Monday, July 1, 2013

Gay Pride: Charlotte Goes Camp

Sandals: Wonders; Sunglases, purse, earrings, and shell ring: vintage; Scarf: God only knows; Top: I totally forget; Skirt: Final Touches; Belt, brooch on belt, and left hand ring: Barefoot Contessa; Gold and diamond ring: Birks; Right hand flower ring: I forget; Butterfly brooches: Tiffany's, from grandmother

This is what I wore to a low-key, family friendly, gay pride event this weekend. I got all bedecked in rainbows, as befitted the occasion.

Do you think I was too much of a wallflower? Tee hee. Actually, maybe in these colourful surroundings, I really did blend in.

I had two major inspirations for my outfit.

My first was Rhoda Morgenstern from the Mary Tyler Moore Show. As many of you know, I'm a strong advocate of queer rights... and the return of the headscarf, a la Ms. Morgenstern.

The 70s were not a period in which the fashion forward shied away from head scarves, or bright colours, like tomato reds. The 70s also had a revival of some aspects of early 40s fashion so my outfit was what I call "70s 40s" -- the way people in the 70s did retro 40s -- circa Rhoda Morgenstern!

My other inspiration was the queer community itself. Because, I mean, really, look at us.

We're fabulous!

I hadn't been to a queer event in a long time. Even before my back gave out, I'd kind of grown bored and jaded with it all: "We're here; we're queer... ho hum."

But I'm over the moon about the recent American Supreme court rulings that pave the way for marriage equality in the States and I'm just busting out in rainbows all over.

I pulled out all the stops with this outfit, letting my freak flag fly in a way I haven't in years.

I find myself remembering how much the LGBT community means to me and how much it's meant to me over the years.

I came out of the closet at 18, scared, and impossibly young, in a very homophobic world. I still remember the first time I held hands with a girlfriend in public, mittened hands, because this was Montreal in the winter. When a car swung round a corner and its lights hit us, I was terrified of what might happen to us.

I never dreamed I'd see the day when same sex couples could get married. I just wanted to feel safe.

I found a home in what we then called the gay community (as opposed to the LGBT community). With them, I felt safe and accepted. I was and am blown away by how brave we all were. It takes such great courage to come out. It takes perhaps even more courage to then find and form a community of acceptance where once you were shunned and seen as a deviant or a pervert.

Pride? You bet your rainbow ass we should have pride.

I'm also very proud of the work many of us did to obtain gay rights. I was out of the closet in situations where it was very scary and maybe even dangerous to be out because I felt and feel that queer visibility is an important part of gaining our equal rights. I wrote for the local gay press and some larger, American gay publications. I marched in marches. I spoke up on campus.

Many times, I was shaking with fear. But I did it, and so did tens of thousands of others.

And look where we are today! Wow. (But we shouldn't forget that not every country is as safe for queers. The work is not yet over.)

Another thing that really boosted my enthusiasm for the event was Beau's enthusiasm. He's a major straight ally but this was his first queer event. He was raised in an extremely conservative, stultifying, "Christian" environment. It goes without saying that it was homophobic.

He is thrilled to be moving more and more into a community of people who see the world and social issues the way he does. This includes the gay community. His wonder and delight at what has, for me, become kind of humdrum, makes me see it all through his eyes. Gosh darn it, I like what I see.

So this too made decide to dress up for the event. Having decided on my outfit the night before, I asked Beau, "How much do you love your queer girlfriend?" A lot, he told me. "Like enough to not be embarrassed when she shows up looking like a drag queen?"

"How can a woman be a drag queen?" he asked.

I showed him. He liked it.

It's frustrating sometimes, to feel that I've lost some of my queer cred because I'm in love with a man. I'm not going to lie. There is bi-phobia in the gay community. There are some in the community who don't like bisexuals. If you're bi yourself, I'm sure you've heard all the epithets and stereotypes and I don't really feel like repeating them here. 

I worked so hard for queer rights and there are some who would comfortably say that I don't deserve to be part of the queer community. They've said it to my face.

Even those who are not biphobic in any way simply don't recognize me as bi because, not only am I very feminine, but I'm also with a man. This is frustrating for me at times. I feel invisible in the very community I helped to build and sustain and whose rights I worked so hard to secure.

I have to come out a lot, daily, so as not to be assumed straight. And, yes, it does matter to me. I've no interest in "passing" for straight. I've no interest in being accepted by those who would reject me if they knew who I really am, or being rejected by those who would accept me if they knew who I really am.

But I'm hoping that all that biphobia is old school and that now we're all accepted for whoever we happen to be and whomever we happen to love.

Because I belong in the queer community. I'm shaped by it. I came of age in it. I learned a lot in it.

And one of the things I learned is that flamboyance is a wonderful thing. 

In a community where many of the lesbians were not very feminine when I came out, it was from the drag queens from whom I first learned to embrace the fun of femininity. If men could dress up and over the top in women's clothes (and if women could dress all butchly in men's clothes), why the heck couldn't I dress up and over the top too?

