Savage's response is helpful though limited in depth, no doubt owing to the spacial limitations of any type of 'advice column.' For a more in-depth exploration of the Folsom Street Fair, see this previous Wild Reed post. I'll say from the outset that I have no major issues with "leather men, dykes on bikes, go-go boys and drag queens" – unless, of course, their words and/or actions are cruel, unjust or hurtful. But then that goes for everyone, in my book.
I should also add that I'm not a huge fan of Dan Savage, and part of the reason why is exemplified when, in the excerpt below, he says: "Our movement is about the freedom to be whatever kind of straight, gay, lesbian, bi, or trans person you want to be. And freedom, as Dick Cheney famously said, means freedom for everyone – from pantsuit-wearing POS [piece-of-shit] sellouts like Mary Cheney and Chris Barron to kinky straight people and hot boys in harness."
And my problem with this? Well, basically, I find Savage's labeling of others as 'POS sell-outs' troubling, especially as he's clearly using an unspoken criteria of his own devising. Keep in mind that Savage, through his column, likes to present himself as an 'out there' kind of guy; a sexual renegade, if you like. Yet by certain 'queer' criteria, Savage himself is a 'sell-out' by 'mimicking the straights' and marrying his partner Terry Miller. As a friend of mine recently noted, Savage has the annoying habit of 'talking from both sides of his mouth.' It's a pitfall, I guess, of being a 'talking head' in the sensationalist-driven realm of the corporate media – a realm far less complex and demanding of thoughtfulness than the real world. All that being said, Savage does make some good points in the following response to one of his readers.
The Folsom Street Fair [right] has taken place on a Sunday in September in San Francisco every year since 1984. Pride parades have been taking place on a Sunday in June in cities all over the country since the early 1970s. And every year, we hear from concern trolls about the damage that's supposedly being done to the LGBT rights movement by all those drag queens, go-go boys, dykes, and leather guys at Pride or Folsom or International Mr. Leather.
But everyone acknowledges – even our enemies – that the gay rights movement has made extraordinary strides in the 43 years since the Stonewall [Uprising] in New York City. We're not all the way there yet, we have yet to secure our full civil equality, but the pace of progress has been unprecedented in the history of social justice movements. The women's suffrage movement, for example, was launched in the United States in 1848. It took more than 70 years to pass the 19th Amendment, which extended the vote to women. In 1969, at the time of the Stonewall [Uprising], gay sex was illegal in 49 states. Gay sex is now legal in every US state, gay marriage is legal in six states and our nation's capital (and in all of Canada), and gays, lesbians, and bisexuals can serve openly in the military. (The armed forces still discriminate against trans people.) And we've made this progress despite fierce opposition from the religious right, a deadly plague that wiped out a generation of gay men, and – gasp – all those leather guys at Folsom and go-go boys and drag queens at Pride.
I don't think it's a coincidence that cities with big pride parades and events like Folsom are more tolerant and more accepting of sexual minorities than cities that don't have big gay parades and fetish street fairs. If an event like Folsom were actually counterproductive, you would expect San Francisco to be less tolerant and less likely to back equal rights for sexual minorities, not more likely.
And finally, any attempt to shut down the Folsom Street Fair – or to ban drag queens, go-go boys, dykes on bikes, or leather guys from pride parades – would be so poisonously divisive that it would do more harm to our movement than a thousand Folsom Street Fairs ever could.
– Dan Savage
NEXT: On Brokeback Mountain: Remembering Queer Lives and Loves Never Fully Realized
For previous posts in The Wild Reed's 2013 Queer Appreciation series, see:
Doing Papa Proud
Jesse Bering: "It’s Time to Throw 'Sexual Preference' into the Vernacular Trash"
See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Catholic League's New Poster Boy?
What Is It That Ails You?
Image 1: Participants of the 2012 Folsom Street Fair photographed by Fred Alert.
Image 2: Jeff Chiu/Associated Press (2011).