Every year, the multicultural committees of countless schools around our nation toil September through April to plan, promote, and execute a successful celebration of ethnic pride and diversity. Indian parents bake puri. Hispanic parents make rice and beans. Japanese parents prepare California rolls. Italian parents serve pasta. African American parents fry chicken. And the Anglo parents eat well for once.
Sadly, the formula is getting a little tired. So here’s a modest gay parent’s proposal to spice up the celebration. This year, convince your school to hold a “No Culture Left Behind” multi-culti extravaganza presided over by families of African, Indian, Hispanic, Asian, Euro trash and–new this year—gay parents.
Let the Irish step dance, the Argentines tango, and the African Americans sing the blues while the gay parents lovingly portray the rich cultural heritage of the closet and those who march out of it.
The closet has been such a priceless incubator and proud legacy. Through the years in this wonderfully free democracy we call the United States, gay people have developed our secret language, best exemplified by our clever use of reverse pronouns to convince people we were really straight and shouldn’t be beaten within an inch of our lives. And how about those charming little phrases we coined from our all-time favorite gay movie Wizard of Oz, like “Friends of Dorothy”? These loving expressions allowed us to name names in our secret code and not be fired from our jobs. And the most powerful of all gifts from the closet—gay people moved in droves to find safety in numbers in big cities like New York and San Francisco before the family found out and threw us out anyway.
But there is so much more to gay culture. On June 28, 1969, the most beautiful women in our community began a movement that may eventually border up the closet for good. Our very own New York City drag queens in their highest heels, frilliest dresses and Hollywood makeup barricaded the doors of the Stonewall Inn and fought back the police, who had made great sport of raiding bars and reeling us into jail. From then on, gay people had to choose where they should position themselves relative to the closet.
So, just as we remember the horrors of slavery and the joys of the Black experience, we believe this inclusive school fete should celebrate everyone in the proximity of the closet—the ones who are out, still sort of in, hiding behind the door, concealed among the dresses and suits, and of course the few crumpled into a corner with the dust balls and abandoned shoes, whimpering “What’ll I do now? What’ll I do now?”
Here’s what you should do at this new and improved multi-culti festival: Get some big corrugated cardboard appliance boxes and packing tape, and construct a makeshift closet for all the school parents and children. When you walk in, you must pretend not to be gay. No exaggerated mannerisms allowed and no uttering the word fabulous or mentioning a gay icon like Barbra, Cher, Melissa, Rosie or Ellen. When you walk out, be as gay as you want—see what it’s like to release your inner gayness in the comfort of all this support. Later on, we won’t ask and we won’t tell.
You’ll also want to set up a food booth so your school’s many straight parents can savor the extraordinary foods of gay oppression. There is no gayer (or more kid-pleasing) food than “pigs in a blanket.” Have your children create colorful posters noting that the “blanket” is the closet we hide in and the “pig” our succulent inner spirit alive with flavor. And no lesbian celebration should be without tofu burgers, the ultimate imposter food. We lesbians may step out in bright lipstick, high heels and hooker outfits that pass for corporate attire these days, but it’s all just pretend. We’re still the same old folkie, lefty lesbians inside.
Music and dance have a way of bringing us all together. Who hasn’t been charmed by ethnic belly dancing, tango and classical Indian dance forms? But what about disco? Grab a ladder, put up the silver disco ball, play YMCA from the Village People, and watch everyone’s spirits soar. Next up, Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive—a teachable moment for all of us, gay or straight, who have suffered through 30 years of vicious, mindless right-wing Republican attacks and bad government and still managed to summon the inner strength to go on. Finish off the dancing with a song of today, like Katy Perry’s I Kissed a Girl and watch all the ten-year-olds sing along. Let’s face it; everyone wants to kiss a girl at least one.
No multicultural celebration is complete without crafts. Plan a gay crafts table where children can make their own pink triangle button, the symbol used to separate homosexuals from all the others marked for extermination in German concentration camps. On second thought, maybe that’s too much of a downer. So supply some markers and let them color the festive symbol of ethnic and social diversity—the rainbow. Let every parent understand once and for all that our fine country is going multi-culti by 2050 and we’d all better be ready for it.
So join your school’s multicultural committee right now and start planning your school’s best festival ever. You’ll bond as never before with the straight parents as they walk in and out of the closet with you. Pin a rainbow flag on their shirts. Help them experience their inner gayness. Come on, everyone has a little.
© 2008 by Carrie Smith. All rights reserved.