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The Question of Pride

Itís been estimated that close to 1,000,000 people attend San Francisco Pride every year. Thatís a lot of people coming together to party, mingle, coast and cruise. But donít let the blocks and blocks of easy-going revelers mislead you into questioning what cause is left for celebration. Our purpose and aim have remained largely unchanged in the past 37 years or so since Prideís inception in the 70s.

A lot has been said about San Francisco being a hub of free loving, but itís apparent that things are anything but. Three years since the push for marriage equality, how much closer to it have we really come? And whatís more, for every lovely performer at Trannyshack, there are a dozen more Gwen Araujoís, Ruby Ordenanaís and Daxi Arredondoís that end up in less than glamorous circumstances. For the LGBT community then, being in San Francisco is as much a matter of pride now as it has ever been.

While everybody experiences Pride in his own way, I can safely say that, native or not, everyone is here for the same purpose -- namely to find some acceptance. Regardless of whether youíre seeking it from within or without, for one week, San Francisco will open its arms wider than it does any other time of year. However, for those too jaded by the free-thinking modern times to see the necessity of this sentiment, it might seem absurd to designate one week (and one week only) to stick your middle finger up at anyone who doesnít understand why you look the way you look, dress how you dress, or sleep with whomever you choose. Nobody should have to give you a time frame during which any apologies you may have for being yourself are waived and obsolete.

Unfortunately, we werenít all brought up with this mentality that says itís okay to assert your opinions over those of others and to think of yourself first or even that it might actually prove healthy to be curious. Being so unapologetically proud may seem second nature to most now, but the truth of the matter is that there are many of us, who in these post "Queer As Folk" enlightened times of "The L Word" and the Scissor Sisters, still struggle as much internally as externally.

For instance, growing up in San Francisco might offer unlimited access to this phenomenon of Pride, but participation must always come from within. As a kid, I knew a place like the Castro existed where every year there was this parade for gay people, so I felt comfortable that somewhere in these 49 square miles was a community of people who, by my thinking at the time, enjoyed playing with My Little Ponies and She-Ra as much as I did, but who for one reason or another were forced to play with He-Man for clandestine purposes totally opposite of what were intended. On the other hand, the Castro didnít really fit into my Asian parentsí vision of community. It develops an alien, NIMBY mentality that in many ways can keep you detached from what you should be attached to as a gay man.

I read earlier this week in the Chronicle that Armistead Maupin, author of the various ďTales Of The CityĒ stories that take place in the San Francisco of the 70ís and 80ís, found the strength to come to terms with self-acceptance in San Francisco. Before settling here and eventually coming out, he was a conservative who had spent time in the Navy and working with North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms, a leading figure of the ďChristian right.Ē According to him, San Francisco opened more than his eyes: ďIt opened my heart. It let me examine my own bigotry. And it let me have a good time doing it.Ē

If someone like Mr. Maupin, whose background is probably very different from those of us who grew up after Stonewall, can experience this revelation of self-acceptance as a result of being in San Francisco, then what excuse do the rest of us have for not reaching the same conclusion? If there was ever a right time and place to find the answer, Pride would seem to be it. But perhaps the expectations for some revelatory experience are too high. The whole idea of San Francisco Pride opening the way to self-acceptance is very romantic, but at the end of the day, all it promises to do is show you that youíre not alone. The next step is still up to you.

I think I understand what Mr. Maupin means though. San Francisco didnít really open his heart to the possibility of accepting himself. Rather, it showed him by example how to do it himself. You see, even in these times of ultra-labeling, San Francisco doesnít care whether youíre straight, gay, lesbian, or closeted, whether youíre an asexual, bisexual, trans-gendered, a transvestite or transsexual, femme, butch, queer or boi; it takes you as you are. Think about it, if San Francisco can do this for one person, thereís no reason why it canít help a million others do the same thing. That alone is reason enough to celebrate.