It’s a Sunday night tradition at this point, one I haven’t mentioned before. As I write this, music from the gay bar across the street is wafting up and into my condo.
Tonight, though, it’s more so than normal: With Pride this weekend, the volume is noticeably louder, the selections poppier than DJ El Toro’s usual mix. (Prince’s “Erotic City” just ended.) My neighborhood has been full of this the last few days, the gays reclaiming the Hill from the bros who’ve begun to infest it the other 51 weekends a year. Within a two-block radius of my home, four blocks have been shut down for beer gardens.
Pride was the biggest it’s ever been this year, just as it was last year, and the year before, and so on. And I’m starting to wonder if that’s a problem.
I didn’t want to go to the club last night. To be clear, I never want to go to the club, but once or twice a year, I allow my friends to cajole me into it. Two drinks in, the offer of more, on them, won me over.
Standing in the 45-minute line to get in, people were friendly, but a weird dynamic began to play out, everyone declaring their sexualities and statuses. My friends and I struck up a conversation with the two guys and a gal behind us, trying to suss out who fell where on the Kinsey scale. One of the two guys was defensive when accused of being gay, insisting he had a child at home. The other, open and proud. And the gal said she was straight, with a boyfriend, but her goal for the night was to make out with a woman.
Call it gay tourism.
A few years ago, I kissed another guy, once. It was Valentine’s Day, and it was for my then-girlfriend, who, months later, tried to convince me I liked it. I hadn’t, though, and if anything, I felt a little regret at being the male equivalent of the women at the bar who make out to get guys’ attention. I’m as straight as anyone, I tell people, and at least now, I can cite that as an example.
But in the years since, as gay rights have proliferated across the nation and people of all sexualities are increasingly accepted in society, I’ve noticed an increasing interest amongst my non-LGBTQI friends at partaking in Pride. It feels self-congratulatory to me, to go out to spend a weekend with the gays and pat yourself on the back for being an ally. You don’t get bonus points for treating people as people.
There’s a sign outside a bar in my neighborhood that people have praised for discouraging discrimination of all types. But, ironically, that bar is one of the ones that’s bringing the people most likely to discriminate into the neighborhood to begin with. A few years ago, it was a beautiful, genuine dive. Now, it’s a “dive” bar, renovated by the same people who turned the gay bathhouse next door into a 24-hour diner. It claims to be part of the solution, but it’s actually part of the problem.
As I stood in the club last night, sipping my whiskey soda, I looked around and hoped the same couldn’t be said of me.
I skipped all the weekend’s major events this year: The parades, the beer gardens, the festivals. But, living where I do, I was always on the periphery of something. Friday, walking home from a couple of errands, cutting through the park where the SPD bomb squad was keeping an eye on things in anticipation of the Trans Pride Parade winding up there shortly. Yesterday, getting stuck in traffic caused by street closures, and then slipping between two competing beer gardens on my way to meet my friends. Today, walking home from the grocery store, hearing a dance remix of “Careless Whisper” coming from the beer garden of another nearby club.
When I turned 18, my then-roommate and two of his friends gave me a copy of the Seattle Gay News as a joke, saying they’d gotten me a subscription, and I was deeply offended. Since then, I’ve grown and learned, and now there’s a sort of irony to that story.
Fifteen years ago, I didn’t want to know what was going on with the gays. Now, I can’t help but know, even if I can’t recognize the beat drifting in my windows.