The Last Time I Saw LA Gay Pride

Throughout the month of June, all over the country, in cities big and small, gay, lesbian bisexual and transgendered men and women are flocking to their local pride parades and festivals. If you’ve never been to one of these events, I can tell you that if you do attend you are likely to see a musical act from yesteryear performing on one of the stages (Belinda Carlise! The Village People!), you are likely to see fried food on a stick (because corn dogs and churros cross all lines of discrimination) and you will certainly see a lot of people who are really, really intoxicated.

Now I’m not saying that everyone who attends a gay pride festival is going to get fucked up but let’s be honest here. The only thing gays like better than half-naked people in booty shorts at 11am wandering the streets is half-naked people in booty shorts at 11am wandering the streets drinking. Gays are so fond of daytime drinking in the streets, gaggles of them often appear at random festivals solely for that very reason. I’ve personally attended everything from Cuban festivals to an abysmal non-New Orleans version of Mardi Gras all in the name of drinking in the streets. As citizen of Los Angeles for 15 years, I could bore you with dozens of drunken tales from the West Hollywood gay pride festival. In fact, as I read blogs and saw pictures of this weekend’s celebration, my mind took a trip down memory lane. I recall line dancing in a country music tent with a drag queen. I remember drinking vodka and watching what remains of the Mary Jane Girls perform near a baseball diamond. And how could I forget seeing Cyndi Lauper wave from a hot pink convertible as a dance remix of ‘True Colors’ thumped in the background? Yet it’s my last time at gay pride in Los Angeles that solidifies the gay pride experience for me.

A friend and I went over to the parade in 2007. With cocktails to go, we headed over to West Hollywood. Perched from a cozy alcohol adjacent corner inside Rage, a parade route- friendly watering hole, we watched as the rainbow of topless men and aforementioned booty shorts pranced by interspersed with floats sponsored by  Gieco and local erotic bakeries alike. This being a Los Angeles event, “celebrities” pimping their latest reality shows or albums were on display too. We cheered as famous hot mess and former America’s Next Top Model judge Janice Dickinson floated by with a bevy of shirtless models. Dickinson claims to be the world’s first supermodel but I would contend she may also be the world’s first celebrity with Tourette’s syndrome. I however always admired her frank nature and the fact that here was a famous person who was shockingly more wasted than I was. She made me feel like, “Gee, maybe I’m not a total disaster.” Dickinson, like any good addict, had moments of sobriety followed by moments of hot messiness. During this particular celebration, it would be safe to say she was experiencing the latter. As the parade wrapped up, we plotted our next move. Do we pay $20 bucks to get into the festival or do we go drink somewhere else? Well, clearly our Jacksons would be put to better use at a bar so we headed over to the Abbey. While you’re unlikely to find nuns at this Abbey (unless it’s Halloween), you were guaranteed to find strong cocktails, more naked men and on that day even Janice Dickinson. Along with a thousand or so of our closest friends, the partying really started to happen. More beers, more shots, and a pill that someone told me was “kind of like Ecstasy.” I wanted my picture taken with Janice but her tanned trio of bodyguards politely shooed my wasted ass away. The rest of the afternoon was a slurry blur and by 4pm I was home and napping off my daytime drunk.

I share this story because in my mind the preceding events had nothing to do with being proud of being gay. I wasn’t drinking and dancing and harassing celebrities because I loved being gay and loved who I am. Quite the contrary, in fact.  Yet that’s how I always celebrated gay pride: by getting absolutely shithoused drunk.

While in LA and newly sober, I stayed away from gay pride. Not because I was worried that I would relapse. But because I felt like it I had no business being there. Like a vegan at Outback Steakhouse. Everybody else was going to be drunk so why bother? A few years later, I’ve lightened up. My recovery is such that I can attend this kind of stuff  without feeling like I’m the only one not wasted. But also I know when not to go too. Like even though its been over 3 years, there are times that I can’t go to places where lots of drinking will be going on. And this is okay. Gay pride means being proud of who you are and today I can honestly say that I am just that. I’m proud to be gay, sober and positive. And I can celebrate all of this without drinking, booty shorts or Janice Dickinson.

16 thoughts on “The Last Time I Saw LA Gay Pride

  1. There is so much strength in this post. Unfortunately, there is a lot of addiction in the gay community, in my opinion, in part because many have had to repress or deny who they really are. You find people to be around who are already addicted or using and you can be yourself, but there’s a new level of fitting in with the family. So you use or become addicted because you are trying to run from your past and fit in with your future. The fact that you are making the statement that yes, gay is who I am, but the drugs and alcohol don’t make me a part of the family is huge. It shows so much clarity and progress on your part. Forgive me if I’m way off with what I’m saying, that’s just my observations from spending time in codependent recovery with some wonderful gay people. 🙂

    • Michele, you are totally right on! And I always love hearing your thoughts. Drugs and alcohol are the great equalizer in the gay community and most gay pride celebrations are sponsored by big liquor companies despite the fact the recent numbers report the LGBT community is at a higher risk for addiction than other communities. But sadly it isn’t really talked about. As an African-American women, do you find your community is more honest and open about addiction and alcoholism or is it another case of sweep it under the rug and not discuss it? i ask because I have a bi-racial nephew and niece and wonder how this issue will affect them later in life. Again, I don’t believe a person’s race or sexuality “makes” them an alcoholic. It’s just interesting to see how communities are affected by it.

      • Honest and open in my community? Are you serious? LOL. We are so busy running from our issues, it frightens me. Okay, I guess that’s not a fair statement, I am generalizing. But it is common for many in my culture to put on a “show” that everything is perfect. I know it happened in my own household growing up. My dad’s alcoholism was known, but my mom did everything she could to make me appear as “perfect.”

