Monday, June 18, 2007

PrideFest 2007: One Woman's Perspective

Over the weekend, I posted some of my impressions of PrideFest 2007. Overall, I thought it was a nice enough event, but other than Luke Ravenstahl claiming to be one with the local homosexual community .... nothing too out of the ordinary happened. Then commenter Nat asked us to share our thoughts in this venue.

So, I gave it some more thought. The organizers brought in nationally known comedian Poppy Champlin. She was funny enough. We laughed, we giggled, we rolled our eyes knowingly. Best of all, she was all about the lesbians. And that was a refreshing change. She performed the evening before at a lesbian dance, but we were unable to attend. I still wish the entertainment committee had tapped into local performers like Colelea and Vanessa German, but Poppy was certainly a step toward expanding the appeal of PrideFest. And I appreciate that step.

The parade was fun, as usual, but gave evidence as to why I was not a fan of the Pride in the Streets event and didn't attend. Their float was the last one in the parade and featured Bruce Villanche surrounded by scads of young, half-dressed men. One approached me and offered me a lollipop sticking out from his underwear, which was his entire costume. Nice.

My point is that there were no women on that float because women were an afterthought for the event. The perception is that men spend their monies at the bars, so they are the ones to attract. A lot of women seemed to have attended, so maybe I missed something. But I also noticed that there is currently only one woman on the board of directors for the Gay & Lesbian Community Center. There are no women bar owners. To my knowledge, there has never been a female PrideFest coordinator (certainly, many women have served on the committee).

One poster at indicated that she and her partner are going to join the Pride In the Streets committee to speak up about women's issues next year. That's great. And I hope Persad continues to host a women's event.

But creating our own spaces within the LGBTQ community is not the only answer. There has to be room at the main table for us, there has to be a willingness to share power and to em-power those who don't look like the guys currently holding the reins.

Some of the responsibility is on us. When the Allegheny County Democratic Committee held an LGBT forum in May, the community was represented by mostly older, white, gay men. A few of us lesbians showed up. Only two of us were under 40. Where the heck were ya? The powers that be are going to continue to define us by those who show up. They don't pay attention to the crowd at PrideFest (very diverse). They pay attention to the stage which was all white, mostly people of maturity, male and bearing all the privileges that come along with those things.

I enjoyed PrideFest, but I am acutely conscious of how much room there is for growth. I hope the committee will find new and creative ways to reach out to the entire community and start a dialogue. I hope those who move on the fringes will respond.

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