Every year, Atlanta has a Gay Pride Event that includes a festival and parade run by the Atlanta Pride Committee. The event spans a weekend each year which has typically been held in the summer. This year, however, the Committee moved the dates toward October in an effort to host the event closer to National Coming Out Day (October 11th). Except they moved the event to Halloween weekend.
When I initialy discovered this on their website, my first reaction was largely superficial in that Halloween is a time when lots of people go out, party, and potentially endanger themselves, though I also sensed that this was just a very bad idea for reasons I couldn’t articulate at the time. Later, though, I was talking to my beloved about it, and she pointed to a larger, much more significant issue. Halloween is a holiday where, in mainstream American culture, the point is the dress up as something you are not, to hide behind another identity.
The more I sat with this idea, the more appalled I became. Here is a weekend and an event that I have seen as a time when people who identify as GLBTQIQ (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersexed, Questioning) can be out in public simply as themselves, to celebrate that, support others and be supported. A time when the people who fit into these minority categories don’t have to worry so much about their safety or sense of belonging or being misunderstood. And the annual event, the time and space in which they can feel this sense of safety, this sense of belonging, this ability to simply breathe and be who they are, is being held over Halloween – a time of dressing up as something you are not. The mixed messages are enough to give one a migraine if one sits with it long enough. No, it’s not really okay to be yourselves. No, you should still, just as you may do every day on some level, hide behind a mask or costume or identity that’s not really you. No, we’re not really okay with who and what you are. No, we don’t really want to reveal our faces to the outside world and the greater Atlanta community. Sure, we’ll be united…kind of. Because people who identify as GLBTQIQ don’t live with enough of the US population throwing shame on them for simply being themselves (sarcasm). Here – have some more by the very people (the Pride Committee) who claim as their mission to want to promote your self-esteem, your mental health and wellness, who claim to want to increase visibility and a positive image of this culture. What an incredible display of internalized homophobia/heterosexism.
I have no idea what the Committee was thinking. Maybe they weren’t. I went to Pride in 2007 but couldn’t go last year and had been looking forward to attending this year. When I found out the dates for this year’s event, I was disappointed on another level – it’s being held over Samhain, so I won’t be going anyway as I’ll be celebrating that holiday. But even if I weren’t celebrating Samhain, I still wouldn’t go. The Pride event is free of charge. How much easier it will be for idiot, homophobic individuals to go and cause trouble since they’ll be wearing costumes and no one will know their identity. Because 20 miles outside of the city perimeter, is very un-gay/freak-friendly territory that covers, oh, about the rest of the entire state.
We had truly begun to move forward (albeit slowly, still) in terms of increasing tolerance and acceptance of individuals who do not identify as heterosexual, and the election of Obama was a big step in that direction. In many ways, Atlanta is considered the NYC of the south. The ripples of this event this year and the messages it carries with it can go a long way to moving us backward. Can we really afford it?