monthly column from author/activist
The Royal Treatment
S.F. Pride: Loud, Proud and Pursuing Happiness
San Francisco Pride was a wild ride. Elected one of five Parade Grand Marshals after a petition campaign, I shared a float with Good Vibrations, got Polly at Moral Minority (latex purveyor extraordinaire) to custom-make me a dress, and rode down the street, waving to something like a million people. That's how many folks the Parade committee said I waved to, anyhow -- I guess if you add in cable TV, there were many more. Hi, Mr. Helms! We're practicing sodomy!
Actually, as I've said many times, a lot of us no longer need to practice, having gotten good at it years ago.
The theme of the float -- I came up with this myself -- was Pursuit of Happiness, and so we were the only red/white/blue color scheme in a parade otherwise dedicated to rainbows, glitter, and touches of black leather and purple marabou. But we didn't look like we belonged in a Fourth of July Main Street fest -- our float was a big rolling four-poster bed, covered with sex toys, and the kicker was a giant inflatable Hitachi Magic Wand vibrator. We were so proud of that thing. Sure, it didn't vibrate -- but it was twelve feet long! Polly Pandemonium, resident genius at Moral Minority, made me a red, white and blue rubber dress and top hat -- so I was sort of a cross between Uncle Sam and Myra Breckinridge. This, at least, was the aim. Polly made the dress in about two days flat during Pride week itself, second perhaps only to Hallowe'en as the heaviest costume week in San Francisco -- and then she sold it to me at cost. So I have sworn to tell everyone what a goddess she is -- see, I'm telling you now. More about her below.
Pursuit of Happiness: Now, isn't that in the Declaration of Independence somewhere? Like, one of the most sacred documents in all of American democracy? And what the hell do Jesse Helms and his ilk think that phrase is supposed to mean? That float kicked off my campaign to tell the world that the Founding Daddy-os used such evocative language because they anticipated by two hundred years the fights for gay rights, repeal of anti-sex toy laws, and polyamorous marriage. Happiness: do you suppose it might be construed as referring to one's choice of love partner or source of erotic stimulation? These things should be considered as American as apple pie.
So the float, filled with my friends and colleagues, motored slowly down Market Street. We were right in front of Vulva University's Wondrous Vulva float and zillion schoolgirl contingent -- now that was festive! I was almost sorry to be Grand Marshal -- because it meant I couldn't put on Mary Janes and plaid and skip down the street with all the other schoolgirls, most of whom hadn't seen the inside of a school in years, and many of whom were not even girls. Right behind them were our friends from the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, and Fetish Diva Midori was a little further back, riding on a fancy fetish-y float. Years ago I saw Sister Sledge at Pride, singing their hit We Are Family -- sailing down Market Street on my big bed, I had quite a flashback.
Before there were Queer Pride parades, San Francisco's late lamented Sexual Freedom League had marches -- these, in fact, may have morphed into Queer Pride events after Stonewall lit the spark that really set the modern gay movement alight. In that sense, though I was way too young thirty-plus years ago to frolic at a Sexual Freedom League gathering, my Grand Marshalhood actually hearkens back to those days. I'm a pretty queer queer, after all -- it is still rather rare for bisexually-identified people to be honored at high-profile queer community gatherings like this, and San Francisco Pride is nearly as high-profile as it gets. Another of this year's marshals was "Mama" Sandy Reinhart, whose family of leathermen is notorious. (They pulled her in a chariot -- I bet the plain old politicians riding in boring old convertibles were jealous.) Patrick Califia-Rice almost made Grand Marshal. This year we were kind of like the Sexual Freedom League all over again.
I'd had to fill out a form and answer "What Does Pride Mean to You?" as part of the Parade Committee's PR. I wish I had been able to answer that question after riding down Market Street, not before. Sure, the question of pride has affected my entire adult life: and it wasn't just over coming out as a lesbian or working within the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender movements. I have had to maneuver myself into a position I could feel pride about as a bisexual woman, as a sex worker, as an S/M player. We all have to do this, to some degree, because this culture still does not teach us or expect us to have much pride around sexuality. So even married straight folks need pride -- though they do not need it in the same way, or as acutely, as someone who has had no visible positive role models at all.
I saw pride on most of the hundreds of thousands of faces along Market Street -- pride, and an enormous welling-up of joy. Hey, everyone loves a parade, but I'm not sure anyone loves a parade better than a festive crowd of queers. I was very, very proud to be part of it.
Now, Back to Polly
I told you, she's a goddess. She's a cute spunky Brit, she's a latex genius, she's a crazed club organizer. She can make anything -- she makes latex cow and pig suits, for goodness' sake! Barnyard animals not quite your fetish? I saw a head-to-toe latex suit she made for a private client, a cross-dresser, that turned him into a nude woman -- with a penetrate-able vagina! She's a whiz, all right. And did I mention she's a Brit? Well, La Migra doesn't want any perverted Brits coming over here and taking over our latex factories, do they? So Polly is having to raise a good deal of scratch to pay her lawyers, who are talking some sense into La Migra but charging her a pretty penny to do it. Hey, help her out! Surely you need some new latex clothes! In fact, she's having a sale right now. I'm not sure whether it's available on her website, but go see her marvelous wares anyhow at www.moralminorityinc.com.
It was the Best of Times, It was the Worst of Times...
And in the middle of this wild ride, I lost one of my favorite writing gigs. New Times, Inc., which owns many of the nation's free weekly papers, bought Berkeley's East Bay Express -- and my column, Queen of Hearts, was replaced by Dan Savage. Now, I adore Dan -- I think he's one of the great entertainers of the moment -- but please don't ask him any sex questions which show your vulnerable underbelly. He just recommended a nervous woman put her dog to sleep because he was in the habit of watching her have sex. Dan, puh-leeze! Do you really want to live in a country that kills voyeurs? Three words, dude: Pursuit of Happiness!
Sigh. So if you miss the column -- or haven't read it, but want to check it out -- look for it once a month in the Good Vibes Magazine and weekly on my site (www.carolqueen.com -- click on "Advice"). Once my site is debugged and can get weekly updates again, anyway. Like I said, it's the best of times...