Opening the closet

By By Adam Fifield

By Adam Fifield

The Utah Pride Festival should scare the socks off statewide right-wing conservatives.

Organizers of the festival don’t tout moderation as a virtue for their newly expanded, wildly excessive three-day event set for June 1 through 3.

Public grounds in the country’s reddest state will turn into an environment where people can express themselves openly. Diversity and marginalized cultures will be celebrated instead of hidden. Minds will be penetrated, the peripheral will become central and this decentralization is what the conservative right should fear most.

The Utah Pride Festival aims to show that everyone is queer, and no state is more so–without knowing it–than Utah.

So in this fashion, our preview of Utah Pride 2007 will sidestep the festival’s headlining acts (you can find out all about those at www.utahpride.org). As such, we’ve tailored the preview to the queerest Utahns around–University of Utah students.

Be scared of this festival–words, ideas and minds are sure to copulate throughout.

Stiletto Studs

This year’s Utah Pride will partner with the Salt Lake City Film Center for a queer film festival, “Damn These Heels.” The screenings will ignite the fuse for a number of pre-festival events and promises an array of explosive entertainment.

The Utah Cyber Sluts, a local cross-dressing troupe and fund-raising organization, will provide an evening of raucous debauchery at the Tower Theater on Thursday night at 9 p.m. The Sluts will escort the audience through a screening of “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.”

“It’s an absolute queer classic,” said David Alder, film festival coordinator and film studies major at the University of Utah. “The Cyber Sluts will be dressing in their outlandish drag and having fun.”

The Cyber Sluts will include audience members in dance numbers, re-enactments and all-around fabulousness. If you’ve attended Halloween re-enactments of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” at the Tower Theater, then you might know what you’re in for.

This is the Sluts’ first time performing “Priscilla,” so who knows what accidental brilliance will occur?

Excess, excess and excess will make this party your best bet for a wild introduction to Utah Pride 2007.

Seating is limited, so make sure to come early. Oh, and it’s free.

Take that, Sheena Easton.

“Damn These Heels” will screen a total of 17 films during the Utah Pride festivities, some screened for the first time.

Films will stress awareness for the richness of queer culture throughout the festival, with topics undressing some of the most controversial issues within the queer community.

An important discussion of partner benefits will follow the screening of “Freeheld,” Friday at 4 p.m. Salt Lake City mayor Rocky Anderson and candidates applying for his job are invited–and we know how queer politicians tend to be.

See the film festival’s webpage, www.damntheseheels.com, for a complete screening schedule.

Getting sporty with Utah Pride

Hyper-masculinity and homophobia still run in the veins of professional sports, but if Greco-Roman wrestling seems a tad homoerotic to you, then you’re not alone.

The U’s Queer Student Union (QSU) will repossess athletics as their own this Friday with a game of “Smear the Queer” from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Hot Springs Park, 300 W. 700 North.

The childhood game is similar to tag, but with an offensive twist, which QSU co-presidents John Spillman and Bonnie Owens hope to deflate.

“We want to reclaim some of these words and games and have fun with them,” Spillman said. In that way, Spillman believes words like “queer” can become less harmful and more empowering.

The “Smear the Queer” event is also being held to celebrate the transformation of the old Lesbian Gay Student Union into the more inclusive QSU–everyone is queer, so everyone is invited.

America’s cultural obsession with sports is something the festival hopes to re-interpret by means of parody.

Keeping with its focus on athletics, the QSU isn’t afraid to steal a little of Athens’ fire for the theme of their entry into Sunday’s parade, “What team do you play for?”

A forecast of their float’s dcor hints at a baseball aesthetic including a diamond, uniforms, bats, balls, catchers, pitchers and other forms of role-playing, Owens said.

Multiple student organizations will participate in building the float, including some student clubs from Salt Lake Community College.

Leading the parade will be Utah’s bastion of pride in sporting, John Amaechi–the former Jazz center made infamous for exiting the closet after exiting the league.

Utah Pride will crown Amaechi as the Grand Marshall of the entire festival in its opening ceremonies Friday night.

The main thrust of the parade begins Sunday at 10 a.m., and will penetrate the festival grounds at the City Library. The LGBT resource center will man (or woman) a booth throughout the festival, so be sure to pay them a visit amongst the sea of excess.

Sister Wives

Despite what you learned in middle school, Utah has plenty of skeletons locked in the closet–and good old Chicago blues has the key to let those skeletons loose and make them dance.

The Sister Wives’ Zion-bred blues breaks from the patriarchy of their musical forefathers, while lambasting the polygamist past hinted at in their namesake. This rebellious spirit promises to fling open the doors of whatever closets their listeners arrive locked in.

The Sister Wives will take the stage Sunday at 3:15 p.m., ready to raise the level of ecstasy present in Utah Pride.

“We’re always out to play for a party,” said front-woman Mona Stevens. “It’s great to see families and people from such different backgrounds come out to a place where they can just be themselves.”

This all-female band doesn’t want to be seen as a novelty act, and in their third year at Utah Pride, they’ve earned their stripes.

“We’re unusual, but we’re just about having fun,” said Jesse Luckett, the Wives’ lead guitarist and a junior in anthropology at the U.

“At the Pride festival, people can be themselves without being judged,” she said.

This weekend, the Sister Wives will be winking at some pretty queer Utah history–but don’t let that draw your attention from their backbreaking blues riffs and driving melodies.

The theme for this year’s Utah Pride Festival is “United for Equality.”

This ideal may be terrifying when you realize what Utah Pride exemplifies–that everyone smacks of queer, from Brigham Young to the Founding Fathers to the entire west side of Salt Lake City.

But if we give ourselves over to the festival, in the face of all our fears, it might lead us toward an earth-shattering cultural copulation–the merging of disparate parts.

And if Utah Pride is a success, we will awake the morning after with a newfound sense of understanding.

Bonnie Owens

Participants from last year’s Pride Festival march through downtown Salt Lake City.