Cheerleaders are more provocative than our homemade bear

Friday, July 8, 2022

Editor:

I would like to clarify a few items about the Livingston Pride Coalition’s parade float after some accusations have come forth.

Our float was a bear riding a tourist. We wanted to create a float in accordance with this year’s theme — 150 Years of Yellowstone — as well as make it a Pride float. We settled on a bear riding a tourist. We considered a bison on a cowboy but since we built a bison last year and a tourist pertains more to Yellowstone than a cowboy we landed on the current configuration. We thought it was humorous. We thought the juxtaposition ironic. And we thought it fitting considering all of the animal harassment events that happen in the Park.

In no way was it a bear and human engaging in a lascivious act. We were aware that there was potential for it to be taken that way so we were careful to constrict the anatomy of each figure in such a way that lack of mechanics was obvious. Was it a little disproportionate? Yes. Clearly, we are not professional float builders or engineers. We needed to make sure the float would survive the ride through the parade, at least. The general shape of the float was dictated by the wooden frame underneath the chicken wire and paper-mache shell. But in the end it was a bear, holding the camera strap of the tourist like a rein (not choking the person), in a bucking-bronco rodeo position, riding across the landscape of Yellowstone.

The accusation that it was a grizzly leather bear is correct. And the term “leather bear” is a part of queer culture. It was a Pride float, after all. But it was meant to be a pun. The poorly constructed leather harness is just an article of clothing in the end. The same goes for choker necklaces and cuff bracelets. Motorcyclists are often in leather strappings.

Cheerleaders at sporting events are way more provocative than our homemade bear. And it was on a genderless fake animal. Winnie the Pooh doesn’t have pants on. The green M&M used to wear go-go boots. Unless you are Tucker Carlson, we haven’t heard any complaints.

Any idea that this was a hyper-sexualized float is strictly the viewer’s perception. We cannot control how people see it. While you can find innuendo in anything riding anything we did not design the float for it to be there. The Disney movie Aladdin contains more double entendre than spectators found in our float. And Aladdin is geared toward children. The young saw a bear in clothes on top of a person. It’s the adults that are attaching meaning to it.

I find it interesting that you speak of indoctrinating children when, according to a quick Google search, you are the pastor of a local church. Do you have Sunday school there? Isn’t that indoctrination? And there was a religious float in the parade. Was there any protest of that? Last year there was a float celebrating the last President, and he has a whole list of disparaging quotes about women and praising bigots, yet is celebrated in the parade.

You claim “the purpose of the parade is to celebrate our nation, the rodeo, and our community.” Is the LGBTQIA+ community not part of the fabric of the nation? Are we any less American? Are we not part of “our community”? Do we have any less right to celebrate the holiday or have representation in the parade?

I would like to take this moment to let you know that it was the Dolly Parton float that was handing out children’s books. The Dollies are wonderful.

I would also like to correct you that it was not “men dressed as prostitutes” but queer people dressed in drag. Drag is an art form. When rodeo queens don their sparkling garb it is drag. When clergymen wear their robes it is drag. RuPaul says, “We are all born naked and the rest is drag.” Our society arduously constructs binary gender roles. Children are taught to adhere to these roles. (Indoctrination?) Queer people often live outside of this.

Your permission of “potentially distasteful and divisive” political campaigns and commercial slogans in the parade but not queer people with their Chamber-approved float leaves my interest piqued.

Your statement of calling those who marched with it “demonstrations of perversion” has me wondering. And your implications that the whole Pride aspect of it is “sexual expression severed from fruitfulness and nature’s laws” has me curious … curious as to how you really feel about the queer community.

Language like this is dangerous. You were worried about children seeing our float. I am worried about queer children reading your words. Queer people already have a higher rate of mental health issues and suicidal ideation due to treatment by family and society. I hate that you have added to that. We put Pride floats in the parade so the queer community, youth and adults alike, know that they are not alone.

I am queer. I was born queer. Being queer is more than just what my sexual preferences are. There is a whole culture that surrounds it. Our float was celebrating that culture.

We took this year’s theme and put a queer spin on it. We made it our own. Why? Because we are allowed to celebrate ourselves just like everyone else does.

Growing up closeted, we were under scrutiny for acting ‘queer.’ Now, as out adults, we are still under scrutiny because we are queer. But there is nothing wrong with us. There is nothing wrong with what we do. We are living our lives as our true selves and are tired of being treated like pariahs for that.

We’re queer. We’re here. And we’re over it.

Holding my head high and my wrist limp,

Caleb Platt

Float Designer

Livingston

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