Who Wields Gay Power?

The Folsom Street Fair last weekend (and the upcoming Castro Street Fair in the coming weekend) signal the end of the gay tourist season in San Francisco that started in June with gay pride. Or perhaps "pilgrim" would make a better term, as these gay tourists complete their quest for the mecca of gay life. Perhaps now they can append the honorific "faji" to their names.

Even as gay pride has become commercialized, so has the Folsom fair. There were ATM wagons from Wells Fargo and banners from Miller Beer in rainbow colors everywhere.

The June celebration of gay pride's roots are in the commemoration of a riot, a flexing of raw political power. But it has become rife with politicians in convertibles and floats celebrating commercial establishments. These things symbolize not raw power, but power handed over through our votes and money.

Imagine that raw riot energy as a wild river with rapids rushing through a beautiful valley. And then picture that energy dammed, the natural beauty destroyed, replaced by a power-generating hydroelectric station draining the power off into that realm of utilities where politics and money mix, and a lake on which commercial recreation such as motorboating can be done.

What we end up celebrating is not freedom, but bondage, bondage to commercial interests and not the fun kind of bondage practiced by those celebrants of the week of leather.

One organization to which gays give power is the Human Rights Campaign. (Since they dropped the word "Fund" from the end of their moniker, it's harder to make the joke of calling them the "Human Rights Champagne Fund." Perhaps you've seen their symbol, a yellow equals sign on a blue field, on the bumpers of cars which also sport the rainbow flag. This organization is the antithesis of a grassroots organization. They solicit funds from gays and lesbians, but they don't solicit input from their small-time financial contributors or ask people to get involved with political actions beyond contacting their congressional representatives. They're a lobbying organization, one with the agenda set from above, not from the grassroots. Who determines the gay agenda, gay people in general or a group of Washington lobbyists?

It's lazy to think that we can find true liberation through simply being good gay consumers or that we can simply be followers of political leaders who will show the way, Moses-like, to the promised land. We need a new vision of what real gay liberation can be, and not be satisfied with the positive soap opera characters, commercials featuring shiny happy gay consumers, and openly gay yet ineffective politicians. Out of the marketing niches and into the streets!


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