Mark S. King

My Surprising Lack of Gay Pride

Filed By Mark S. King | June 08, 2011 6:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: coming out of the closet, crystal meth, gay pride, HIV/AIDS, lack of pride

For most of my life I've been judgmental and a little impatient with gay people who didn't just come out. Are the risks really that dire? I suspected they were just chicken shit, or unwilling to stand up to their family or to whatever screwed up religious upbringing they had.

Growing up on Air Force bases wasn't exactly the Castro, but I didn't know any better than to walk and talk however I pleased (I was in full sashay mode by the age of twelve). I was sexually active soon thereafter, and stunned my Louisiana high school with an older boyfriend in my senior year.

Yes, I grappled with my Methodist teachings and suffered through some brutal rounds of dodge ball (affectionately known as "Smear the Queer" where I come from), but making it though my teens was mercifully uneventful.

MarkInRepose - Copy.jpgThe bullies were too freaked out by my jumpsuits and platform shoes to approach me, though I must credit my perpetually embarrassed, varsity jock brother for helping keep them at bay. The result of this rather fortunate gay adolescence was my ignorance of the perils of being out, and that arrogance suited me just fine for most of my young adulthood.

And then, years after my own coming of age, Matthew Shepard tried to live openly as a young gay man, too - until he was beaten and left to die tied to a fence in Wyoming. The images and details of his horrific final hours was like blunt force trauma directly to my heart. How could I have been so cavalier about what the real costs of coming out could be?

Today, I never downplay the societal risks of being gay, but I focus my writing on two things that added shameful layers to my identity: HIV and drug addiction. How ironic that the kid who believed there were no dangers to growing up gay would fall victim to two of the most common health risks among gay men: being infected with HIV and using drugs.

I'm still a sashaying, gay stereotype representing the most fabulous social ills, it would appear.

My sense of pride emerged not in response to being gay, but in my response to HIV and my drug addiction, in that order. I found personal self worth by helping my community face AIDS in the 1980's, and I have rediscovered my self esteem while on the treacherous road back from crystal meth addiction.

Being gay isn't something I have been proud of, in and of itself. But I take pride in how I have handled what I consider the fallout of being gay.

During this gay pride month of June, I hope we'll all take some time to assess what we're so damn proud of. I've made that list, and "being gay" isn't anywhere on it. Do I take my sexuality for granted, or am I ungrateful?

I'm proud of Mark, the man as he is today. I'm proud of my brother for keeping the bullies away. And I'm proud at my success, day by day, of recovering from addiction and having a purpose.

With that, I'll sashay out of here.

(The video above is a gay pride message I produced last year for My Fabulous Disease, and I hope you'll watch it. What begins as a funny take on public service announcements becomes something surprisingly different and emotional.)

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Gay Pride Day: Where we get to celebrate our freedom in a fenced off area.

Hi Mike!!

I'm not sure where you're located, but we had our Out in the Park celebration for Hampton Roads this past Sunday in Town Point Park in Norfolk, VA. The park is not what one would call "fenced in", and it's directly in the center of Norfolk, right on the water. We had no protesters, no hassling, and a turn-out of over 17,000. Yes, it was still "one day" to celebrate pride in an open forum, but it was a beautiful day with a lot of beautiful people displaying a great side of humanity. You should make the trip next year! And keep coming out for those pride days until they are a moot point and it WON'T just be one day a will be every day. :)

Thanks, Mark, for the article! Being a straight ally, I have no idea what my friends go through or have had to go through in their lives to be where they are in their process today (I have friends in their late forties who are still not "out" to the public due to their jobs). I don't question or pretend to understand what they're going through, but I'm just there for them as a or straight, we're all good friends and that's what friends are for. I just wish some of the gay community could realize that not ALL straights are evil or bad...some of us just want to help our friends have a wonderful life (same as we want for our straight friends, white friends, purple friends....just everyone). Great article!

> Gay Pride Day: Where we get to celebrate our freedom in a fenced off area.

Hey, I'll take it! ... Just be sure it's not a fenced-off area -- in your mind.

June isn't just a month for gay pride, it's a month for trans and queer pride as well. As a bi-identified transwoman, I am proud of the GLBTQ Stonewall veterans who stood up for their human dignity and of modern community advocates who stand up today. I'm proud of all GLBTQ people who live authentic lives with courage and grace in the face of adversity. Pride is the antidote to shame, and shame is the blunt instrument of our oppression.

"...shame is the blunt instrument of our oppression." I like that very much. Thanks for your thoughts on this.

Great post, Mark. I came out early too and despite all the drama, and conflict, and tears, I would never go back. But that also meant that I was less forgiving of others who just couldn't take that step. Being a little older has shown me the same thing--that there are very real risks for some people, and especially for queer youth. Ultimately, I still feel that an adult who is in control of hir life will eventually need to make this crucial step, and the sooner the better, but at least I have more understanding.

Thanks, Mark. Very creative video. Was that your own voice off-camera?
So many of us have been taught to be ashamed from an early age, maybe we need a little public demonstration of "pride" to help us re-program.

Actually, yes, that's my voice as the off-camera "director." I shot the video alone in my den one afternoon when the concept came to me. I'm such a diva I had to play both parts!

bigolpoofter | June 9, 2011 12:55 PM

You go, Miss King!

Mark what a wonderful video. I agree pride is the journey we all take to be happy with ourselves. I don't know about you but it is something I keep expanding every day. There is always something new or someone out there that touches me. Today it is your story.

I can't say I ever sashay but it's Pride month. We can do so together. For pride is something we have not only in ourselves but in others. Thanks! :)

Marc Paige | June 9, 2011 10:49 PM

Let's not forget that not too long ago, there were folks who felt they could only march in Pride Parades with bags over their heads, to conceal their identity. There are still far too many people in this nation who would like us to go back in the closet, or worse. There's still a need for a visible community wide presence every year, to show those in the closet that it is safe to come out, and to show the homophobes that we are never going back in.