Hello My Doves,
Do forgive my recent hiatus, for life has been quite chaotic of late. As you know, the entire Worthington household decamps to the East Hampton compound for the summer season. While this is normally a peaceful transition, I found myself hosting numerous guests for the majority of the past month. A thoughtful note from my darling editor reminded me that the upcoming issue would focus on Baltimore’s Festive Pride celebration and could I please focus my column in that direction. I must confess, at this juncture, that I was coming up blank until the arrival of my dear friend Ciel.
Some of you may know Ciel, for she works tirelessly in the Baltimore region with numerous HIV/AIDS related charities, as well as other Festive-oriented organizations. Ciel is one of the millions whose lives have been touched by this disease, for she lost her brother to HIV/AIDS in the early 1980’s. Ciel’s visit was instigated by a dizzying charity season and she desperately required some R & R. It appears she was suffering from disenchantment from her philanthropic work; a pitcher of martinis poolside was enough motivation for her to unburden her soul to me.
My kind friend disclosed numerous grievances about her work and few stood out as noteworthy. She explained that for one event there were volunteers trying to “outdo” other committee members and even taking credit for work they did not perform. She was forlorn at the fact that numerous organizations planned their events considerably close to each other, thus diminishing the attendance and success of all of the events. That fact that organizations were popping up and duplicating the programs of long-standing philanthropic groups seemed to be a source of discomfort as well.
Following this initial discourse, and another pitcher of martinis, Ciel began questioning her commitments. Why should she, as a heterosexual woman, continue supporting the Festive community when cooperation appears lacking and divisiveness abounds? Is the Festive community actually a community? Fed up with petty egos, she posed the question: How do we take the “I” out of community? Her poignant questions serve as the topic du jour. Thank you Ciel, for your continued inspiration.
I believe she identified the quintessential flaw causing her grievances—ego. Civic work implies helping a specific community and, therefore, is not about you ,so try to leave your ego at home. If you are incapable of that, you need only write the largest check to help you sleep at night. If you find yourself wanting to contribute, but can’t get along with any of the existing organizations, you should probably choose a different hobby. A large check will suffice in this situation as well. My advice to Ciel was to continue her work within the Festive Community if only for the fact that she is inspiring others.
Now, on to the larger topic of community. Last year I had the pleasure of attending Baltimore’s Festive Pride celebration and was thrilled not only by the diversity, but also by the camaraderie I experienced. To an outsider, it appears that your community is closely knit and plays well with each other. My inquisitive nature compelled me to ask some of the revelers if this was the case in everyday Festive life. To my surprise, the response was no. In fact, the community was almost segregated. The women and men don’t mix that often; there are predominantly black bars and white bars; there is even a separate Black Pride. There are twinks, the beach crowd, A-listers, Goths and punks, fems, drag queens, dykes and bears, oh my!.
I knew you people were diverse from the whole tongue-twisting “gay lesbian bisexual transgender” label you’ve adopted. I was unaware, however, that only once a year do you celebrate your diversity together. I thought you surely interacted more frequently than that. I suppose you find me naïve, but considering the ongoing political climate, I assumed you were a far more organized group. Although Obama is in the White House, you have still not won your fight for freedom. Just look to California for evidence of that. So, I write today to encourage you to become a little more community-oriented.
Now, I can sense a collective rolling of the eyes, but you don’t have to become BFFs with every Festive person you meet to strengthen your collective power. I am merely suggesting you apply additional awareness in your day to day behavior. To start, you can actually read your local Festive publications AND patronize the businesses and organizations that advertise therein. That’s not so hard, is it? Now that you are well-informed about local activities you can plan your nights of drinking (or dining) at establishments that are sponsoring some charitable organization that evening. You were going to spend that money on booze anyway, so you might as well put it to good use.
The very weekend of your Pride celebration is also a chance to participate. For those of you who don’t know this, Pride is not sponsored by the city, so it is not a free gift and it is certainly not funded by your taxes. The event is intended as a fundraiser for your very own Gay and Lesbian center which is one of the oldest in the country and you are lucky to have it. Every beer you purchase helps fund community programs, so leave the coolers at home, ladies. This goes for food at the festival too. Think there should be a bigger headliner? Facilitate some sponsorship because performers command a steep price. You could even become a Pride volunteer and help with the planning. When approached by a volunteer for a donation, give a dollar or two. This is not the weekend to be thrifty. Remember, my Doves, other cities charge admission for Pride events.
A community, as described by Dictionary.com is “a social, religious, occupational, or other group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived or perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society within which it exists.” S,o while you may not be participating in Festive events everyday, you are connected, in a manner, and should begin adopting more inclusive habits. Keep yourself and others abreast of political issues that affect the Festives. I doubt most of your parents are on top of these issues, so do enlighten them too. You can participate in a rally when it is scheduled or volunteer your time with a charity. You may even choose to join a Festive-friendly church. There are free art shows, performances and events throughout most cities that can also bring you in touch with your people. One need not open one’s wallet to increase participation or awareness, and all the new friends you meet will enhance your life.
I suppose I should bring this tome to an end, but I leave you with some final thoughts before I descend from the soap box. As a woman of a certain age, I have witnessed your struggle for cultural acceptance and equal rights—none of which happened over night. Many, many people like Ciel have worked to allow Festivity to be so open and accepted today. Their work is far from finished, so don’t you think it’s time to join the parade?
Happy Pride, My Loves, and do be good to each other,