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Long Story Short: Politics of pride

6/10/19



Gay pride and prejudice

June is LGBTQ Pride month, so designated because the Stonewall Riots occurred in New York City on June 28, 1969, galvanizing the fledgling gay rights movement. The fiftieth anniversary of Stonewall provides an opportunity to reflect on society’s progress in the half-century that’s passed since someone could actually be arrested for dancing with a member of the same sex. How binarily strange that sounds, now that we have a credible, openly gay candidate—who’s in a same-sex marriage—running for president. That idea would have caused most people’s heads to explode in 1969.

 

Buffalo’s celebrations include the Pride Parade, which is part of the Pride Festival, which is part of Pride Week, which kicks off Pride Month.

 

Gay pride in Buffalo

It took our city until 1993 to get off its conservative rustbelt ass and stage its first Pride Parade. Early Pride Festivals were held on Bidwell Parkway for free. The parade, and festival have grown since those days, picking up an increasingly long list of sponsors, supporters, and stars.

 

Not everyone’s cup of tea

It was a surprise to this cis-gender male to discover that some members of Buffalo’s LGBTQ community are uncomfortable with aspects of the celebration. A Facebook post by a local resident (who prefers I not use his name), expressed weariness over a gay youth who lectured him on the “benefits of acting up outrageously at PRIDE parades for attention.” In a related post, he states that many of the Pride participants make him cringe, calling the event “a commercial booze up venue that is profiting on the past marches for equal rights.” His concern is that the public may not realize that “ninety-seven percent of the gay community doesn't act like that.”

 

Others chime in

You might write these comments off as the sentiments of an older gay curmudgeon, but the reaction he received from LGBTQ friends was largely supportive. “Agreed,” says one woman, “Our parade here is a hot mess.” A man joined others bemoaning the parade’s “commercialism,” saying the event has drifted from its origins as a “peaceful civil rights demonstration,” to become “a procession of corporate advertisements.”

 

It’s all about image

An openly gay auxiliary bishop offered an anecdote from his experience in Australia: “A guy was standing on Parliament House steps dressed in a mini-skirt, tight sweater, with balloons for boobs, red wig, and beard. He was handing out flyers which read; ‘The person who handed you this is Homosexual; as you can see, he looks just like every other tax paying citizen.’” The bishop concludes by saying, “People don’t respond well to ‘In Your Face’ behavior.”

 

“Well this is why I won’t attend,” says another commenter, “Why do we have to be radical? Why hold grudges? Never forget, ok. But the whole thing about fifty years ago? A lot has changed, but we forget the good that’s in front of us. Proud? No. Disappointed? Yes.” One person sees a silver lining to some of the event’s overt sexual displays, believing that it makes the nice gay couple across the street seem more acceptable by comparison.

 

Another man posted an eloquent commentary on shifting priorities as LGBTQ people age. The need to openly declare “we’re here; we’re queer,” becomes less of a priority over time, he says. “We are more than sex,” he concludes, “We are your children’s teachers, your attorneys and doctors, your garbage collectors and construction workers.”  

 

A related blog by Mike Robért titled We Are More Than A Party, was posted in response and includes the following: “We’re being encouraged as a community to be as loud and as crazy as we want to be, since we’ve been restricted for so long and it obviously still makes straight people laugh.The balance part of the equation seems to be left out though, and we’re not checking ourselves to see if we’re going too far.”

 

Zealotry breeds zealotry

Perhaps predictably, given these contentiously polarized times, a group named, Super Happy Fun America, is planning a Straight Pride Parade in Boston, tentatively scheduled to occur Aug 31. These are likely the same white male types who spout the rejoinder, “All lives matter.” On their website they post this gem: “Straight people are an oppressed majority.” Now, if true, that would make us the only majority in America stupid enough to allow ourselves to be repressed by a minority. And when was the last time a bakery refused to bake a wedding cake for a straight couple?  

 

 

You, too, can be an art critic

Young art enthusiasts might be surprised to learn that back in the nineteen-seventies, virtually every art exhibition in Buffalo was professionally reviewed by one or both of our two major daily newspapers. Not anymore. The Courier Express has long since folded, and the Buffalo News recently eliminated its art critic position. Artvoice is gone and The Public hasn’t published in weeks. Outside of Spree—which reviews a select number of exhibitions—art criticism has all but dried up in town.

 

Why it matters

LA-based artist Lindsay Preston Zappas is the founder and editor-in-chief of Contemporary Art Review Los Angeles (CARLA), a publication that includes a quarterly print magazine, a website with weekly online reviews, and a recently launched podcast. “Writing about art in a specific region not only documents what is happening, which is an important part of historicizing a specific time and place” says Zappas, “but it also has the power to examine deeply the art that is being made in a region, and verbalize the main ideas and concerns of a community…and written discourse about a region is also a great way of exporting what is happening there to other cities.”

 

Zappas is coming to the Buffalo Institute for Contemporary Art (BICA) to exhibit her work in an exhibition titled, Lindsay Preston Zappas: I Forgot My Shoes. An artist reception will take place this Friday, June 14, from 7-10 p.m. (the public is welcome). Then, on Saturday, June 15, the artist/critic will host a free, one-day workshop for aspiring art writers. “It will be based on my experience running an independent art magazine in LA,” says Zappas.

 

The group will learn the basics of art-reviewing, then head out to view local exhibitions. Review writing follows later in the day. “We’ll be focusing on presenting a critical edge, being bold with opinion, and using a personal voice and tone,” Zappas explains. Over the summer, she will help edit a Summer Art Review for Buffalo, to be printed and launched in August.

 

Turning lemons into lemonade

Zappas laments the loss of art coverage in major newspapers, but she believes the loss can be leveraged as an opportunity to make something else happen. “I started CARLA to fill a void of art writing in and about Los Angeles,” she explains. “I'm hoping this workshop might inspire writers to continue to self-publish, or think about alternative forms of disseminating art writing without relying on the gate-keepers/ magazine publishers.” She points out that there are more opportunities for publishing art criticism than people often realize. “There are many really excellent print and online magazines—Hyperallergic for instance—that cover national arts reporting.” Zappas asks prospective writers to consider spotlighting our local scene on these platforms, which would introduce Buffalo’s rich art community to a global audience.

 

Interested?

Space is limited, so anyone interested should send an email to BICA now to get on the list.

 

Long Story Short is an opinion column by artist and educator Bruce Adams, a longtime contributor to Buffalo Spree.

 

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