Authors: Tillie Wells
''Miranda, I want you to meet Jodi, Myra, Casey, Jennifer, Pearls, Katie, Leena, Josci, Randy, Licorice, and Patty,'' Kye says.
“Kiley, who is she?” Patty asks with a twisted expression on her face.
“You are being rude. Miranda is a friend.”
“So, what clique is she from? The Rudes, the Hopes, or the Cougars?”
The girls laugh.
“Patty, I’m not going to speak again about your rude behavior. She isn’t with any of those. So, can we leave it at that?”
“She’s not dressed and we will be late,” Patty complains. “Is she marching with us or not?”
“I haven’t had the chance to even ask her yet,” Kye responds. “We went to the Eagle’s Nest last night and she may have a hangover.”
“You went to the Eagle’s Nest and didn’t even tell us?” Josci asks loudly. “What were you thinking? We’ve always gone to the Eagle together.”
“Well you survived it, Josci,” Kye scolds. “None of you passed on over to the Great Beyond because of it. You're all alive and kicking.”
“Well, she must be a lesbian or an activist if she parties it up to the point of a hangover at the Eagle,” Myra says.
“Nope, I don’t think she is either, Myra.”
“What the hell do you know about her? Did you meet her at the Eagle last night, Kye?” Pearls asks.
“No, I didn’t just meet her last night, Pearls! Will you all just give me a freaking break here? Miranda, I think it will be an enlightening experience for you if you join us today. We are participating in a gay rights parade and celebration. How about it? You really don’t have to be gay or lesbian or opinionated or such. You can just tag along and not say a word. I think you will enjoy it.”
“If she’s not an activist, she may ruin the day by being on the opposing side and heckling us,” Patty says and rolls her eyes at me.
“I told you she’s a friend, so no more opinions, huh?” Kye chastises her friend then looks at me.
I get the feeling if Kye is gay then Patty might be her girlfriend. Either that or she wants to be in a relationship with Kye.
“So, what’ll it be Miranda?” Kye asks.
“Sure, I’ll join you. I have no plans for the day.”
“Yaaay! That’s my girl!” Kye cheers and claps her hands.
“That’s my girl?” Patty asks. “What kind of sleep-over happened here last night? Did you two get close?”
Kye rolls her eyes to let the girls know that she does not approve of such comments or questions. I remain quiet as I excuse myself to go freshen up. They give me a matching T-shirt and then we all walk out of the apartment.
* * * *
We take two vans to a noisy street in San Francisco. People are screaming, cheering, and holding signs indicating that we are rolling into the celebration of The San Francisco Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride celebration. Kye explains that it is a high-energy parade and festival that’s held annually. The noisiness of sign-carrying people, their styles of dress, screams, and shouts celebrates lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. A huge parade of various groups and organizations gather to let the world know that they are human and don't like to be ostracized and bashed.
As I position myself within the crowd alongside Kye’s friends and people on the sidelines, the shouting from the surrounding activists almost deafens me. Jodi, Myra, Casey, Jennifer, Pearls, Katie, Leena, Josci, Randy, Licorice, Patty, and Kye have their own deafening screams and they are standing right by my side. The crowd seems to number in the millions.
My favorite in the parade turns out to be the Dykes on Bikes who are decorated women and their motorcycles. Hundreds of noisy motorbikes pass us with women shouting and holding signs with their beliefs scribbled onto the canvas; some riders are topless, some are wearing leather, and some are wearing the most unusual costumes I have ever seen. Kye explains to me that one of the many fights of the ladies represented in the motorcycle club is to show that 'dyke' is not an offensive word.
Although I have never given gay causes or the fight surrounding it a second thought, I find myself becoming more interested in this lifestyle. By the end of the day, I feel like an activist fighting alongside my friend Kye and her girls. I feel as if I am standing up for human rights. My parents wouldn’t understand this, given my religious upbringing; it’s not like I’m gay. But, I am interested in humans having rights. I’m not sure if I will be a gay activist, but human rights can be something I can stand up and fight for. Gay marriage rights are also promoted; I am surely for that. I believe if two people love each other then they should have the right to get married. They should have the same rights of any heterosexual couple. They should be placed on each other’s health insurance, death insurance, and any legal benefits applicable to married couples.
