Where is the Pride?
Posted by Jody Ann Malsbury
I returned from the 10th Annual St. Pete Pride Street Festival & Promenade on Saturday feeling disappointed, sad and a bit angry. The parade normally starts at 9 a.m. and the street festival goes until 3 p.m.; I usually get home between 2:30 and 3:30. I was home on Saturday before 11:15 and I’m not sure I was even there for the entire parade.
Let me begin by saying that I hadn’t felt well for several days. I have a few medical conditions that had been making me feel like crap lately, and for some reason, the heat has been bothering me more than usual, making me feel weak, lethargic, and nauseated. I haven’t been sleeping well, and although I set my alarm clock to wake me early enough to give me plenty of time to make it to the staging area by the 8:30 a.m. deadline, my alarm clock didn’t wake me and I woke up 45 minutes late.
So, I’m running VERY late—I have 45 minutes to get up, take a shower, get dressed, grab what I need and get to the meeting place on time and I have to take a shower because my hair is filthy and disgusting. My daughter and I have been talking about marching in this Pride parade for this whole past year (she missed the past 2 years because she was in the hospital) and I was really looking forward to going with her, but I had to be a responsible parent and take the privilege away despite how I felt…. Needless to say, I wasn’t as excited about going this year, and didn’t lay out my clothes, etc., the night before, so I ended up wearing my bright pink “Love is a Human Right” t-shirt instead of my tie-dyed rainbow colored “St. Pete Pride” one, only because I knew where that one was. Anyway, I ran out of the house before putting all the hair elastics in my hair (arranged in rainbow order) and without the one Diet Coke I allow myself each day—my daily allotment of caffeine—which, had I not rushed off without it, probably would have made me feel at least a little bit better. I did remember to grab my water (pre-frozen the night before, but removed from the freezer at some ungodly hour that morning… it was only cool and tasted gross), my camera, and batteries for the camera, and set the security alarm before leaving.
As I pulled out of my driveway, I glanced at the car radio clock: 8:30. Crap! The message I got the night before said that in order to march in the parade, I would need to be there by 8:30. (I had decided months ago—and my daughter agreed—that I wanted to march with a trans* group in the parade. A month or more ago I asked my only local Facebook friend who I am aware is trans* about groups that may be marching in this year’s parade but it turned out that she was going to be marching with another non-trans* group. A week ago, I finally located a trans* group in the area that would be marching—Trans*Action Florida, Florida’s only state level trans* advocacy organization—but they didn’t see my post until days later, the night before the parade.)
All morning—when I hadn’t been telling myself that maybe it would be better if I skipped the parade and just stayed in bed, that is—I’d been wondering whether maybe it just wasn’t meant to be for me to march in the parade this year and wondered whether I should just stop rushing, take my time, go to the parade and enjoy myself. But I had been looking forward to this all year and was afraid that I’d regret it if I didn’t at least try. Naturally, consistent with the kind of day I’d been having so far, I drove right past the place I’d planned on parking, looked around, realized that parking in other places looked pretty limited, so I drove all the way around the block and parked. Then I trudged the 1/2 mile or so to the meeting place, crossing streets safely but sometimes against traffic lights. It was considerably after 8:30 but I thought, “WTF?” and decided to try to find the group, with the hope that I would still be allowed to march with them.
Surprisingly enough, I found the Trans*Action Florida group right away, which was an amazing stroke of luck, considering that the past 2 years I walked around for 1/2 hour or more searching for the groups I was planning on marching with in the parade. Then came the hard part—walking up to the group and introducing myself. I did it, getting that “Who is that cis woman and WTF is she doing here with us?” look from several people—I walked up to a very tall beautiful woman who I will call “A” and she introduced me to the Executive Director of Trans*Action Florida. I was even able to awkwardly but intelligibly converse with a few people and mentioned my blog and the trans* groups I am involved with on Facebook. “A” gave me her card, “so you can email me,” she said, and told me I could search for her by name on Facebook. And I will do exactly that… once I finish this becoming-longer-and-more-unwieldy-by-the-minute post.
Maybe it was my general discomfort in social situations. Maybe it was the fact that I knew absolutely no one in a brand-new group of people. Maybe it was the fact that everyone else there obviously knew each other. Maybe it was the fact that I was introduced to the rest of the group as an “ally” (read: “outsider”.) Maybe it was because Trans*Action Florida is headed by a trans man and it “feels” as though the organization is very male-dominated. Maybe it was because I missed my daughter and my trans* friends and wished they were there with me. And maybe the fact that I felt physically ill made it all worse. Likely it was some combination of several of these factors that made me feel, as usual, that I did not belong—that I was, once more, on the outside looking in.
Then there was the parade itself. I read somewhere that up to 100,000 people were expected at this year’s Pride event. Well, marching in the parade, there seemed to be considerably fewer spectators than last year and the year before, and the few protesters seemed louder. Disappointment. The parade itself seemed fragmented. Our group fell far behind (as did others in the groups that followed us) and people were wandering out into the street in front of us. And although the appearance of our group was often greeted with resounding applause, the fracturing of the parade seemed to reflect divisiveness in the LGBT community and the feeling of being “cut off from the rest” seemed analogous to how the “T” in “LGBT” is often “cut off”, i.e., left out and/or ignored. Sadness.
Finally, at some point while our section of the parade paused, someone came out of the crowd and took a picture of “A.” Now don’t get me wrong—”A” is a beautiful woman. She has gorgeous red hair (one of the other women told her to be sure that everyone knows that it is her hair—not a wig!) and was wearing a nice dress. BUT, “A” is not a man, was not dressed in drag and moreover did not look like a man dressed in drag, and it made me angry to see “A” being treated like a freak at the circus. Perhaps the photographer was a friend of “A’s”. This incident was a perfect example of how many cisgender people can treat trans* people like freaks without even being aware of doing so… and it made me mad. Disgusted. Angry. Outraged.
Where is the Pride? Where is the Pride when trans* people are included in the LGBTQQIAAP alphabet soup in name only? Where is the Pride when trans* people are discriminated against in every aspect of human life in our society? Where is the Pride when trans* people— human beings—are gawked at, whispered about, laughed at and otherwise treated like freaks at a circus? Where is the Pride when trans* people are teased, ridiculed, humiliated, bullied, tormented, tortured, beaten, raped and murdered and their bodies dismembered, mutilated beyond recognition and burned… to the point that identification of what remains of their corpses requires comparison to dental records and/or DNA analysis? I looked around and I couldn’t find it among the signs that read, “I Love My Gay Son,” “This Vietnam Vet Supports Gay Marriage,” “I Love My Gay Friend,” “I Love My Lesbian Daughter,” “gay” this and “gay” that. I don’t see any of those things as “self-affirming” or worthy of celebration; in fact, they only serve to perpetuate the shame and social stigma associated with being a TG/TS person in our culture. As a supporter of the trans* community I felt invisible; I cannot begin to imagine how trans* people must have felt at a festival that is supposed to be celebrating their uniqueness and inclusion in an L-G-B-T “community.”
On this note and in this lousy frame of mind I watched a few minutes of the parade go by and then realized that I felt too sick to stick around any longer, so I started heading towards my car. Because of all the disjointedness and gaps in the parade, I’m not sure whether or not I saw all of it before I got into my car and drove home.
Posted on July 2, 2012, in transgender, transphobia and tagged ally, bullying, cisgender, drag, gender, LGBT, Pride, Pride Parade, stigma, trans, trans man, Trans woman, Trans*Action Florida, transgender, transphobia, transsexual. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.