For the first time, I was moved to write an opinion piece. I cared so much about the topic I wanted to voice my concerns beyond my audience. I didn’t believe my voice alone would be
Firstly, let me start by apologizing to Rhea, Anthony P. Torres (DJ Pastabody), Brandon Wilde, and Jojo Guadz (The Prince of Twerk). While some of my statements could’ve been better crafted, please know it was never my heart’s intention to attack you. If I could re-do it, I would have made that more clear. I would’ve referenced the fact that Rhea is a staple of West Hollywood’s community; given her credit for bringing our culture to the public eye on multiple platforms and screens; acknowledged the work she does with charities like the LGBT Center’s Young Professionals Council; pointed out that she left a good job at a PR company to pursue the often thankless and underpaid art of drag. Having been in the PR world, I trust Rhea can appreciate the difficulty of crafting an article for public distribution and accept my apologies for my missteps.
Additionally, to Rhea and Brandon, I think you have me confused with someone else. You comment that I should “never talk to you *again,” and that I’m, “two-faced.” I was confused until Brandon commented that I was, “being all buddy buddy yesterday.” I’ve never met or spoken to either of you in my life. I didn’t seek you out then or electronically because my beef was with CSW, not you and yours.
The comments have been hyper-supportive or hyper-critical, as it goes with social media. A Facebook friend of Rhea’s summarized it perfectly in their comment by saying, “He’s not trashing your performance, he’s just questioning whether it’s the right venue. He definitely could have worded this article different[ly]. But you both clearly have a love for the gay community.” That is beyond accurate.
I intended to call into question if the Public Stage (it’s literally called the Public Stage), and the LA Pride Parade itself, were the best place and time for a performance of that context. Not only as a general question but because of how it’s advertised. You can debate what Pride and Pride Parades CAN or SHOULD be all day long; I’m upset over how it was advertised versus what was delivered. There is no question there is a discrepancy between the two.
On LAPride.org, under “Is the LA Pride Festival an all-ages event?” Christopher Street West, the event’s organizer, replies, “Yes, the LA Pride Festival is an all-ages event. Bring the kids!” They note that “certain exhibitions” are 18+ but enthusiastically encourage children otherwise. The Pride Parade, in specific, is advertised as being the “come one, come all” event of the weekend. Please note, I am talking about the PARADE, not the weekend-long FESTIVAL as a whole. Also note, Pride can be whatever the community wants it to be. My concern is simply the conflictions between what it’s being advertised as by CSW compared to what they are delivering.
I had just gotten involved in a debate days prior about children being at Pride parades. I defended our community so passionately saying that the Parade in specific was not vulgar or explicit. So I felt betrayed and let down. I felt the conservative bigots who held awful beliefs about our community had won. We advertised it as an all-ages and orientations event and then subjected a child to foul language and lyrics that graphically describe promiscuous sex. That is GOLDEN ammunition for the Republican Traditionalists and others who are anti-LGBT.
I’m not homophobic, racist, self-hating, republican, pretentious, or any of the other personal attacks that some chose to fling at me simply because I questioned the contents of a performance at Pride. I voiced my concern because I care – about our community and our allies. If you can’t see that and chose to personally attack me with unfounded claims, you’re no better than how you’ve attempted to portray me in your attacks.
I was also moved by the mom leaving. I saw my mom in her eyes. Wanting to be supportive but just not able to be in the presence of that type of language or vulgarity. Straight or gay, from the mouth of a porn star or accountant, “I’ma ride that dick all night” isn’t a statement I would have blasted repeatedly on concert grade loudspeakers from the Public Stage at an all-ages event. The Parade is supposed to be the weekend’s crowning event for every ally to come and show their support. We should honor and respect that.
Another Facebook friend of Rhea’s had a great suggestion of, “next time children are present, give parents a warning that adult language will be used.” Fantastic attitude as opposed to “if they don’t like it, they should stay home.” That is not how we make allies; because guess what happens then, they do stay home.
On that note, I am not talking about a float or portion of the Parade. The Public Stage is so big and so close to the Parade, it quite literally overshadowed it in both size and volume. Depending on your location on the parade route, the stage WAS the Parade; that is why I felt it was doubly important to consider the content broadcast from it.
Rather than competing with the Parade, CSW could’ve incorporated the stage and Rhea into it. Imagine Rhea announcing the Parade and giving shout outs as she did with David Cooley on The Abbey’s float. Hey Macy’s, we see your Al Roker, and we raise you our Rhea.
And that was my point, to call into question CSW’s judgment. Rhea was merely doing her job – and did a great job at that. Although I was critical of parts of the performance, I put the responsibility on CSW to have editorial guidelines in place. CSW must take into consideration the sponsors, our allies, public opinion, and political battles larger than this one moment.
If you’ve ever seen the same queen at a night club and then hosting something like Drag Queen Bingo, you know what I mean by editorial guidelines. You don’t make the same jokes, use the same language, etc. in a public all-ages setting like Hamburger Mary’s as you would at an edgy adult’s only venue like Fubar.
Regarding the use of the N-Word, that’s not my place to have commented. I was personally taken off guard by its frequency of use in that setting, but I understand that some find the word to be empowering to take ownership of and support their fight and right to do so. I should not have spoken on behalf of a group who’s fight is not my own. DJ Pastabody has already commented that he will refrain from playing explicit versions of songs next year.
Regarding Brandon’s occupation as a porn star – I wholeheartedly support all sex workers. I believe the government should decriminalize sex work and make efforts to reduce the stigma surrounding it that their criminalization has caused. I in no way intended to suggest that he or anyone else did not belong on stage because of their professions or claims to fame. A porn star and a twerk prince are just as deserving of being uplifted representatives of the LGBTQ+ community as anyone.
I did allow the passion I felt about the subject to influence my writing and used the fact he was a porn star in an attempt to strengthen my argument. For that, I apologize to you, Brandon and all sex workers, for weaponizing that stigma. I do hold fast that the lyrics of his song were too graphically explicit for the Public Stage, but do not think his being a porn star makes him less deserving to be on that stage.
I have nothing but respect for Rhea and her family for getting up on that stage and performing the hell out of that set. I hope they are on stage again next year and on stages around the world representing the LGBTQ+ community. I know and never meant to call into question that they have love and passion for our community and are working to better it for all of us.
I do hope CSW will think deeply about what type of Pride Parade we’d like to have and how they support their artists to produce that result best. I firmly believe that if we are going to advertise the Pride Parade as an all-ages and orientations event, we must put into place guidelines that take into account every audience member advertised to. If we ponder this question for the future, and not as it pertains to the past nor our love and support for Rhea, I think we can all agree that keeping the parade music non-explicit is a positive step towards creating a pride for everyone. This year’s theme is #JUSTUNITE, after all.