It’s SF Pride this weekend! And while I really wish I were excited about it, the feeling’s just not there.
I haven’t attended a ton of Pride-related events in years past, to be fair. It isn’t like I’m turning my back on a grand tradition of partying it up at the official celebrations and afterparties. But it’s the idea of it that I miss, that I wish I’d experienced and could look forward to. There’s some feeling of belonging or acceptance that I assume happens at these events, that a lot of folks enjoy and look forward to, that just doesn’t occur for me. There seems to be a similar pattern to my experiences in Big Queer Spaces.
My first Pride event was a dyke march on my college campus I was invited to by some classmates. I think they were trying to be friendly as they believed I was a newly-out lesbian. My first tiny steps towards changing my appearance and presentation, as I was starting to sort out my gender-feelings, read as “baby butch” to a large number of folks I met during that time, apparently. (This led to a lot of personal confusion as I figured that since I appreciated butch aesthetics that maybe I was or should be butch too? Which… is not at all the case.) I felt un-confident and awkward enough as a newbie-queer that I didn’t know how to correct people if it didn’t directly come up, so in many cases that assumption went unchallenged.
It turned out that I didn’t know anyone at the event other than those classmates, who I wasn’t particularly close to, and felt a little lost until a sweet gay couple chatted with me a bit before and during the march itself. But the entire time, I kept thinking “why am I here?” I was just starting to figure out how my queerness worked, my gender was still a big ball of mystery I hadn’t quite unraveled, and despite the fact that one of the march’s chants was about genderqueerness, I didn’t quite feel like I was supposed to be there.
I know that feeling awkward and not having friends in a space contributes to this! Of course it does! But as a less-awkward person these days, with some local friends to go to events with, I can still get that feeling.
I’ve come to realize that even the SF Trans March, which I think is a great event and am very excited about in principle, just isn’t for me. I have enough friends who attend that the three years I’ve gone I’ve been able to be social, and that’s an improvement over that lonely dyke march, but somehow I still feel like I’m hovering at the edge of this huge community I don’t know how to be a part of. I don’t how to feel like a member of any larger community when I’m not engaging in community events, but last year at the march I was painfully aware, almost the entire time, that I just didn’t feel very comfortable there. It felt like it should be my space, because yeah – it should! But I just felt awkward and out of place. So while some part of my brain says “you have to show up to feel like a part of anything,” maybe I’m just looking in the wrong place.
My one experience with the official Pride celebration was last year, when I thought I’d peek in to get a feel for it. This was on Sunday afternoon, when the party had been going on for a day and a half already, and what I saw when I got to Pride was trash overflowing from bins and covering the ground, cheap rainbow crap being sold in every other booth, and huge signs for that year’s beer and vodka sponsors. Maybe I was in the wrong spot, but it felt like a big street fair with poor sanitation planning, not anything explicitly queer.
I want some sort of local queer or trans community, I really do. But I’m having a hard time with that, despite the fact that I live in fucking San Francisco, where one might assume it wouldn’t be that difficult. I have queer friends here, for sure! But (and this is true of most of my buddies in the area, straighties included) those friends aren’t really in one social circle that forms its own community. It’s a bit spread out, so somehow I can have trans and queer friends here but still feel lonely and isolated a lot of the time.
I don’t feel like enough of a man, and certainly not enough of a San Francisco Brand Gay Man (TM), to be in gay spaces. I barely feel like enough of one to be in spaces for trans men, and spaces I have ventured into haven’t really been a great fit for me. As my gender identity has been more squishy and uncertain lately, I’m not sure that any sort of male spaces are really where I want to be, but there’s no way I’d feel comfortable in or presume to enter women-only spaces, either, so it leaves me feeling a little lonely. If there’s a Weird, Jellyfishy Gender Club in the city somewhere, I am not aware of it.
Pride may not be for me, but I don’t want to be dismissive of it at all! I know it’s important for lots of folks, and I don’t want to minimize the impact at all. It’s just hard, when everything’s rainbow-y over here (more so than usual, even) and friends in other cities are doing Pride events that make me think “I wish I could go there instead,” to not feel extra incompetent at community-building.