My Gay Acid Trip
San Francisco Bay Times, Vol. 16, Number 19 • June 29, 1995
BY SAMUAEL TOPIARY
Maybe it was the fact that everyone was doing speed this year instead of X, and it made people mean and uppity instead of loving and universal. Or maybe it was the dearth of good gay fashion that bunched my high. I mean, suburbia rarely yields high trend, but there weren’t even any new T-shirt slogans or dumb rainbow novelty items to mark Pride 1995.
Still, if there was any single gay reason for my had acid trip, it was the horrifying, large, loud Christian Right contingent that unleashed the torrential rainstorm of my vitriolic hate and cynicism and poured out of my eyes and tongue on what should have been a peaceful and lovely escapist romp with unity and self-identification pride.
It was a bad omen that I didn’t make it down to the parade early enough to be a part of the Dykes on Bikes. No sooner did my friends and I trip out onto the sidewalk from the Powell St. BART station, then I tried to pull out my metaphorical umbrella and unsuccessfully shelter my friends from the downpour of liquid emotions; raining once again on the parade. With three-quarters of a hit I was just mildly en route to one more doofy parade that dldn’t quite seem like it was really about celebrating my preferred brand of queerness — but, you know, gay pride is gay, and it‘s a tourist event and… every day is gay day in S.F.
But no amount of straight gawkers and boring mall-bought outfits could have sent me into the deep depression that a heavy dose of the right wing and their attendant police protection inspired. l wavered: on the one hand I realized that the fuckers should have that protection because I was on the verge of doing any kind of violence available to their little demo; on the other hand, I realized that the right-wingers’ police protection was just another Frank Jordan-ordained fascist support of mother fuckers who should be torn limb from limb for even thinking that something as arbitrary and biased as the Constitution should protect their right to “freedom of assembly”and “free speech” when hundreds of us have been arrested for “inciting a riot” in peaceful demonstrations protesting the Rodney King debacle, etc.
But it was Gay Day, and I should be happy and free and celebrate diversity and be grateful to be living in the Mecca. Escapism— I really tried to escape my rage and growing right-wing doom. The drugs were working against me. I was too awake: I had not partied into the night at Terrance’s “The End” celebration of the film festival because the cops had denied him a permit to hold the party. (See “New Year’s Bash” article, SF Bay ‘l’imcs, Jan. 12, 1995, for background details on the last party ‘I`errance threw, which ended in an illegal raid and is part of a still-pending lawsuit.)
My friends and I took a nice sunny place on the sidelines. When the gay cop contingent passed by, my friends and I yelled, “Shame, shame.” KeriOakie, trying out one of her new ‘l`-shirt slogans (not yet available), yelled, “A good person is still a bad cop!”
‘l’he weather was nice, sunny like it always is in the Mecca on Pride. Frank Jordan floated by. Why was he in the parade? A bunch of other straight people, a “straight but not narrow” contingent passed by, looking for approval and validation. Wouldn’t it be nice if they could be OK with showing their support on the sidelines and just give themselves a rest for a day? We yelled, “lt’s O.K.” to the bisexual contingent. But when Jordan’s “Gay and Lesbian Appointees” showed up, we were confused. Are we supposed to support them, the few queers doing an important service by representing gay and lesbian interests in the homophobe’s cabinet? Are we supposed to be appeased? Or do we assume that they are just Republican assholes like their boss? I opted for booing at them.
I joined ACT UP for a few blocks— hoping to subsume my rage into a good cause— at least my anger and cynicism fit into the solemnity of walking a casket slowly down Market St. Then I joined back up with my dyke contingent and tried to remix into their performance art installation, “Gayness.” We proclaimed “l’m Gay!” to everyone. We shouted about our “gay” articles of clothing on “gay day” under the “gay” sun with our “gay” tans, chewing our “gay” grape gum, admiring our “gay” tattoos and getting “gay” sunburns. I find that it helps me to have a gimmick. It makes me feel more like I’m helping the tourists to experience local culture first-hand. I also tried casting spells on the all-too-complacent masses. I waved my hands out over the passing crowds and incanted “cynicism” and “fashion.” I didn’t think I actually had an effect, but it helped take my mind off the bad trip.
Finally, after eons had passed, the Radical Faeries and Pagans arrived. l joined the harmonic convergence circle hum. This public centering spectacle helped me to put my experiences in perspective.
I know l have an attitude problem. I date this problem back to my ’93 March on Washington experience, when l realized I could no longer consider myself “gay” or in allegiance with a political and social affiliation which has a “gays in the military” agenda and is more interested in mass marketing strategies than fighting for and celebrating queerness. D.C. ’93 was the site of a “gay shame” performance art piece which my compatriot Miguel and I performed by substituting the word “shame” for “pride” at all opportunities. But “gay shame” seems so optimistic now, two years later, when everyone is just trying hold on to even a little bit of gayness in the growing fascist state of Proposition 187, and more and more plague and less and less everything else.
I know, l’m just a cynical, over-critical dyke with a few too many HIV + or sick or dying friends, and a few too many chips on my shoulder about the impending state of fascism to really let loose and throw down and rave unconditionally to 1992’s big gay disco hits in the middle of corporate downtown at 3 pm. lt’s not the acid’s fault, but next year I think l’ll prepare early and get myself a good batch of Zoloft.
ln the meantime, I offer the parade committee a few pieces of bad acid trip advice:
l. The shameless commercialism of the bazaar area is more ominous without music. ln order to encourage the crowds to put their money where their pride is, the music should definitely be blaring, and preferably something up to date. ln general, a world without steady beats is difficult, and silence is a bad idea for the segue from parade to rave.
2. I don’t know why S.F. feels compelled to keep the locals in the dark about where
to find their gay good times, but Embarcadero ranks way down there as an appropriate site for a citywide open party. What’s wrong with the Civic Center? Too obvious, convenient and wide open?
3. $4 lemonade margaritas should be subsidized by the city and more easily accessible. More importantly— what’s up with the Mardi Gras beads? Am I to assume they’ve gone the way of social services and arts funding? Bring them back. They are an all-too-important element of frolic and fun, sorely missed by shirtless gym queens and fashion victims alike.
4. Who voted the house songs “Everybody scream…” and “Pride— a deeper love” the official gay anthems? lt’s time to move on. ln the interest of inspiring some new gay culture costume designers, I offer a few KeriOakie T-shirt ideas to make up for so much Don’t Panic “Nobody knows I’m a Lesbian” recycling:
“Authority is stupid.”
“Wait, l‘m gay.”
“Barbie oppresses me.”
“A good person is still a had cop.”
Lest you think l’m a bitter lost cause, I want to assure you that my gay acid trip did have its moments of sheer delight. The visual sensation of the Barbarella Twins lifted me out of my dark cloudy haze. Kelly and Sheri offered a scintillating example of an East Village glam dyke twin look— working the rainbow theme with vintage ’70s scoop-neck T’s and stick-on eyelashes, feather boss and retro-elementary school pigtails. David Meanix’s Queer State of America green foam dollar bill jumpsuit offered the crowd a humorous jab at the shameless commercialism of Pride. And it’s always a surrealist’s joy to experience Peachy Puffs in broad daylight.
However, if San Francisco expects to remain the capital of Queer, I suggest the power brokers of Pride start working a little harder to infuse into our national holiday the youthful spirit and rebellious energy and political funk that makes SF so special. Stonewall was a riot, “freedom” is an all-too-theoretical construct, and pride must be earned.