On the day before Christmas eve, my thoughts, for some reason, turn to pride.
I’ve rediscovered a song just today that has a certain amount of significance to me. The song is called Dragostea Din Tei by O-Zone and you can hear it here. I had heard it before this occasion but the song marked me one night about three years ago at a Montreal drag bar called Cabaret Mado. I had just performed in that evening’s show and stuck around for a while for the post-show dance party DJ’d by the famous Mado herself. She mentioned she was feeling “quétaine”(québécois expression meaning “tacky” or “cheesy”) that night and threw this number on. Now, there I was, standing by myself at one of the bars and observing the mostly queer crowd on the stage, which turns into a dance floor after the show. I was alone – it was a Tuesday night and none of my friends had been able to make it out. Being alone, I became reflective. I felt a bit lonely but not in a chronic sense since I normally have ample occasion to dance my heart out with my chronies.
I had recently decided to undertake the path to transition from female to male. So as I stood there in a crowd of queers, I reflected on how my position in the queer community would change. And of course, I reflected once again on the fragmentation that exists in the queer community. I won’t go into the details of that fragmentation here – that is a whole piece on its own, or more like multiple pieces. But it’s something that comes up in my mind and in the minds of many, if I’m to rely on the ongoing real life and cyber discussions on this issue. And on the eve of my transition not only from female to male but from bi qenderqueer female to bi genderqueer FTM, it was especially present in my thoughts.
Now, although the thoughts are often distressing in that “Why don’t more people understand that solidarity is important and that the advancement of one subgroup at the expence of others will only lead to our general downfall and the maintenance of the wider hegemony that exists in mainstream society?” kinda way, there is always the compensatory sense of community that I feel when I let go of rational thought and let my mind, body and spirit join in the flow of human and musical energy around me at dance parties. I didn’t do it that night at Mado’s but watching others do so led me through the above-mentioned thoughts and eventually to memories of when I had done so.
Images come to mind.
Mado’s on one particular September evening years before, celebrating International Bisexuality Day with members of the bi group that I used to help administer. We went out for dinner then to catch Mado’s show on a Saturday night. At our request, she mentioned that we were there for International Bi Day during her show and, of course, made one of the usual jokes about bisexuals that some gay men like to make. No doubt something about being “pas branchéEs” (non yet plugged in) or about her being bi because she likes to kiss gay men and straight men. As solid as we were in each other’s presense . . .as PROUD as we were that night, even those usual humourous stabs, underlined as they were with some amount of seriousness demonstrated by their pervasiveness in the queer community, could not bring us down. During the after show dancing, all 10-12 of us took to the tiny dance floor and went nuts. We lost ourselves in each other and in the music. One of the rare times as a female that I could dance with no sense of self-consciousness, I didn’t care what anyone thought about us being bi. I was simply proud of myself, my friends and even our community for just existing.
Meow Mix, a monthly event for queer gals and their buddies during which there is a cabaret show followed by a dance party. At one point a regular hang out for me, and later a regular venue for performance, it was and is one of my favourite places to dance. When I was there as a woman, I could kiss another woman without being wary of dirty looks by onlookers or predatory gazes of hetero men. As a trans guy, I can kiss whoever I want (provided they want to kiss me back) with that same freedom. And I can dance with my friends or with strangers, getting lost in the same way that I did on International Bi day all those years ago. And I can bask in the pride of existing: existing in spite of social forces that exist in the world that would prefer we did not exist.
Most of all, I remember dancing after the first Montreal Pride parade that I marched in. The year before, I had seen the parade for the first time and was distressed by the low presence of bisexuals. I joined the existing group that I had seen a mere 2 weeks later and, the next year, I was organising our participation in the parade. In spite of our fears, we had a great turn out and a great experience. In those days, the parade ran eastbound on René-Lévesque Boulevard on which there is a hill. Getting to the top of that hill and looking down ahead of us to see thousands upon thousands of people gathered to celebrated our pride was one of the most moving experiences of my life. The colours and the energy brought me to tears and as I turned to look at my friends, I could see so many emotions on their faces – emotions that I imagine were similar to my own. Later, at the outdoor stages near the destination point of the parade, we were able to dance in streets that were blocked from traffic for the occasion. Dancing with a friend of mine, from whose path mine has long since drifted, on a street on which cars usually circulated en masse, I became enraptured in the experience. And I danced for all of our queer ancestors who had to fight for us to be able to occupy spaces like these without fear of arrest or harassment. I danced for my younger self who had been too repressed to fully be herself. I danced for all the people in the world who suffer marginalisation and even death at the hands of those who continue to deplore our existance.
Today, when I hear the prejudicial comments by queers and non-queers directed at any particular segment of the queer community, I think of the necessity of pride. Today, when I hear comments by well-intentioned queers and non-queers who critique the on-going existence of pride parades and other pride events, claiming that they contribute to setting us apart from society, I wish I could plug my brain into theirs and show them these memories, thoughts and emotions. Failing that, I try to explain that pride is necessary because of the marginalisation that we have experienced as communities and as individuals. Pride is necessary out of solidarity with those who continue to be marginalised in various parts of the world. Pride is necessary because it is one of the ways that we *just* might manage to maintain solidarity in a community that is typically divided along lines of sexual orientation, gender identity, language, age and other factors and that is blemished by sexism, racism, ablism and inter-faction distrust and prejudice. Pride is necessary because those of us who are able to can be visible as a beacon for those who still feel they need to hide for whatever reason: safety, lack of readiness, special circumstances. Pride is necessary to show those who dispise us that they cannot keep us down. Finally, pride is necessary as a recognition of our roots and of those who fought for our rights and who continue to do so.
And this is why I dance – as a demonstration of sadness for those who died fighting or who died from oppression, as a demonstration of joy in the friendship, companionship and love I’ve found in this community and as a demonstration of pride. I don’t care how you identify, where you’re from, who you fuck, who you love – I want to dance with you. And maybe others will join us. “Quétaine” be damned!