Denver’s Pride draws hundreds of thousands every year to walk around scantily-clad in the sun and enjoy all the fun freebies, drag shows, extracurricular events, and rainbow-colored vendors. This was my second year attending Pride, and it felt much more urgent than the first.
Last year, the mood was lighter. People danced and laughed, feeling secure in the fact that even our national leader, regardless of anyone’s personal feelings, was somewhat standing up for LGBTQ rights. This year, things were different.
People were still loud and proud, but it felt militant. Women walked around topless with “This Machine Kills Fascists” painted on their backs. Queer people and allies are angry about queer rights and threats under the Trump administration, and showing up to Pride felt like more of a protest, more of a way to make a statement. Queer concentration camps exist in Chechnya at this very moment. It’s not an easy time to be queer, despite the rising level of acceptance from many in America.
Perhaps attending Electric Funeral Fest, a Denver doom metal festival, fueled my perception of this war-like state.
Every night after Pride, I would head over to Hi-Dive and 3 Kings to hear some doom. As far as metal goes, doom, sludge, and stoner metal are more laid-back, conducive to heavy cannabis consumption. But the aggression is still there, and the name “doom” implies a sort of giving up or admitting defeat. Think Black Sabbath, hippies who, once they realized the atom bomb was such a real threat, decided that they might as well get high and write riffs until they die.
As someone with a background in metal and punk culture, that attitude is always somewhat with me. Are we doomed? With Trump in office, horrors around the world, threats to the environment and human rights, should we all just admit defeat?
All weekend, all Pride month in fact, I witnessed thousands of acts in unexpected places that let me know that Pride isn’t dead and it’s not time to give up.
I attended the screening of Rough Night, a movie that turns the chick flick paradigm on its head, signalling that it is okay to be queer, bi, horny, overweight, a sex worker, or not quite have our lives together.
At Pride, I saw friends and strangers getting along. I saw a million different expressions of gender and sexual preference, but unlike what is sometimes painted by detractors, I didn’t see division there. More bi+ and trans inclusion than ever seemed to be present this Pride.
This month, I wrote an article about how Electric Funeral Fest is inclusive of the LGBTQ community, and they did not disappoint. Hi-Dive is a safe space, and one of the bands playing was called Glitter Wizard. Yes — Glitter Wizard. While there, I took shots with a rapper who dresses in drag and raps about bisexual issues and BDSM in his spare time.
At Pride, I witnessed people fully expressing themselves, wearing (or not wearing) whatever they were comfortable in, quite literally letting their freak flag fly by repping their different Pride colors. I didn’t overhear any nasty comments. I even managed to miss seeing the protesters.
This month, I completely switched gears career-wise to follow my heart. I sold cannabis to consenting adults. I worked at a queer magazine as digital content manager, doing my best to spread the word about important issues as well as help to promote queer-friendly entertainment and events. I worked harder than I have in a while, all for things I support.
So no, I don’t think Pride is doomed. The ‘60s and ‘70s may have fallen short, as immortalized in the musings of Hunter S. Thompson and John Lydon of the Sex Pistols as they gave up on their generation. But even in this era of social media and dystopian connections, I see a desire for freedom, love, and acceptance, a move towards unity for all who see the best in others, despite the fact that our current administration is failing us.
Love wins and Pride is not doomed.