Thousands of onlookers pile along the route, some climbing on high objects so that they can see the parade. Some climb on automobiles, tops of stairs, on the tops of buildings, and any place to get a clear view of the participants. As the parade ends, the audience is allowed to follow behind the parade shouting, partying, and holding signs with sentimental messages. There are vendor spaces where vendors sell various things like T-shirts, jewelry, artwork, food, drinks, and many other interesting things.
Speaking of partying, Kye explains that many parties follow the day’s celebration. There will be various parties throughout the city at different night clubs, bars, and homes, but the one they always choose is at the mansion of a rich, gay rights activist known as Edgar. Apparently he dresses in drag and is quite interesting. She leaves it up to me if I want to tag along to the party. I keep thinking that the activities at the Eagle last night and the parade today are a lot to consume in such a short time. So, I opt out— I'll go out with them on another occasion. So, my Saturday night is spent letting the television watch me. I have to catch up on the sleep I didn’t get on Friday night. Then I have to catch up on the sleep I didn’t get during my usual sleeping in on Saturdays. Sunday is spent cleaning, washing, cooking, and getting ready for a busy work week.
* * * *
Arriving at work on Monday, I feel guilty by association. I wonder if someone saw me being carried to a car from the lesbian bar on Friday night. I wonder if the television cameras caught me in the crowds at the gay parade. I am like a paranoid mess. I feel gay and I’m not. Hell, I don’t even know for sure if Kye or her girls are gay or if they are just activists. It seems as if everyone in the office is looking at me differently.
“Hi ya, road warrior!” Kye says as she walks into the office, speaking loudly.
“I’m kind of shy on this whole thing. I’m like 'what if people think I’m gay?' I can’t let rumors run wild. So, I would appreciate it if we can keep this on the down low.”
“Down low is a poor choice of words. You sound as if you are in the closet already or something. But, I understand how you feel.”
“How do you know how I feel?” I snap at her before I know it.
“I just do,” Kye answers as she sits on the edge of my desk with her legs swinging. “I’ve been where you are with the feelings of shame, paranoia, and what-ifs. You feel straight and you might just contract the gay disease and become lesbian. You have this huge guilt and now you don’t know if you want to associate with us anymore. I wish you would have joined us at the party. There were great speakers who address these kinds of issues for the allies and activists. I’m not saying you are an ally or an activist, but you are pondering on if you should or if you shouldn’t become one. Am I right?”
“I don’t know what I’m feeling,” I answer almost in a whisper and looking around to see if someone is listening. “I know for one thing that I am not gay.”
“Yes, that’s one thing the speaker spoke on. Of course you are not gay. You just feel if people see you associating with gays that they will think you are gay and then you start to question your own identity. Am I right?”
“Will you stop with the 'am I right' questions, please? I’m not exactly sure on how I feel. I just know I’m straight and I am adamant about that.”
“Whoopee! So, you are, Miranda. You asked me the big question the other night. Remember? You asked if I’m lesbian. So, that is a big plus for me if you can’t determine that about me and my friends on your own. People think they can figure that out about a person and I have always been firm on the fact that is not always possible. People think gays all have this peculiar outlandish, whorish type of behavior which is far from the truth. Gays are just like every human. You have some people who act the part of what society calls normal and then you have some who act extraordinary and it’s not right to make assumptions based on wild beliefs and stereotypical views. There are professional people who have a wild side. They put on a professional persona during the day and they have this closet freakish side in private.”
“So, are you lesbian? Why won’t you give me an answer, Kye?”
“I will someday, but right now it’s more fun watching you squirm and trying to figure it out. I won’t bite you, Miranda, and I will not try to make you into lesbian. Okay? Just know that I am an activist for gay rights.”
“So, does that mean you are lesbian or you are not? You can be an activist and also be gay.”
