SALON Daily Clicks: Newsreal

Now that Andrew Cunanan is out of the way, gays can go back to their old narcissistic, self-absorbed ways, all in the name of "pride."

By Daniel Reitz

Published July 28, 1997 7:00PM (EDT)

Andrew Cunanan died just in time. Old friends in his former stomping ground of San Diego were able to proceed with their annual gay pride festivities this weekend without a hitch -- no pesky sniper fire, no ominous sightings of the smirking spree-killer, no murderous "visits" to old acquaintances. Breathing a collective sigh of relief, the denizens of the Hillcrest neighborhood indulged in such pride-inspiring activities as "The Harbor Cruz," "Circuit Daze" and "The Zoo Party" without once looking over their bare shoulders. And of course, where would gay pride be without the Parade? The theme of this year's was "Share the Vision." That just about covered everything in one big souffli of solidarity.

But can the San Diego festivities overcome the legacy of the area's most notorious homosexual so soon after his demise? Cunanan was ultimately responsible for his own pathology. He was an |ber-queer, the quintessence of sadism and bad form. But if you magnified him a thousand times you might find him emblematic of any number of witless queers I have known: clinically narcissistic, intent in the pursuit of hedonism, zealous in avoidance of consequences and unfeeling in the extreme.

Still, as in San Diego, and in New York and San Francisco last month, the beat goes on, the parade floats go up and the boys come out flaunting a "pride" too often based on the false sense of self gay people acquire when they allow their entire identities as human beings to be submerged in their sexuality -- I fuck, therefore I am.

Take, for instance, the Chelsea Clones -- a bunch of brainless gym bunnies residing in an area of Manhattan north of the West Village and south of midtown. To the Clones -- identical slabs of femmy beefcake who lounge around the Big Cup Caf fresh from a workout and steam-room wank session -- being out and proud means being one in a crowd. Their contempt for the aging invert is as thick as their health shakes; they dismiss with a smirky, self-satisfied turn of the head any and all lesser physical specimens. The only reading they do is the free queer classifieds, which they don't really read at all but use as a prop to cruise some pansy pod person over their grande Mocha lattes. These are the same queers who, at every gay pride parade, nude from the waist up, waist down in skin-tight Ray Dragon bike shorts, embrace each other and get all misty-eyed during the moment of silence for all the brothers dead from the big A. As if that makes up for the other 364 days of mind-numbing self-absorption.

Pride begins and ends with self-realization and acceptance. I think of myself at 11, facing with dread the awareness that I was what no one but evil perverts choose to be, and yet I didn't choose; I was guilty of a "crime" I didn't commit, and the punishment, I thought, was a life sentence of silent suffering and self-loathing, with no parole. It took me years to realize I had an innate sense of my ability to survive, and I came to draw on reserves of strength that most heterosexuals don't have a clue about; and that's something you can't parade down the avenue once a year.

But I also part company with those who believe that merely existing as a gay man or woman is, in and of itself, something to be proud of, any more than being born black or a woman. Being born wasn't your doing. Neither was being gay. So why should you be "proud" of something you didn't even do?

In last month's New York Pride Parade, the hottest float (partly because of the go-go boys dancing on it) was an advertisement urging uninfected gays to keep themselves HIV negative. You wouldn't think that such a message needs to be advertised 16 years after the epidemic made itself known, but there it was, replete with hip-hop attitude and club music accompaniment: It's cool to be sane! Living is sexy! That's not pride, it's self-preservation, and in 1997 gay men shouldn't need to be reminded that you need to "play safe." The message really means that in 1997, we're guilty of the same behavior we exhibited in 1977 -- self-gratification at any price -- and that is not something to be proud of.

In the context of our continued self-annihilation, Andrew Philip Cunanan was a speck. We have to realize that we are all potential killers. It's not enough to shake our asses on a parade float. It's not enough to echo mawkish platitudes about murderous old acquaintances -- "That's not the Andrew I knew," some left-behind friend in California declared in all his pious banality. And it's certainly not enough to think we're making progress when we still have to convince ourselves of the merits of not fucking each other to death.

Daniel Reitz

Daniel Reitz, a frequent contributor to Salon, is a writer living in New York. His film "Urbania," based on his play, "Urban Folk Tales," will be released in August.

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