Clearly, other women agree with me now, but it was tough going for a femme twenty years ago.

I think now, the queer community is much more open to everyone just being themselves, conforming to neither straight nor gay standards of beauty and dress.

So. I wore a daring outfit. I showed more skin than I've shown in a long time.

And I decked myself out in rainbows.

I wonder what my grandmother would have thought if she could have seen how and where I wore her little Tiffany's butterflies.

I love this photo of me because, despite my back injury and constant back pain, my back looks strong. I almost even look fit. I do my best, walking when I can, doing my physio exercises, doing what chores I can.

Plus I come from good, mesomorphic, Jewish peasant stock. That helps too.

So I felt good about myself and the way I looked that day.

But I'm still disabled, and I still need to rest, a lot. That's my special, inflatable pillow. I've got a million and one disability aids. There are even more I could use if I had more money.

I felt a bit silly approaching this woman to ask for her photograph but she was so beautiful, and so stylish, I just had to. After all, my blog is about style and disability. 

She has Spina Bifida. She also has the kind of eyes I always wished I had, deep set and gorgeous.

Life isn't easy for those who suffer from chronic pain. I imagine her life is quite a bit more difficult than mine, and mine is hard!

I asked her if she has pain. "Yes," she said, as if I'd asked if the sky is blue, as if I'd asked if it was windy during a tornado.

I think there's a look in the eyes of those who know or have known great suffering. It's almost like a family trait or something.

I think I have that look too, because of the constant pain, and because of the child abuse that caused my disability.

We have a certain look. We share something in common. 

But we are also all individuals, with our own personalities, our own dreams, our own passions and hobbies...

... and our own forms of self-expression.

For some of us, that self-expression finds its outlet, at least in part, in style and fashion, in personal flair. 

And, on a day like today, the more flair, the better. This was not a day to show restraint.

This was not a day to be understated.

This was a day for colour!

And still more colour.

This was not a day to say, "Is this too tacky?" This was a day to say, "Pile it on! Be camp. Enjoy."

And let your freak flag fly.

I didn't really mean to do the new midi top style. It just kind of happened. I got a lot of compliments on this top so I guess it worked. 

I really felt comfortable, accepted, at home.

I hope this woman did too. She was sitting all alone and didn't appear to know anyone there. When I approached her, I found that she had a great Irish accent. I found myself making up her story in my head. New immigrant? Just coming out? I didn't ask. I thought it would be rude.

I'd approached her because I'd told Beau's younger son that he could pick someone to put in my blog and this is the person he chose. He's eight, but he has good taste, I say. She's lovely and her outfit is wonderful and fits in with the brilliance of the event perfectly.

And that was my grand return to a pride event after many years away. Feel free to break out into a rendition of Hello Dolly if you're built that way.

Even if not everyone knows I'm queer, I am, and I have been in this community for almost 25 year. I'm proud of that. 

It was pride day indeed. 

(I've linked this up to Not Dead Yet's Visible Mondays because I'm all about the queer visibility.) 


  1. Wonderful post, Charlotte, thank you for this, and for sharing it with Visible Monday. Visibility is a good thing, yeah? xoxoxo

  2. I love the bold festiveness of your outfit. The belt in particular just grabs me.

    I look forward to the day when no one has to think about passing, coming out, or being accepted. Someday soon, perhaps, everyone's sexuality will be just one more interesting fact among many, like where they went to school, how many pushups they can do, and what color their eyes are.

    1. I totally agree. Being queer only defines us because it's stigmatized and therefore sets us apart. It really is no big deal. I only wish the homophobes understood that.

  3. So happy you had a mad, glad day out in your brightest brights. Much to celebrate, and you look in fabulous company. It's still hard in so many places, but for the most part it isn't fatal any more. Love every pretty bit, especially your butterflies. Here's to making a present that takes us farther from the mean, angry past if we let it.
    Happy, happy, joy, joy ... stripes never looked so good!

  4. Lots of colorful fun. Glad you added your link in my comments!

  5. I love Pride events, in part, because of the color. There's such beauty and joy in it... as there should be.
    It's frustrating as a cis-woman to see the schisms in the gay community... gay men hating on lesbians.... queers hating on bi... everyone hating on trans people.
    Keep fighting for a day when people are people and labels no longe rmatter... Though, as someone who loves fiber art, I kinda like QUILTBAG, a term my best friend introduced me to. It pretty much covers everyone. ;-)

    1. Two new terms for me: quiltbag and cis woman. I'm old school; I still call myself femme but I guess the kids today are calling it cis. Gosh, who can keep up? : )

      I totally agree about the schisms. I think I've reached that place in my life and my social life and my neighbourhood/community where labels really don't matter. A great many of my pals are queer. Some are straight. My neighbourhood is full of quiltbags. And it's all a non-issue. That's as it should be.

  6. As a mother of a gay woman - Congratulations everyone on Gay Pride Day. You are loved!