I live in Austin, Texas, where Pride tends to be a little more laid back than other cities. Let’s face it, when it’s 97 degrees outside with 30% humidity, your eye shadow will melt, your leather pants will feel like a personal sauna, and any outdoor festival is going to feel like an endurance test.
Nevertheless, as a dutifully proud mama, I’ve been bringing my son to Austin Gay Pride since he was six weeks old. It’s where he coined his signature Pride chant, “Rock on, gays!”
This year, the organizers of Austin Gay Pride successfully advocated with the city to move the fest to a prime downtown location. National acts MeShell Ndegeocello and Pansy Division were set to headline. It seemed like Austin’s Pride was really coming into its own. And then, in an Austin Chronicle article that still has local queers buzzing, one of the organizers characterized the new and improved Pride as a “benign, family-friendly” event.
Here’s a longer excerpt from the Austin Chronicle article, which quotes Ceci Gratias of the Austin Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce:
Our biggest issue is [that we have] minors watching the parade,” said Gratias. “We don’t really need to express ourselves so outrageously. And it’s not out of acceptability but rather out of respect for the families watching.”
Although I wasn’t able to attend Austin’s Pride this year (too busy gettin’ hitched in California), I’m sure it was a lovely event in many ways. But as a queer parent, I feel the need to speak to the assumed dichotomy between “family friendly” and “sex positive.” I believe that queer cultural values are among the most important things that I can bequeath to my son. At its best, queer culture can offer the rest of our society a lesson or two about valuing pleasure and eschewing shame.
While it hasn’t happened yet, it is true that my son might someday see a thing or two at Pride that we need to talk about and contextualize. But the same is true of mainstream pop culture that he’s exposed to every day.
Right now, Paramount and Lego are aggressively marketing the entire Indiana Jones saga–which is chock full of adult sexuality (it’s pretty clear that that whip has multiple uses)–to preschool age kids. And I haven’t heard a single straight parent at my son’s school complaining. So I don’t think we need to hold queer culture to a different, desexualized standard on their account.
I certainly hope that no one is making Pride more “tasteful” (another adjective from the organizers) on my son’s account. After all, we’re talking about a kid who thinks “Fart Mama fart in your face farty fart fart” is witty repartee. Assless chaps would probably make him laugh himself silly.