Pride 2008: So far come, so far to go...

Wed. June 18, 2008 12:00 AM
by Feature Column

This will officially be my nineteenth Gay Pride celebration. I came completely out very late by today's standards. In 1989, at 25 years old, I finally had the courage to blast myself into gaydom and BOY did I! Had me a steady boyfriend, then single, then a long distance affair for a couple months, an illicit affair, then another really YOUNG boyfriend, volunteered for STOP AIDS CHICAGO as a lifeguard in the bars every Tuesday and Wednesday handing out condoms and literature about safe sex, management with The Gap(way gay) along with a part time job at Roscoe's as the pool room bartender and quickly worked my way up to DJ/VJ/marketing/promotions/manager guy. And then 1993 started. With the help of then Roscoe's manager Dave Shwartz , we launched the best Sunday party in boystown with all 70's disco and AM Radio hits as the soundtrack and pitchers of Long Island Iced Tea's for $7. I had 10 whole CD's with disco music and my old 45's and albums to make up a playlist to last from 4pm to 2am every Sunday. Eventually, more 70's and 80's tracks were released and we finally had enough material to do really fun sets. There was no ITunes, beatport or perfectbeat.com, sweeties. You had to go to Tower Records or Coconuts to search and buy your music. Hell, there was barely email and it was not free. Dial up. Seems so long ago now.

Roscoe's is also where I met my partner of 15 years, Roger. So many years of amazing times and life experience! We have seen so much together in our community. We've come a long way from watching Billy Crystal as the first openly gay character on prime time television in ABC's "SOAP" in 1977 to Ellen coming out on the cover of Time Magazine as well as her character on her self titled sitcom on April 30, 1997, to the launch of "Will & Grace" in September of 1998. We have seen many friends pass away from AIDS. We have seen many organizations come and go in the name of HIV/AIDS and we have certainly experienced our fair share of pride celebrations in Chicago as well as many other cities like New York, Atlanta, Toronto, Vancouver, San Francisco and Houston.

I have always been extremely grateful for all of those before me that sacrificed so much to just have basic human rights as gay individual. Like many other minority groups, the struggle continues, but I will never take for granted my freedom today as a gay man what it took to be able to safely walk down the street with the man I love and hold his hand. Seems very simple, yet virtually impossible to do in most of the world. In 2008. What is that???

I don't know that I will ever be considered a trailblazer or a role model. I suppose those that are, don't set out to be that. You don't wake up one day and say, "Hey, today I think I will trail blaze something-or-another" and head out the door to the grocery store…or maybe you do? Hmmm. What if that was all you had to do? Just add that to your errand list for the day:
1. Dry cleaners
2. Bank
3. Client meeting
4. Trail blaze something-or-another that will make the world a better place
5. Pick up dinner
6. Call the real mom.
Perhaps that's the key. A little conviction, a little planning, a little heart and a lot of balls and backbone is all you need. I think this Sunday, as I head out the door to ride on my fifteenth pride parade float as a grand, red drag queen, I will add "trail blaze something-or-another" to my packing list of the day along with makeup remover, boy clothes, vodka and sunscreen. I consider myself fearless, really, so it should be no big deal to make a difference on this, my nineteenth pride. I hope you will add it to your list each and every day, too. Who knows? Maybe next year, on my twentieth pride celebration, I will be able to hold EVERYONE'S hand in celebration anywhere in the world without a second thought. Now go! Trail blaze something already!

With love,
Matthew (circuit mom)