I remember having to lie through my teeth that Pink Flamingos was a children’s movie to be allowed to rent it from the Civic Video, now it’s available on Netflix. Somewhere, we became respectable.
It seems there was a point between my 10th and 31st birthday where we transitioned from park toilets to the Park Hyatt, and I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, I’m just asking what am I supposed to do with all the anarchic energy I spent my youth fostering? I am the queer generation caught in the coin flip of sexual deviant to socially acceptable, and makes me wonder on what side do I land?
My entire gay identity was nourished on illegally pirated copies of Bruce La Bruce films and downloaded Dennis Cooper novels. My parents raised me sure, but I was formed by this queer underground subculture – virtual mentors I found stumbling around in the early days of unsupervised home internet. This dial up modem reality was the open door to not only my queer culture but also my understanding that I was “different” and that through discovering myself as a higher state of being and thinking I should aspire to burn down the cis-hetero-establishment and help my people rebuild Gomorrah.
But fast forward to 2021, as I watch my cohort have their nuclear LGBTQI families, and my new heterosexual “allies” telling me what pronouns are acceptable and what’s offensive in this modern utopia… where does all the rage go? Where does my inherent need to destroy hetero-norms just disparate too? Do I just simply let history go and assimilate with them? How can I now accept the oppressor as an ally – the fundamental weapon to my cause?
Pride is a word I find hard to define but am always being asked to. For me, it is an ever moving and evolving state. However, one thing that is never missing from its DNA is anger. Queer pride was not born of two loving Ellen looking lesbians swaddled in a rainbow flag, nor was it even the righteous war machine of some fundamentalist caliphate – it was bottles thrown at police in bars by drag queens, it was midnight screenings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show in porno theatres, it was backyard gender reassignment surgeries done out of desperation to become who we are, it was surviving AIDS for Chrissake. It was fearless and gritty and hard and subversive with an unshakable sense of humour.
Our fellow queers are still getting beat on, pushed down, re-educated and killed – yes killed – and not just in Chechen concentration camps – here in the merry old land of Oz. The difference is it’s just not happening in the street anymore. We’ve managed to put enough gay bobble heads like Joel Creasy into the mainstream media to desexualise/demystify us to a satisfactory level that we have earned politeness. But that is not real respect. That is not real equality. That is not real safety.
I often think now, ironically, that the internet is really to blame. The very space that introduced me to my rage has now slowly diluted it, pushing our queer zeitgeist through a sieve until it has become hetero-palatable. I no longer search through the crushing pages of Isherwood to find myself represented, validation comes Uber Eats delivered straight to my explore page, wrapped and easily digestible.
So, as I stand on the edge of Pride season, it feels as if Pride is too comfortable for me right now. I feel grateful sure, but also robbed – I want to riot in the street – I want to burn down a church – I need somewhere to put this generationally acquired queer rage passed down to me from my queer ancestors. I refuse to simply be complacent, and just forgive.