By Charles Karel Bouley II
Originally published on Advocate.com May 23 2005 12:00 AM ET
It’s pride season. I know, because I’ve been getting a lot of interview requests. You see, I’m one of the few that will go on record and state that pride events aren’t very prideful things and the activities that go on in abundance actually hurt us more than help. I’ve been taken to task for this many times publicly, and that’s fine — that’s what debate is all about. One of the most common questions is, if you don’t go any more, how do you know what’s going on? Two words: Paris Hilton. Today in my inbox I found a press release that reads as follows:
Paris Hilton, Mom to Grand Marshal Parade
Paris and Kathy Hilton have been named grand marshals for the 35th Annual Los Angeles Gay Pride celebrations to be held in West Hollywood, festival organizers announced last week.
“They are a very public mother and daughter team, and they know what it’s like to be different, or what it’s like when people don’t understand who they are,” said Rodney Scott, board president of Christopher Street West, parade and festival organizer. “We are so thrilled and excited to have them as our grand marshals.”
The first thing that pops into my mind is, are there no gay people that could possibly grand marshal our own parade? There, on pride day in Los Angeles, the grand marshal will be heralded down the street and it’s…Paris Hilton? According to Scott, Paris and her mom know what it’s like to be different and misunderstood. Forgive me here, I don’t normally do this, but cry me a fuckin’ river. We all should be so misunderstood. Paris can reportedly get six figures — six figures — for a 20-minute appearance at a party. She’s an heiress, has always had money, always will. I won’t go into how her celebrity denotes so much of what’s wrong with the value system in this country, but let’s just say she’s not the role model I’d want for my child. Or my community. She is whiny, self-indulgent, and self-absorbed, and her only claim to fame is that she’s a party girl who has had great Internet sex. Wait, maybe she is the perfect role model for gay pride.
That’s it. Thank you Los Angeles Gay Pride. You’ve finally proven my point, shown me and the world what festivals truly represent: excess; all that is bad; intense concentration on the material (how one looks and dresses, how much money they have); idolization of the superficial and denial that there are any outstanding real gay people to promote. Paris and her mom are grand marshals. According to the L.A. Gay Pride Web site, headline performers are Tiffany, Deborah Harry, Deborah Gibson, and India.
Now, I don’t know about India, but I haven’t heard about the other three coming out recently. Sure, there are gay people nestled among Evelyn King, CeCe Penniston, Charlene, and Becky Baeling, but the big pictures, the big press releases, the people with “grand” in front of their names — and no doubt those being paid the most — they’re straight! (said à la Tony the Tiger). I have nothing against Paris and her mom, and it’s true they might have faced adversity. But I find it hard to feel that they can relate to, oh, I don’t know, being beaten and tied to a fence post for being so “different.”
In a time when the richest one percent of the nation, i.e. them, get tax breaks, most of us struggle to pay more for less whether we’re gay or straight. While she’s over here waving to the nice homos, women her age are risking their lives in Iraq — some of them gay and forced to serve silently for being “different.” Sure, Paris can relate. What a disaster this has all become. It’s really quite sad. But no one will really care. People will run to wave at Paris. They’ll flex their pecks and perhaps dance about in some beads. They’ll critique what she’s wearing. It will all be so-o-o special. And so terribly, terribly sad.
There are gay pioneers out there that deserve to be the grand marshal of the gay pride parade in every sense: celebrity grand marshal; community grand marshal; every single grand marshal, period. Let Paris show up at one of our parties if she wants to show support. Wait, that might cost us $200,000. Plus, who’s going to want to clean up the vomit? (OK, that’s a cheap South Park reference, but you get the point.) Thanks L.A., for reminding me why the battle is still so hard: misplaced priorities. Thanks for reminding me why it is still illegal to marry in more states than it is legal, why now even domestic partnerships are in danger in many places. Thanks for reminding me of why so many of my community are struggling with addictions to things like alcohol and crystal meth — you know, party drugs. Party, party, party. Paris Hilton, party girl. I get it. Thanks for reminding me it’s all just one big party with no point or mission whatsoever. Have fun with your ’80s icons and millennium mistresses. Come up with a catchy slogan like “How Do You Wear Your Pride” and go on thinking you’ve done something great. How do I wear my pride? On the outside. I’m gay every day. And I have pride in many things, and many people, in my community. Unfortunately, Paris and her mom don’t pop into my mind when I think of that list. Come to think of it, neither do these events, and now the reasons are even more clear.
Do we need the support of the Hilton Corporation? Sure, powerful allies are great. But if we have to idolize one of their offspring to do it, then it’s really not worth it. Especially when the idol has become all too American, and all too gay. Well, at least gay men have proven they are, in fact, equal to their straight counterparts. All it takes to get their attention is a dizzy blond with breasts. I’m so proud.