A good indication of just how far the GLBTQ community has come in Portland is that this Friday and Saturday nights, there are competing Pride events scheduled — on Friday night alone, there’s a drag show at Geno’s, a party at the White Heart, and a post-Dyke March shindig at the North Star Café. The following night, there’s the Pier Dance and a Block Party, both cherries on top of the Pride Week celebrations.
All this is a far cry from the 30 or 40 people who used to show up for Portland’s Pride marches just a decade ago.
Of course, the wild successes of this week’s Pride events will also offer examples of the tensions that ripple through any organizing community. Last year, the city hosted InterPride, a convention for international Pride organizers (see "Portland to Host International Gay Conference," by Tony Giampetruzzi, October 27, 2006). It was a testament not only to Portland’s vibrant Pride celebrations, but also to the sense of safety and acceptance that gays and lesbians feel walking down the city’s streets.
But that spirit of unity can be a fickle thing. Take, for instance, the head-butting that surrounded Saturday night’s festivities. When there was some confusion early on about whether or not the annual Pier Dance would happen this year, another group, Pink Carpet Productions, stepped in to organize a block party near the Spirited Gourmet on St. John St. Now that the Pier Dance is back on (and organizers say it was never officially called off), the two events will vie for attendees.
To draw the crowd to her fête, block party planner Audrey Luce is billing the event as an all-inclusive party. “We want to bridge that gap,” she says of the divide between straights and gays. “We’re losing a lot of our exclusivity. People feel comfortable being everywhere — that’s just the way the community is today.” She flat-out says: “We will be rivaling the Pier Dance.”
Yet for the most part, organizers claim that the crowded field is friendly. “I don’t see it as competition,” says Dyke March organizer Jill Barkley, although she hopes that next year there can be even more collaboration between different groups.
Southern Maine Pride coordinator Mark Holt, whose all-volunteer organization is behind the Pier Dance, agrees: “It’s a good thing. The umbrella of Pride is for everyone.”
Anyway, Holt’s main concern is that everyone remembers the point of Pride.
“Things have changed over the years,” the 40-year-old activist says. “The newer generation does not understand the concept of pride. A lot of them don’t realize that at the beginning it was basically a political thing. Now it’s a party thing.” Because of AIDS, “a lot of people who would be around to educate the younger people aren’t around anymore.”
And so while the crowds enjoy the merriment, and in doing so, celebrate the community’s progress, Holt hopes they will also take a moment “to realize how it got to that point.”
For a list of Pride Week events on the Web, visit: