A Little Pride

Hot on the heels of National Masturbation Month, it’s time to celebrate Gay Pride! And a rollercoaster ride of a year it’s been so far for lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and their supporters and friends. With gay lives being bandied about by top politicians and making national headlines, it’s hard to remember that once upon a time — not so long ago — the word “gay” couldn’t be printed in the New York Times.

You probably know that gays, lesbians and bisexuals parade in June to commemorate the Stonewall Riots that happened in New York’s Greenwich Village in 1969, when gays fought back against harassment by police. But did you know that the Sexual Freedom League sponsored parades in San Francisco for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and everybody else, even before Stonewall? When my heterosexual friends who love the gay parades tell me sadly that they wish there was a parade for everybody, I tell them they should have been out in the streets in the late 1960s with the SFL. (Of course, many of them hadn’t been born yet when the SFL was in its heyday!) In San Francisco a pre-Stonewall blow for gay freedom was struck when police tried to close down a gay dance and found they’d arrested several ministers, there to investigate reports of gay harassment. After the cops so graphically proved the point, the Council on Religion and the Homosexual was born.

Gay and lesbian politicos (in organizations like Society for Individual Rights, One, Inc., the Mattachine Society and the Daughters of Bilitis) were busy before Stonewall, too, working hard to educate politicians about “homophile” issues. When I see old photos of ladylike lesbians and business-suited gay men picketing the White House when LBJ was the tenant, I marvel at how far the movement has come — and at how hard we’re still working. If homophile activists hadn’t fought for the rights of gays and lesbians to use the US Mail for their publications, we might not be able to send the Good Vibrations catalog to you today. (The indefatigable activists in the reproductive rights movement, too, helped open the mails to information about sex.) As the Sexual Freedom League knew, the sexual rights of one are related to the sexual rights of all.

So how about the recent spate of headlines? The marriage ban has gotten the most attention. How can this be everyone’s issue? Everybody else, after all, can get married already.

That may be, but have you read the wording of the version of the marriage bill favored by the most conservative politicians? Something about marriage being recognized as a union between one man and one woman (careful, or someone might try to slip an extra wife and/or husband in there) for the purposes of procreation. Hello! Does that mean all the vasectomized guys can’t get married? All the post-menopausal women? All the heterosexuals who think a marriage bond is about love and desire for your spouse, not baby-making?

This must be giving Zero Population Growth a migraine. I have nothing against reproduction, when people choose to reproduce — but mandating reproduction is downright scary. (Downright unconstitutional, too, I’m sure, but the fact that there are folks who take this seriously still ought to give all of us pause. If not hives.)

Care to join me and all my gay and lesbian friends as we live in sin?

The other big news is more hopeful for those of us who think human rights equal sexual rights. The conservative backlash against equal rights laws finally hit the Supreme Court, who recommended, in essence, a little peek at the Constitution to supplement Bible study. They treated the Colorado bigots who gave that state Measure 2 like the schoolyard bullies they are, instructing them that we are not to pick on people just because of sexual orientation. Ironically, the anti-gay forces behind efforts like Measure 2 finally gave the nation proof of what gays have been saying all along: “We need protection under the law specifically because some people do want to pick on us.”

Friends, let’s bring peace to the schoolyard. Everyone can do something about this issue — vote non-homophobic politicians into office, challenge thoughtless remarks, help create a friendly climate for people of all sexual orientations. The folks who bring us homophobia really don’t care much for anyone’s desire for sexual freedom and erotic choice, you know — remember that under several states’ still-enforced sodomy laws, a heterosexual married couple can be criminally charged for having oral sex. If you’re browsing our web page, I know that’s not the kind of country you want to live in — but politicians will be cowards on the issue of sexual rights unless we, the people, insist that they take a progressive stand.

Our sexuality — whether it’s gay, lesbian, heterosexual, bisexual, or anything else – is basic to us: to our pleasure, our partnering, our selves. This Gay Pride Month, do something about preserving our rights to sexual pleasure, whether you’re gay or not. March in a parade (out and proud, or with Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). Write to your congressional representative. Accept your own sexuality a little more. Work on accepting someone else’s. We’re in this together, and together we can make sure our sexualities are a cause for celebration.

Dr. Carol Queen

Carol Queen has a PhD in sexology; she calls herself a "cultural sexologist" because her earlier academic degree is in sociology: while she addresses individual issues and couple's sexual concerns, her overarching interest is in cultural issues (gender, shame, access to education, etc.). Queen has worked at Good Vibrations, the woman-founded sexuality company based in San Francisco that turned 35 years old in 2012, since 1990. Her current position is Staff Sexologist and Good Vibrations Historian; her roles include representing the company to the press and the public; overseeing educational programming for staff and others; and scripting/hosting a line of sex education videos, the Pleasure-Ed series, for GV’s sister company Good Releasing. She also curates the company's Antique Vibrator Museum. She is also the founding director of the Center for Sex & Culture, a non-profit sex ed and arts center San Francisco, and is a frequent lecturer at colleges, universities, and community-based organizations. Her dozen books include a Lambda Literary Award winner, PoMoSexuals, and Real Live Nude Girl: Chronicles of Sex-Positive Culture, which are used as texts in some college classes. She blogs at the Good Vibes Magazine and at SFGate's City Brights bloggers page and contributes to the Boston Dig. For more about her at carolqueen.com.

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