Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Brno Pride

(Photo from Queer Czech)

This past weekend, my bruised ego and I took a road trip in a car full of Czech lesbians to Pride in Brno. Brno is the CR's second city--think Philly to Prague's NYC. We have all asked why Brno and not Prague. The best answer I got was that people in Brno are bolder. The experience was nothing like I had imagined it.

In high school, I went to Pride in Manhattan (Oh hey, Mom, not sure you knew that but if you ever wondered why your darling daughter had a certain affinity for The City on Sundays in June--that's why) and rejoiced in all the glittery, queen-y splendor of it all. In college, NoHo pride was all about babies and puppies, but I will never forget the Smithie brigade of "Baby-Dykes-on-Bikes" which used a greener kind of bike than the old school Dykes-on-Bikes. Finally, last year, I partook in the incredibly suburban Long Island pride which was a mix of the two, plus a lot of late '90's Oakleys. But Brno Pride was something else entirely.

There were a few hundred people in the square where the march started and ended. We listened to speakers and milled around to appropriately kitschy music. To enter, we had to go through a police blockade and have our bags checked. Pride itself was fairly typical--if lacking in drag queens (and gay boys in general--this is the first queer community outside of NoHo I've ever experienced in which dykes rule). It was the response that I had never expected. I've tried to read articles about Pride but running them through Google Translate only makes them barely comprehensible. The numbers, though, seem pretty solid. There were about 600 people at Pride and 150 protestors. That's 25% of our number. Pretty significant. They had the standard "gay men are gross" and "gays are bad for families" non-sensical posters and cheers. But they also had eggs, cherry bombs, and manure. Overhead, the whole time, was a helicopter observing the scene. The police force was incredible. It even included an anti-conflict team that essentially went up to the protestors and tried to talk them out of protesting. How very polite. The most important fact, however, is that no one was hurt. It seems silly to write about this experience in light of what happened at San Francisco Pride this weekend, but it's still a significant experience for me.

When I read last week that violence was expected, I was totally dismissive. But to see those angry, militant protestors, I was shocked. My main thought was: here? This is my safe-haven. After being told that it was okay to kiss a girl in public, I have had no fear of queer PDA. I've held hands with girlfriends in Prague as well as Kolín. I've never looked over my shoulder going to or from a gay bar. I've snogged like a teenager on those tiresome metro escalators (what else are they for, really?) and I've never had a second glance from passersby. So, if no one minds my PDA, why are they all up in my Pride?

Get ready for my complete outsider's point of view on this. The best reason I've come up with is that this is one of those sex-is-different-from-lifestyle situations. As Nicole said, it was cool to have all the gay sex you wanted in England until Oscar Wilde tried to make an identity out of it. So no one minds if I kiss girls, but when I am proud and want to talk about it, we have a problem. This seems to go along with the ban on gay adoption as well. Sex: fine. Lifestyle: 'nother story.

In the end, it wasn't all that bad. Again, no one was hurt, and we were able to pretty much laugh it off as a group. We literally laughed in the faces of individual protestors who made their way into the crowd. As a group, we were unstoppable. And then I went to the train. As I walked there alone and got stared at for my rainbow face paint, I for the first time in this country, wondered if I should be walking alone. But I blew it off and no one actually said anything.

When I got to the platform, a group of teenage boys shouted at me from another train, "Hey, lesbian!" Me? I thought. But I'm... But I'm someone who usually benefits from assumed hetero-privilege. I don't look queer so how dare you taunt me? For the first time, I thought about how I should have washed the face paint off. I should have washed off my identity! Who is this new person in my body? I have long hair and own five times as many dresses as pairs of shorts. How I have changed in five years! What would the mohawked, hairy-legged babydyke think of this new person? To even think for a second of washing off my face paint so that I could go back to passing, it's horrendous! Has this been what it's really like all along? Have I just been casually ignoring homophobia because it's not directed at me? To think that I was complaining the night before to another lesbian about how I am not respected by the queer community because I don't look queer enough, and here I was, trying to pass. Full of rage, for these boys and what they made me realize about myself, I went down the platform and stood next to some queer-looking dykes. I'm not about to change the way I look to be more gay, but maybe proximity will help. Proximity or solidarity? I thought. Eye contact. Solidarity. And ain't that what it's all about?

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