“Gay Pride” in San Francisco: the 1980s…
The first thing that immediately struck me during this year’s outreach at the 2014 San Francisco Gay Pride Parade were the vast numbers of young people present: most notable were large hordes of roaming hand-holding teen girls – all looking like Ke$ha clones in matching daisy-dukes, bra-tops, and strange flowered headbands. It was disconcerting to see the same fashion statement, with no variation, over and over again. The only thing I could compare it to were my own recollections of growing up in the 1980s and getting sick of seeing everyone wear the same Izod polo-shirt and sockless Sperry Top-siders. The attitude of these girls was brash and sickeningly coy in a ridiculous feigned sort of way: some rudely grabbed my body, demanding to have their pictures taken with me and my JesusLovesGayMen.com sign. They were a generation of lost tikes, dressing up like their favorite pop-whore, and blindly flashing the boys. It was more pitiful than anything the gay men could put out there.
Afterwards, I could not help but to remember the first time I attended one of these spectacles. It was in 1988, and the blood of AIDS victims was still flowing down the streets of The Castro. The Parade itself had moments of raucous joy and lascivious excess, but everything was tinged with am impending sense of doom: embodied by the figure of former Disco-queen, and AIDS victim, Sylvester (best known for the hit song “You Make Me Feel”) being rolled down the street in a wheelchair. Others, who were similarly wasting away, followed. Everywhere there were posters demanding the government do more in terms of AIDS research; the strict tenants of safe-sex were on everyone’s mind; yet, on the sidelines, some still cried for those who had died far too young. Later that night, from the “older” guys, then in their 30s and 40s, I heard about the first Gay Pride Parades, and how they were fighting for the rights of us newbies. It was because of them, they proudly declared, that we could nowadays express your sexuality without fear. But, I was afraid: of one day being wheeled down the street in my own wheelchair.
Fast-forward to 2014. One of the sole survivors returns. The “older” guys? Most are long since dead; in fact, they were dying, and didn’t know it, back in 88. As for my fellow teenage companions that I danced along the street with: dead during the second-wave of AIDS deaths in the mid-90s; dead from suicide; dead from drug-overdoses; others had slipped into semi-obscurity, holding fast to a small cadre of trusted HIV- buddies; some tried desperately to hold onto the gay dream and fell into the role of “daddy,” recruiting a new generation of lustful, but semi-innocent conscripts. For the most part, my age group (30s and 40s) was noticeably missing from the 2014 Parade. There were a few from the generation ahead of mine – that groomed me when I was young; for the most part, they looked old, sagging and desperate; trying haplessly to remain relevant within a culture that is forever youth obsessed. And there were many young and beautiful bodies on display, but somehow, the uninhibited exhibitionism made everything appear ugly. When I noticed one “Catholic” high-school girl, who stood next to me in order to get her picture taken, leering at a nearly naked gay boy, I said to her: “You are not gay!” She said: “no.” “What are you doing here then?” I retorted. She said rather audaciously: “To look at the hot guys.” Standing next to her, another friend who was listening shouted at me: “…the hot gay guys.” I thought to myself, how long will they look this way? As, in front of my eyes: they seemed to be wasting away. But, this was the main draw for these girls, as the largest gay male showing was from those in their teens and twenties; mainly perky twinks who looked to be heavy users of chemical depilatories. I saw myself in them; only, they are bold and reckless. They have no fear of AIDS; for, that was something relegated to the past. I was approached by one boy, probably about 18 or 19, frighteningly perhaps younger, who wanted one of the bracelets I was giving away. He was pale and rail thin; his body toned and attractive, but spotted with strange little pimples. He was pushing up to me, but I felt only sadness for him: as a teen he looked something like I did at 29: washed-up and over used. He asked me to put the bracelet on his arm. I did, looked into his face, and realized that this child was dead inside. My heart broke. We have lost them; we have lost a generation: to AIDS and to satan.
Where were the red ribbons? They have disappeared; now, because they are embarrassing and inconvenient; as gay men no longer have AIDS; because in the elitist gay fantasyland – gay men now only have mortgages, sport SUVs, and PTA meetings. Where are the men in wheel-chairs? The gay lobby just pushed them into the abyss of memory.
-now, its all about Burger-King “rainbow crowns” and looking like Ke$ha.