Straight Shooting on Gay Pride
Gay rights have come a long way, but sober representation at the recent Gay Pride in LA left something to be desired.
Let's get something straight (for lack of a better word): I am straight, sober, loathe parades and crowds but I do believe fervently in equality for all. I also have more gay friends (and sponsees) than straight ones. So when I heard that LA's Gay Pride was having a drug and alcohol-free “Carnival of Attraction,” I had to go check it out. Plus who could resist the chance to wear a rainbow feather boa, get handfuls of free condoms and go roller skating?
The day started out at Urth caffé with a bunch of gay guys chanting “It’s our day, get out of our way” and I must say I was a little put off. But I put on my combat boots, a ripped tee and my Versace shades and headed out.
The parade was what you’d expect: gyrating scantily-clad men on floats dancing to “It’s Raining Men.” There were the usual stilts, cheerleaders, balloons and sequins. The Jewish Voice of LGBT Rights had a procession with signs that said, “Jew know I’m gay” which I found amusing. TMZ, Peta, PFLAG, Chase Bank (??) and Chipotle were all in the parade. Chipotle featured a shirtless muscle-bound guy riding a foil-covered burrito with a sign that said, “homo estas?” SoCal Lutherans, Universal Unitarians and HW United Methodist Church were all there to show their support of their gay brethren. I was disturbed to find out that you can be legally fired for being gay in 29 states. My attitude and drug use were enough to get me canned five times in California alone.
After that, me and my girls headed into the Festival. There were rows and rows of booths: Gelsons, Here TV, life partner legal teams, Project Angel Food, CPK, Hustler (which offered “free spankings" that I politely declined), and GALAS, the Gay and Lesbian Armenian Society. (How fucking specific do we need to get?) My favorite was LANG: which stands for Los Angeles Nude Guys where you can be “naked and free together.” Good to know! There were booths offering free AIDS testing and free meningococcal vaccines. FYI, meningitis is not only sexually transmitted and but also transferred through sharing straws….that you drink out of or put up your nose. If not treated, it can be fatal. After that bit of info, I eyed my friends suspiciously as they took a healthy slurp from my large outrageously-priced watermelon juice.
I spotted a So Cal NA booth and went over to investigate. The guy told me he’d been doing it for the past three years. Most of the people who stopped by were already in the program, he informed me. The rest were parents who wanted literature for their addicted kids.
We wandered into the LA Country Western Ball and Dance Workshop where I witnessed a disturbingly large number of people line dancing to Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines.” There were a few hay bales and a collection of cowboy hats thrown in for good measure.
There was a “Latina” area with a bisexual kissing booth, a Selena impersonator and a large offering of tooled leather wares.
In a converted garage near the Log Cabin was Riot 1, an “art and culture” exhibit where you could see performance art films of guys wearing green masks blowing each other. I thought that was just called pornography but what do I know? There were also strange shadowy projections on mattresses and a wall where they would type up promises you’d kept and burn the ones you’d broken. I was unimpressed with the art and scared by the epileptic lighting, but educated to the fact that “consensual sodomy” and “deviate sexual intercourse” (your mouth on somebody’s privates or asshole) are still class B misdemeanors. Yay more reasons I can be arrested.
Finally we stumbled upon “Erotic City” with its offering of dildos, ball stretchers, porn, lingerie, Tom of Finland gallery and cigar lounge. My friend tried to win some lube at the cock ring toss but was not on her game this night.
I finally found what I was looking for: “Sizzle,” the sober area which according to Frontiers magazine was going to be a “circus-like area of live performances, drag acts, cotton candy, strongman competitions, exciting attractions. . . at each booth participating outreach partners will provide information on vital services for people seeking recovery.”
Uhhh. Fizzle was more like it. There was no booze sold in this area but I saw plenty of people walking around with beers and the smell of pot was unmistakeable. It was billed as “an area that will allow dozens of sober volunteers and performers to congregate,” but when I asked three different groups of people what this area was, not one of them knew. They were clear that the Latina stage was over there and the VIP area back at the front, but nobody knew this was the sober area.
There were a few arcade games, a basketball toss and a DJ but it felt more like a carnival of promotion rather than attraction with the many booths for LGBT Center, Women For Sobriety Center, Klean Treatment Center, McIntyre House, CMA, Tweakers Project, Discovery Transitions Outpatient, APLA, etc. Each one was housed in a red and white striped tent with a 12 step saying emblazoned on the front: “Put the Plug in the Jug,” “Road to Happy Destiny,” “Working with Others.” So I guess if you knew you’d know but otherwise…..it felt exactly like the rest of the festival.
You have to be over 18 to get into “Erotic City,” how hard would it be to make sure people aren’t wandering around the supposedly safe sober area with open containers of booze? I was under the impression that it was for people that were already sober….who needed a break from the booze drenched festivities …and those people wouldn’t necessarily need info on treatment programs. What would they want or need? Strong coffee, energy drinks, cigarettes (and vapor cigarettes), massages, a tattoo booth, the 12 and 12 store. And hey this is a crazy thought - how about regular round the clock meetings?
From my sober lesbian friends I surmised this was better than last year’s Pride which had the tiny “Bill’s Café," a small sparsely populated area far off to the side. At least Sizzle was larger and in the middle of the Festival. Jeannie, with four years, told me that, “If I hadn’t read about it beforehand, I would have had no idea that that was the sober area. I thought it was going to be this safe closed off area that was fun like a carnival. But I felt like I saw more alcohol there than everywhere else because people were stopping to drink there. I appreciated that it was there and maybe it will help somebody but it just seemed like another area with booths.”
Lisa, who is coming up on a year disagreed, “I’ve been to Pride several years as a sober person and several years as a non-sober person and it’s just sort of refreshing because it makes you part of the festival. They had a lot of clues for a 12-step person. Sure people were drinking in there but you’re surrounded by all of the sober houses so it just had a much safer feel to it.”
As I was scribbling my notes, arranging my glow stick bracelets and dodging large tattooed women with buttons that said, “I love you, lets fuck,” my sponsee called. She had been to Pride that day. She has 47 days and said she really felt like drinking. So I quickly got to an area where I could hear her over the Pointer Sisters and the Adele Covers and took her call.
Then me and my buddies went roller skating. I heard one guy say, “I’m so fucking thirsty I feel like I’m on E!” I hadn’t been roller skating since I was 12 and so I pretty much screamed and wobbled the entire time. But then I saw an amazingly beautiful drag queen do some ice skating flip and I was so mesmerized, I crashed into a wall.
Walking home, I saw seven fireman and EMT’s loading a screaming girl into an ambulance. She kept shrieking, “Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God!” Evidently she was having a very bad trip…… or a very good orgasm.
Gay or straight, what bonded me to my friends was our sobriety and sense of humor. I blew my whistle and thought, “Yeah, I’m fucking proud, proud to be sober.”
Amy Dresner is a columnist at The Fix. She last wrote in tandem with her dad.