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Gearing up for SD Pride

I have this insatiable sweet tooth that I cannot seem to kick.

In general, I maintain a fairly healthy diet but if you place anything that has to do with chocolate in front of me, it will be devoured immediately; even worse, if it is a whole tray of chocolately goodness, I will most likely eat multiple quantities of whatever happens to be on the tray (brownies don’t last long in my presence).

I have always been a bit of a hypochondriac. The minute I turned 30, I told myself that I needed every check-up in the world because in my mind, when the clock struck May 3, 2010, I was suddenly at a greater risk for high blood pressure, cholesterol, and every type of cancer and other ailment that is more common in older people.

I got really thirsty one day and thought I had diabetes (sometimes constant thirst is a symptom). I had a migraine and thought I had high blood pressure. The internet is not a safe place for hypochondriacs. With just a couple of clicks, we can enter the world of medical knowledge that Yahoo! Health or WebMD is, and self-diagnose ourselves right into the grave (when really, we simply have a common headache).

After my 30th birthday, I cut back on my sweets for a few days until I got to the doctor to have everything checked out. Of course, my cholesterol, blood pressure, and other tests came back absolutely perfect. He said I was healthy as a 23-year old (total confidence boost – thanks, Doc!), I shouldn’t worry about these things, and that I don’t need to come in for a physical every month. Whew!

But now, we are in the midst of Pride season and all of my friends are on these wild “Pride diets.” Typical gays. Pigging out year-round on greasy Mexican food after a night out on the town, then starving for a month in preparation for two-days that probably will not even be remembered due to the amount of alcohol (mostly beer) that will then bloat the stomachs that were starved and chiseled over the last 30 days.

I won’t lie, though. As we get closer and closer to San Diego Pride, I’ve attempted my own version of a Pride diet as well. I think twice about those sweets (although I cheated and had a brownie with lunch yesterday). I’m at the gym a bit more than I normally am. I bought a bag of apples.

But as us gays prepare our bodies for Pride, it is important that we think about what Pride is and means to us. I know, I know. Some columnist in some gay rag gives the written “true meaning of Pride” lecture each and every year. And maybe that is me right now. But really, let’s talk about Pride.

I have been to many Prides since turning 17-years old. Growing up in San Diego, I first began reading about the event in 1995 when I was 15, the same year the San Diego Union-Tribune first began covering it, usually with a photo of a drag queen on the cover page. By 1996, I was fully aware of my “gayness” and was now cognizant of what Pride was, where it was held, etc.

I was too scared to attend, but was pleased to slip the “San Diego” section out of the Sunday paper and secretly read that section’s front page story about the previous day’s parade, featuring Wilson Cruz as the grand marshal. I was obsessed with Cruz, as he had played a gay teenager in the hit TV show “My So Called Life” and I only wished that I could be there and be a part of that openness and excitement.

I finally attended the 1997 parade, but hid behind a tree along the parade route and left early. It was incredibly exciting to be there for those few minutes, though, and be around all those people who were living happy, productive lives in the Gay 90’s. It meant so much to me as a teenager and we have to remember that there are so many people who get their first introduction to the community at this event, and it can be life changing.

I have had a bit of difficulty getting into the “Pride spirit” this year.

Ricky and I have a little thing where each year, once Long Beach Pride passes, we can start saying “Happy Pride.” It’s a bit obnoxious, but all the more reason to love us. But this year we have only said “Happy Pride” once or twice and it’s a bit sad. Call it a Pride Funk.

However, I went to Tijuana Pride this past weekend, and what an energizing experience that was!

It had a different feel than Pride celebrations in the United States, but had many of the same, familiar elements. Seeing so many people proudly expressing themselves in a country that has different attitudes toward LGBT people was inspiring. I can imagine that many Tijuana residents feel some of the very same fear and excitement that our LGBT predecessors in San Diego experienced during the early Pride marches here.

I am so proud of our neighbors to the south and hope more San Diegans will attend next year’s celebration. Like it or not, Tijuana is part of the region we live in. Besides, Pride in Tijuana comes with most of the same attractions for way cheaper! I spent $20 for a day of taxi rides, beers, food, and fun!

By the way, thank your legislators for outlawing smoking in our bars and clubs. My lungs did not take too kindly to the smoke boxes that bars in TJ are, and I am still working on regaining the full functionality of my voice. Plus, I have to wash my man purse now, as it reeks of smoke. Otherwise, TJ was a great time.

As you make your preparations for San Diego Pride (remember apples!) think of the struggles we still have to face and really consider what you are going to do in the next year to make the world a better place for all of us gays.

Happy Pride!

Ben Cartwright is SDGLN's Higher Education & Nonprofit Liaison and has been a campus and community activist in San Diego for over 10-years. His community involvement began as a student at SDSU and from there he launched into a number of other community activities. He has written for a number of local publications including Update, Hillquest, and GLT. Cartwright won the Lambda Archive's 2007 "Community Hero Award"; 2008 Nicky Award for "Outstanding Community Activist"; and a 2009 Nicky Award for "Outstanding Writer/Columnist".