Pride, to me, is about living your truth. That and toilet sex. For some time that seemed to be the majority opinion amongst festival goers at American pride festivals (the male ones, at least) but with each passing year this sentiment is held in lower and lower regard. With the majority of pride festival goers now consisting of heterosexuals, I suppose it’s only natural that pride festival headliners become heterosexuals, too. After all, I can understand the festival goers’ desire to see their own reflection. But what happens when your celebrated hetero headliner pulls out suddenly and unceremoniously?
This is the conundrum that the organizers of Pittsburgh Pride recently found themselves in when Iggy Azalea pulled out of her headlining slot at the last minute. Though it was surely a coup for the festival organizers to book such a high name act, enthusiasm for Azalea’s booking waned considerably upon the discovery of several allegedly homophobic tweets of hers from years back. Controversy ensued and Azalea promptly cancelled the gig. This placed the festival organizers in quite a conundrum. Though pride festivals are ostensibly designed to gather local queer communities in solidarity and celebration of their respective histories and political triumphs, such ideals tend to be coolly received by the increasingly heterosexual audiences of most pride festivals. A star was needed and fast, but who would step in and save the day?
Enter, Nick Jonas, gay America’s heterosexual savior. Nick Jonas has enjoyed an enthusiastic gay fan base ever since a series of buff shirtless selfies went viral last year. This was followed by a scantily clad crotch-grabbing session for Flaunt magazine last October and his ally status was forever cemented. Nick Jonas has been running at the mouth ever since about his passionate devotion to the cause of marriage equality and his deep admiration of his gay fan base. Homos across America have been lapping it up by the spoonful. Considering this, it’s only natural that he would be vaunted for filling in for Iggy at Pittsburgh Pride. Nick Jonas has enjoyed a curiously exalted status as gay America’s foremost straight ally. (All this fuss just for a little hairy crack? But I digress.) It’s mystifying how pandering to the paying public constitutes activism or why anyone should care. Coming out in favor of marriage equality these days is hardly courageous and his aggressive marketing to the gay community is a familiar page out of the Lady Gaga playbook. Then again, you can’t fuck with those abs, so I guess that’s what’s really important.
What is especially interesting about Jonas’ positive press for stepping in at Pittsburgh Pride is that he is replacing Iggy Azalea. Iggy has been lambasted from the left for her alleged racial appropriation, so it is quite amusing that she would be replaced (largely uncritically) by Nick Jonas, someone who has arguably done something rather similar amongst gay men. Though I understand Jonas’ visual appeal, I must say that it is a sad state of affairs that gay men, once the world’s foremost curators of high taste, are excited by the prospect of listening to Nick Jonas’ shitty music. My sympathies go out to the gays of discriminating taste attending Pittsburgh Pride. I suggest running a train in a nearby restroom to wait out his set.
Jonas provided fascinating commentary on his recent booking. He remarked, “When I heard about the difficult position Pittsburgh Pride was in just days before their event, I knew I had to find a way to help.” Bless you, Nick Jonas. What would Pittsburgh gays have done without Nick Jonas to entertain them? When I think of critical issues facing the LGBT community, perhaps the most pressing is the need for famous heterosexuals to perform for them at their pride festivals. Thank you, Nick Jonas, for filling this void.
I have been accused of being old fashioned, but it seems to me that LGBT pride needs to be about LGBT people or else it’s pointless. The Iggy/Nick Jonas booking was typical of present day pride festivals, but people can catch them at any of their many tours, or just turn on TV. Wouldn’t it be more exciting to see Jackie Beat, or Kevin Aviance, or Ian Harvie, or Tig Notaro at your local pride? I always assumed that seeing outrageous queer performers was the appeal of pride festivals. Frankly, aside from indulging in an impulsive bi experience in a festival ground Port-a-John, I can’t see the appeal for the many straight attendees of contemporary pride festivals. Luckily they’re mostly drunk and hemorrhaging money, so pride will grind on for years to come.
We have forgotten that for many years pride festivals grew and prospered with predominantly LGBT performers. It is a testament to the enterprising spirit of America’s gays that all we need for a successful pride festival is a fair ground, some queens and some meth. But shouldn’t we also insist on more relevant headliners? Look, I’m not made of wood. When the day comes that Nick Jonas finds himself with his legs in the air on a Corbin Fisher set, I will become a fan. In the meantime I’ll be on the look-out for fabulously talented gay performers at gay festivals or else I’ll just go to Steamworks instead.