        What’s funny is that just this morning I was making ammends to my mom for some bad decisions I made with her money in the past, a result of my compulsive debting. It was interesting to hear her response, which surprisingly was mostly affirmative, until she said “that’s why I would never tell anyone that you did those things, because everyone thought you were a good girl.” A few years ago, this statement would have bothered me, but today for some reason, it went right over my head. There is shame in having a weakness and unfortunately having a weakness is equated with addiction or any other psychological issue…especially in the Black community because we are supposed to be strong. I have noticed, particularly for some in my community that we are quick to judge others and slow to take a “fearless and moral inventory” of ourselves. 😉

      • Wow! Really enlightening. Thanks for your candor and experience. Just goes to show silence and denial know no color lines. I guess that’s the answer too. To keep talking about it and keep owning it and keep getting better. Maybe the people in our respective communities need to see that recovery is possible and we just get to be the lucky ones to go through. 🙂

  2. Coincidentally, this is the very reason that I’m going to New York the week AFTER Pride, this year. I figured it would be better to catch up with folks when it wouldn’t be so crazy. I’m fine in bars, not drinking, but when Pride week brings 1000’s of twenty-somethings to those same bars, it’s hard to deal with the constant “What, you’re not drinking?”

    I used to drink to forget the prejudice, the homophobia, the bullying, etc. Pride, and in-fact any night out on the gay scene, used to be about obliteration, forgetting, numbing and denial. But I no-longer want to feel “fabulous” after three cocktails; I want to feel fabulous at other times, and, for me, alcohol stunted my progress towards that goal. But I’m catching up, working through what I was denying, and this year (my first sober Pride) will be about actual pride 🙂

    Great post, as always!

  3. You are who you are and you should be proud to be a sober you. I’m not gay but I have a gay bar story.

    When I was 22 I hung with some wonderfully crazy women. One night they decided to drag me out dancing.Went went to the club (cleverly named “The Club”) and tried to have fun. The problem was the Salmon season had just wrapped and all the Italians & Sicilian guys had just returned from Alaska with money to burn. So the girls were getting groped, and fights were breaking out every three minutes.

    So the girls grab me and get out of there. We sat in the car for a second, the girls were bummed out because their night was going down in flames, and then one suggested we all go to “The After Dark”. They all look at me expecting me to freak and jump out the window running for the hills. Instead I told them to step on it.

    Walking up to the door was interesting, I would feel the same way 12 years later as I walked into my first topless joint in Las Vegas, a kind of “Wow, I’m actually doing this” feeling. In contrast to the Tuesday-night insanity at The Club the After Dark was mellow. The dance-floor had about seven guys dancing, and there were five or six tables, and a couple of booths by the front. Most all the tables were occupied with men talking (just like any other bar), so we sat at the bar.

    It was a nice place. I didn’t know what I’d expected, but this place was the nicest bar I’d been in so far. Yes, there were pastel and water-color prints of young men in various states of undress, but more tasteful than the Swedish Bikini Team posters found inside every bar in town. Soon I was on the dance floor having a blast. I would return there with the girls a few more times that summer. The only really gay thing about the bar was it had the BIGGEST condom vending machine I’ve ever seen in my life. It had all the colors/flavors.

    Long story short this event was one of several events which stamped out my homophobia at the right time. What I took away from this was there are things I think are true, then there are things actually true, and it’s up to me to know which are which before I open my mouth or form an opinion.

    So be proud of who you are.

    • That’s a great story! Gotta love the people we hung out with in our early 20s. I used to party with two pill popping strippers. Oh lord. Anywhoo, thanks for reading and popping by and of course thanks for the lovely Twitter back and forth.

  4. Its good to hear you talk about being fine around drunks now. I look forward to getting there… I am not quite there yet. I am still avoiding drunk events. It’s fine, I don’t miss it. I am also finding myself hyper aware of the drinking around me…
    The difference between casual drinking and drinking that seems to have an urgency to it…which I think is the way I drank.

    Anyway, love the photo of the boys in the pink outfits. Adorable.

  5. A tip o’ my tam to you and your peeps this Gay Pride holiday season, Mahone. Gay dudes know how to party. Hey, I know how to party…does that mean I’m gay too? Oh shit, this explains a lot. Why I watch Fashion Police with Joan Rivers. That seems kind of gay, even to me. Looks like I’m going to have an uncomfortable talk with my girlfriend…after I run amok in the streets in a pink Speedo and Aztec feathered head dress. Seriously, I love that people can just DO shit like that! It makes MY life more interesting. The world would be a lot blander place, without gay men. I’ve never had a boring conversation with a gay man, ever. He’s never explained how he aligned the struts of his car, while I looked at the lint I was rolling in my fingers. (some lesbians have though) As per being around that much partying, even today, I can’t help but mourn losing that slim sliver of times when it was really good. Really, really, really good. It’s normal, I guess, especially for us alcoholics. I just have to remember that big ol’ fat wedge of bad that good sliver was attached to. Remember the bad, Marius, remember how much more. Thanks for always reminding me, seanpaulmahoney.

    • Anytime, Marius. And you’d probably look stunning in a feathered headdress and booty shorts if the mood should ever strike you. Fashion Police is just comic gold so I think we’ll let you off the hook on that one. Yeah I guess what keeps me in check with drinking is the ability to play the tape through. I know that for me a simple beer at a festival would most likely lead to cocaine, sex in a port-a-potty and blacking out. As pretty as all of that sounds, I think I’ll just keep on keepin’ on. And thank you, Marius for doing the same!

  6. “You are likely to see a musical act from yesteryear performing on one of the stages.” You said a mouthful: “Headlining” (!) Denver Pride this year? “Fab Morvan of Milli Vanilli.”

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