So. Pride did a thing. After years of being no more politically risky than an bowl of strawberry Jell-O, the Pride committee -- or some kind of mole within the Pride committee, according to SF Pride board president Lisa L. Williams' utterly weird statement about the whole thing -- announced that Bradley Manning (a.k.a. Breanna Manning), jailed and pallid hero of the Wikileaks generation, soon to face court-martialling, was to be a Pride Grand Marshall.
An honor usually reserved for washed up TV actresses who once said the word "gay" on CBS prime time in the '80s and craven politicos with dead eyes and hard hair, the Grand Marshallship has before this stirred up about as much controversy outside the community as the color beige. And yet, on Friday afternoon, the world's head exploded. (The canny queen who leaked the decision sure knew her press cycles -- Wikileaks lives!) When your dad in Detroit calls you almost immediately after the news breaks to ask how you're covering it, you know its grabbing virtual headlines.
The announcement has since been officially rescinded by Pride in the tone-deafest of ways (LOL at the whole statement, really -- especially how the Grand Marshalls "serve to represent the highest aspirations of the LGBT community": so, um, Cloris Leachman, Cyndi Lauper, Sarah Silverman?), causing even more uproar. And suddenly people are discovering or rediscovering that Pride is a bland yet militant corporate entity that long ago strayed from its politically activist roots even while it claims to represent us all. Facebook is aflame with locals up in arms over Pride's cowardice in the face of its criminal corporate sponsors, including Bank of America and Wells Fargo, and its gross media partners like Clear Channel.
I found it pretty serendipitous that this week the Bay Guardian ran an interview with the founder of Gay Shame, Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, about her new book The End of San Francisco, which in a personal and emotional way describes the amnesia that keeps gripping SF queer activism when it comes to Pride's, and the gay community at large's, utter Borg of assimilationism and sell-outitude. In the late '90s and early 2000s, Mattilda and her organization were protesting all of Pride's crap -- particularly funny was a parade route "Budweiser Vomitorium" where you could "puke up your sponsorship pride" and a notorious anti-Parade during which a huge brass band of queer freaks marched directly into the oncoming Pride parade's path, causing chaos. Gay Shame was also getting tons of shit for its important antics from people claiming that Pride was already "too political" hahaha.
Mattilda's in town to read her book; it's going to be a pretty lively reading now. She shared this searing Glenn Greenwald piece on the Manning debacle in the Guardian, that's been burning up the Internet. As usual, Mattilda has a double-take that's enlightening:
"Glenn Greenwald is an extremely eloquent critic of state tyranny, using his training as a lawyer to relentlessly disassemble the hypocritical claims of corporate governmental powerbrokers (even though he still seemed to be supporting Obama when I saw him speak shortly before the “election”). But, at the same time, Greenwald is almost dogmatic in his support for the gay marriage agenda – this seems an unfortunate example of allowing self-interest (he is in a spousal relationship with a Brazilian man) to block self-awareness. In other words, he never makes the obvious connections between his critique of institutional power and the gay establishment’s obsession with accessing that same power through a never-ending obsession with marriage and military inclusion, hate crimes legislation, etc. But, here in this brilliant and scathing piece, he finally seems to be making those connections. Could he become an anti-assimilationist critic, after all?"
I wonder if the same anti-assimilationist energy is striking a lot of queer people over this Manning thing. The fact that these kinds of issues are coming up again at all right now -- especially when same-sex marriage is before the Supreme Court and Don't Ask, Don't Tell has been rescinded -- is extremely interesting. Could an actual protest movement like Gay Shame rise from the embers of assimilation? You bet your sweet Breanna. And check out Monday's protest outside the SF Pride office, 1841 Market at 5pm. Also this at Pride itself.
I may actually have to go to this year's parade!
PS Now if we could only get the house-trained "radicals" of the Pride celebration's Faerie Freedom Village into the street to actually do a thing -- that would be something.