Get Out There! Celebrate America's Mosaic

At the end of every work week, "All I wanna do is have some fun, and I wanna tell you I am not the only one."

Sheryl Crow's '90s anthem is a classic sentiment shared by us all -- big or small, male or female. It's our right as proud, hardworking people, and lets us be real.

Even the hardly workin' feel the same -- and summertime is the time we head to the street to celebrate. BBQ's, fairs, family reunions and fireworks are all a part of our proud heritage, and as a people we have learned to come together to celebrate victories, holidays, momentous family occasions and, most of all, our differences.

That is part of what makes this land of democracy such a great place. We are a melting pot, a land where people of many and any cultured backgrounds can merge and exist as individuals with their varied cultures and yet be a united community, as free human beings with the same rights … and needs.

One of our most important rights is the freedom to express ourselves ... free to be you and me ... and we are damn proud of it. So proud, in fact, that we have created specific days and parades to celebrate and showcase a smorgasboard of global ethnicities and choices.

There's the Israeli day parade. The Greeks have a day, the Irish always come out in full force to party for St. Patty's Day, the New Yoricans really bring the star power with grand marshals and performers as illustrious as Ricky Martin, Jennifer Lopez and Mark Anthony.

When people get together to celebrate, they often get a little too festive with alcohol and rowdy behavior, resulting in disorderly conduct and arrests. Maybe that part we shouldn't be so proud of.

To celebrate these festivities, we created a platform for people of like thoughts and backgrounds to highlight the positive and to show we are the same but different. A chance to be out loud and proud.

And nobody does it bigger, bolder and brasher ... then "My Gays," as Kathy Griffin loves to call us from the D-List. With parades of pride and rainbows around the globe, New York City alone has several gay pride parades, celebrating in all the boroughs. But the biggest of them all is right in Manhattan Sunday, June 24, as thousands of ethnically and economically diverse people gather together to show their pride and unity.

Every year, my best friend and I go out with the intention to participate in the festivities. It is a momentous occasion when you contemplate the "Stonewall" incident of June 28, 1969, when gays had no rights. It is amazing to see how far we've come when I see the parade. Even a city boy like me, who is rarely shocked is often embarrassed and saddened by the way many of my peers chose to exhibit their pride. And that is what one of things that makes America great.

Personally, I want people to understand that gay is not always drag (sorry Tina and Cher look-alikes) or muscles in a thong (so rarely is that really hot!!). Or, my fashion faux is the shirtless lesbians looking really mean and butch with black masking tape on their breasts. In this humble writer's experience, I think that sends more negativity about your issues than you might want.

Sadly, others don't see the positive role models; they are blinded by this surreal over-the-top reflection of our community. Personal note: I love the men in uniform!! And the athletes, the choirs -- these are something to be proud of. Especially the same-sex families (by the way, kids in the gay culture are the fastest growing new accessory). With so many roads to choose whether you want to conceive or adopt, more gays are becoming parents, even though gay marriage is not one of our equal rights. Either as a partnership or as single parent, which as we all concur, is the most rewarding yet difficult job imaginable.

As I watch these diverse families living their lives as who they are at the core, partying, laughing, dancing, enjoying, crying, drunk, lost, loud and tired -- Yuk! -- it makes me wonder: I belong to so many of these various groups, these identities and these communities ... but I fit into none of them. Can I be proud of them all?

As I watch my people, I wonder how many of them are really proud of themselves or just plain old delusional? It seems to be a fine line to see our differences and accept them, change what you have the power to but be proud of what you can't change.

We have been force-fed the snow white, skinny model image for so long, the time has come that we need to rebel against it, at least to some extent. For it is setting a false image and holding us to an unachievable standard. But if we let ourselves go, then when is the point that we are allowing ourselves to be unhealthy and overweight? Or overly obsessed with our physicality to the point of too skinny? Are we just becoming overly obsessed and narcissistic with ourselves, constantly looking for our physical issues to complain about, and be a source of prejudice?

We constantly focus on how others are seeing us, so much so that we overreact and overemphasize the issues that we personally don't like about ourselves. We create a story rather than become hypercritical of others reactions to us.

Recently Oprah, my hero, did a show on skin color. We all know it's wrong to judge others by the color of their skin, but a caste system has always been in existence. And the shade of your skin and the texture of your hair has sadly been the determining factor for acceptance for centuries in countries such as India and in Africa.

When can we change these overindulgent, ineffective behaviors and reactions? Companies like Dove, Benetton and Coca-Cola have built hugely successful marketing campaigns based on basking in our differences and finding a unity in each of our uniqueness.

Why not make this your personal wellness crusade? "I would like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony," went a hit song the Coca-Cola commercial did that was groundbreaking in the 1970s. But, decades later, are we any closer? Or are we still singing the same old song, just with a different beat? If we can't love ourselves can we possibly love others?

Let's concentrate on multiplying on these positive attitudes and examples. The Dove girls are the newest "it" girls. Variety is a flavorful spice of life. Jean Paul Gaulthier has always featured models of every shape and size. He even used me back when I was the male Kate Moss of the day. I was only 5 feet, 11 inches.

We always want to complain about how others are hating on us. Let's just rejoice in the fact in how far we have come and how far we can go. Fueled with old-school hope and faith and some New Age power and positivity, we can march toward a more accepting future. As Christina Aguilera sings, "We are beautiful, no matter what they say." And Cyndi Lauper has reinvented our true colors.

So get out your flag this summer and celebrate with pride.

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