Yesterday at St. George Pride I was asked by a colleague why I was attending and while I was mentally scrambling for some sound reason, I realized I didn’t need one. Instead, I had an impetus and an epiphany sparked by the event’s hashtag, #lovelouder.
Years go I was asked by a filmmaking friend to do second-unit photography on a documentary he was producing. I asked Mindy if she’d do audio for the shoot and before we knew it we were on our way to Southern California to cover the story of two gay men, former members of the Mormon faith, attending Pride in Hollywood. It doesn’t get any gayer than this.
My sound-mixing companion was raised on the conservative foothills of Bountiful, Utah, and though I was raised in the Bay Area, my white/straight privilege managed to keep me insulated from most things LGBTQ+ save for the peppering of remarkable friends in high school whose sexual orientation was of no consequence. At least not to me.
At a modest motel in West Hollywood we met the subjects of the documentary, Steve and Tom. Just typing their names gives me pause as I write, one of deep and intense gratitude and fondness. I met Steve first. Mindy and I rode two-up on a motorcycle from St. George and were getting cleaned up – I had just stepped out of the shower, Mindy just stepping in – when there was a knock at our door. Once I got my undersized, modest-motel bath towel in place, I opened the door to the gayest man I know.
Steve gushed over me. I tried to keep my cool with immediate embarrassment and unexpected flattery forcing an emotional response for which I could have never prepared. For an overweight, hairy bear of a man, I, for a fleeting moment, felt sexy, and it’s not that my companion doesn’t do that for me, I was feeling sexy because of the attention I was getting from another man. And I wasn’t offended by that.
Now, this isn’t where I come out. I’m straight, but that doesn’t mean that I’m immune to the flirtations from my own gender, at least not from Steve. No one is immune from Steve.
Tom stopped by not long after, meeting the three of us for the first time, if I remember. And within moments, my wife and I fell in love with these two guys. I could write more about Tom, but it would all sound like hyperbole and you’d think me a liar. Suffice it to say that if this planet broke water and pushed her own babe into consciousness, it would be him.
We followed these two around Hollywood’s Pride Festival the next day, I with my video camera tethered by a cable to Mindy with her audio field mixer, eavesdropping on Tom and Steve as they wandered through the rainbows, tutus, flesh and fairy dust that is this celebration. They were wired with microphones and wireless transmitters sending their commentary to Mindy’s mixer through her headphones and on to my camera. This would be her first introduction to gay culture, with nothing, nothing spared in Tom and Steve’s commentary.
The spectacle was amazing and not for what the spectacle of Pride is, it was amazing in its confluence of love from every and any direction. While Mindy and I were taking a break from shooting, a woman approached and complimented us saying we were the cutest straight couple she’s seen. Not long after, another woman, wearing lanyards and official badges, approached and politely asked us to leave. We lacked lanyards and badges ourselves, shooting guerilla style, and that was cause enough for us to be kicked out of Pride. Who gets kicked out of Pride?
We wrapped shooting for the day, stashed our gear in Mo’s rental car (our fearless producer) and went back in, this time with nothing other than our new-found enthusiasm giving us reason to be there, and we got swept away in dancing and singing and dining with most extraordinary people, each new person we’d meet taking our collective breath away.
The next morning we had breakfast on Sunset and wandered Hollywood for locations to shoot interviews and went to Neptune’s Net for lunch. Steve cat-called young men walking along the Strip and reveled in his freedom like a freed lifer let loose in the heaven of which he’d been dreaming. We rolled on the interviews and listened to crushing accounts of growing up in contexts that force you to deny who you are at the expense of your value and identity. We found unfettered courage in their stories and an empathy and love that would later serve us and our family in ways that we had long suspected, but had done little about until that warm afternoon in the Hollywood hills.
My companion and I thought we knew how to love, how to love each other, how to love our kids. We left Tom and Steve and Hollywood Pride with an understanding that love with any built-in condition, be it intrinsic or extrinsic, is more fear with a few fuzzies thrown on top. Remove the judgement and love purifies.
That’s why I was there at the park yesterday. It’s why we were at the parade in Salt Lake City two weeks previous, one week away from that tragic new meridian in time of Before Orlando/After Orlando.
We must love louder.