"If condoms just fell from the sky when I was a young girl I might not have had Jerry," she chuckles as she hands the foil-wrapped prophylactic to a young man leaning on the railing nearby. Dressed in her Sunday best, Bernie, a mother of three and grandmother of five, has come up from Palo Alto to watch her son dance on one of the floats. "Of course, having a child is the least of today's worries," she notes.
Unlike other parades, where spectators and participants are separate entities, today all of Market Street broils in a vivid stream of San Francisco color: The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence preen; feather boas and platform shoes abound; salsa and techno dance music turn the air into something tangible; big, bad dykes on bikes roar down the road; bedecked Rollerbladers hand out breath mints and club passes. It is a jubilant, multicolored, multicultural spectacle that this year carries a number of political messages.
"We [in San Francisco] take our sexual freedom for granted," admonishes a women with "Dyke" tattooed on the back of her neck. "Being into same-sex sex in this town is a great excuse for a big party, but there are bigger issues and we should use this opportunity to bring them to the floor." More than a few groups -- the ACLU and Oasis, the gay and lesbian ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of California among them -- find the parade a perfect vehicle in which to spread their beliefs and concerns. "Stop Chron/Ex Union Busting," "Lesbian Moms Rock," "Support Immigration," and "Gays for Jesus" are among the proffered statements, but it is the encompassing "All Oppression Is Connected" that receives the most reaction.
"It is all connected, you know," exclaims a sun-drenched, self-proclaimed "het" who suddenly turns from bombastic beer-swiller to philosophical deep-thinker. "I mean, when you go to a foreign city, you can get a good feel for a place by how many gay clubs there are. A community that embraces homosexuality usually has a lot fewer hang-ups all the way around. It usually encourages more art, more music, more creativity in general. Tolerance breeds genius." He pauses, taking in the surroundings with a deep breath. "Or certainly draws it."
Thankfully, genius, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. At the "Jesus Sexplosion" party -- held at DNA later that same night -- beauty and genius come in all variety of shapes, sizes, and sexual inclinations. Heavy black plastic covers the walls, where erotic art by John U. Abrahamson hangs under black light; goatlike men with horns and evil-looking goatees dance with exquisitely sculpted cowboys; lipstick lesbians lambada to early '80s industrial; in a back room a man is hung upside down from an intricate set of pulleys and flogged by his two-fisted lover; lights flicker, latex glimmers.
"I haven't been to 'Jesus' in aaages," says Manuel, a dashingly good-looking man attached to a post by a leash. "Not since it was at the Covered Wagon. It's still not too diluted." Manuel motions to a man who sits on the floor before his mistress, holding her cocktail in the air. She stares off into space, occasionally taking a sip but never acknowledging the man's presence. "As you can see," concludes Manuel, upon his master's return, "everybody's very into their own trip."
Downstairs, witches invoking spirits in an old silent film flicker on a black-and-white screen while two busty blondes in stars-and-stripes bikinis set up an altar for the purpose of shoe worship. They string a variety of footwear from the rafters and rub their breasts against each other's spiked heels. One girl dons her eyeglasses and begins sewing a dozen or so little plastic shoes into her partner's flesh. A few curious folk at the bar glance over before resuming their conversations.
"San Francisco is much more laid-back than L.A.," says Indi, a 28-year-old transplant. "The costumes are more inventive -- not so shopper-frenzied. Everyone just seems more creative." In the shadows over to the left, a bald Nosferatu type adorned with dangling rhinestone earrings delicately strokes the chest of his muscular companion. A demure librarian looks on over her horn-rimmed glasses.
Oh yes, creative we are.
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By Silke Tudor