for so long.

I am a little puzzled that the theme for the festival is apparently "One Community". And I know I'm not the only one who went "WTF?" at that.

I know a multitude of different queer communities in Auckland, and some of us have nothing to do with others - we sure as hell don't form one cohesive group. I wonder whether the idea that this Pride Festival will be able to represent "One Community" actually means it'll shut out or miss out those bits of queerdom that don't quite fit.

And a day-time march down Ponsonby Road - yeah, a bunch of queers wandering through Ponsonby - talk about radical -  never seen that before - that will really be breaking new ground and showing our pride to those who don't like us.

It does seem just a little safe in conception, a little white and middle-class, but that's not surprising.

Why not have the Pride Parade in Manukau, or on the Shore? If we're serious about the idea of Pride, wouldn't taking it to the areas that queer people actually need some support be better at building pride than the bland safety of Ponsonby Rd? Or why not back to the heart of the city - take over Queen Street as the first Hero Parades did - that would be showing some real pride and Council support.

Of course this wouldn't have happened without the $100,000 thrown at the project by the Council. I think it's important to remember that. We actually couldn't organise this ourselves, in the way we did in the past. And it has been sold to the Council as a marketing idea, and one designed to bring in money, over $700,000 they reckon. Fingers crossed that works out.

We are being re-packaged now, we're being branded, as part of Auckland Council's branding  "Hey look!" they're saying "We've got homos too, we're really hip!"

I doubt they'll be boasting about this side of Auckland in our expanding tourism markets in countries like Malaysia though.

But "One Community" ? Really ? Have any of these people been out and about lately? There are gay men, dykes, queers of all sorts that I wouldn't cross the road to piss on if they were on fire: are they part of my community? Am I part of theirs? I have good mates who are dykes, but I'm not sure we exactly belong to the same social groups, the same community; sometimes we do, but there are spaces in their worlds I know I don't belong to.  I don't think there is any way I belong to the fa'afafine community. I'm not part of the trans community either. Are they all being invited along?

I look around and recognise the diversity that springs from being differently gendered or sexually different from the mainstream. There are lots of people who fit into these groups, but we're not all one group. That's working with a heterosexist, straight way of thinking about us, that starts by defining us  as not normal, not straight,  and therefore we belong together. But we don't.

This all goes back to the old question - just what makes a community? What holds it together? What are the commonalities that bind a group of people into being more than just a social group but a real community, with a shared sense of identity, and a shared sense of history. As I've said before, simply by virtue of being gay doesn't make me feel some immediate natural sense of kinship with every other homo guy out there. Just cause I love men emotionally and desire them physically doesn't mean I'm connected with every other guy like me. Sexuality alone is simply too thin to sustain the weight of a collective identity.

I'm sure I will go to various events, hang out with mates from all around the country and elsewhere too and have a good time. I will enjoy myself. I guess it's like the gay marriage debate for me, I'm not wildly enthused about it but once it starts we have to win it. The negative fallout if we lose that, or if we fuck this up, is too great. If this falls over, it will in fact do us damage, it will give ammunition to our enemies and undermine the very idea of "Pride" and lead to a more queerphobic world rather than a better one. So I want it to succeed.

I'm just a little uneasy, it all feels too top-down, too corporate, too much of a slick PR job rather than anything actually based in who and what we are. It doesn't feel like it comes out of our communities to me I guess.

But yes, I'll be there!


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