We both laugh when Kye stares at me for the longest time then gives me this strange look.
“You just do not give up, do you, Miranda?”
I laugh again.
“I guess I don’t. You just informed me that you will tell me some day and I ask you the question again.”
“It’s perfectly okay. The day will come when I will answer that, but for now, I’m hoping I'm still your friend who you want to hang out with. I don’t usually do things on the level which I’ve been doing with you. There is more to me than gay activism. So, I’m hoping you will calm down and take me as the day you met me and we went to lunch together! Have I even tried to jump your bones?”
We laugh again and we talk, but she is making me more and more confused about if she’s homo or hetero.
“No, you’ve never tried to jump my bones and I may be just acting foolish. It shouldn’t matter if you are lesbian or not. I should be ashamed for asking and being so curious because that is your choice; no matter if I believe it is right or not. I have skeletons in my own closet far worse than if you are gay or not.”
Kye laughs, hops off of my desk, and returns to her work space.
I grab my coffee cup and head to the break room. Nadia has just made a fresh pot of coffee.
“Hi Missy Miss,” Nadia greets me. “How was your weekend? It must have been exciting.”
I look at her suspiciously.
“Why do you say that?” I ask, feeling guilty and paranoid.
“Wow Miranda, what went on in your world for you to react like that?”
“Why, what do you know?”
“What do I know? Lady, what is wrong with you? I only ask because I tried calling you on Friday and Saturday night and you didn’t answer. So I gave up because Sunday was a full day for me.”
“Oh,” I respond, relieved. But, I still have the feeling that she or someone else may have seen me on television at the gay parade or saw me being carried from the bar to Kye’s apartment. Maybe she does not want to own up to seeing me.
“Somehow you seem to be relieved at my response,” Nadia says.
“No, no, I’m just a little jittery. I’m late on filling up with my daily caffeine, you know how that is.”
“Yeah, but I know you, Miranda, and there is something going on in that head of yours. Why is it that I couldn’t reach you this weekend? You have always been available when I called you.”
“No reason, I just decided not to answer the telephones and to relax.”
“Hmm, but I’m just not buying that story. I’m just not buying it! But, I will talk to you later and that’s for definite. I feel like there is male in the mix and that’s something that hasn’t been in your life in a long while. If you do have a new man, I will find out about him. Understand?”
“Okay, but I will talk to you later, Miranda.”
Nadia walks away.
“Now that was an interesting conversation that went on, there, between you and Nadia,” Kye says right behind me.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you.”
“It’s okay…and if you don’t know Nadia, you’ll think she is nosy.”
“Yeah, well, you are still jittery about your weekend and if anybody knows anything about your extracurricular activities.”
“Really, Kye, there is nothing to know about my extracurricular activities. I’m innocent.”
“Yes, you are innocent, but you are making your weekend activities sound as if you did something wrong by saying that you are innocent.”
“I don’t think that is the case. Can we not talk about that for now, please?”
Kye throws her hands up as if defeated. I walk back to my desk sipping my coffee and leaving her behind in the break room.
* * * *
I wonder if I am trying to distance myself from Kye. She’s a great person with so much life and spontaneity. She is so much fun to be around as compared to the boring me and other people I have tried to hang with. For the past year, all I’ve ever done was get off work, go to the market or run errands, then go home. In just two weeks, I’ve experienced going out to lunch to a beautiful restaurant by the bay. I have basked in the fresh open air of the ocean instead of having my usual sack lunch at my desk. I dove into something new by visiting a gay bar and that’s something I would have never done in my entire life. And I attended an exciting gay parade where people let down their guard, showing that they are proud to be what they are and they don’t care what other people think.
The words ‘they do not care what other people think’ resonate in my mind. I’ve grown up not worrying about what society thought of me, but to be grounded in my own beliefs. So, now what am I doing? What will I do? I like Kye and some of her friends. I think I made the right choice about not attending the after party on Saturday night. But right now, I don’t know if I will continue to be her friend and that’s sad because she is a wonderful person. This journey into the unknown is making me think too much and too fast and I have to slow the pace.