A tale of two very different jersey style gay prides

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Rrazz Room owners with Ralph Malachowski second from left

commentary.

Blowing kisses at women on motorcycles and cheering for men in tutus is a New Jersey Gay Pride tradition I almost never miss. We get there early, set up our chairs and blankets, inventory the picnic baskets and do what we must to make sure the drinks stay cold while we go take our place on Grand Avenue in Asbury Park. We wave our flags for the parade, cheer on PFLAG, the truck full of free condoms and the growing contingent of corporate supporters. We meander the festival, grab a fried Oreo®, do a little shopping, and return to our blanket in a sea of out and proud with our “ain’t it great to be gay” smiles.

Even the storm clouds looming over the fold up rock wall add their own over the rainbow exclamation point to the afternoon. It’s a day that every year, regardless of the weather, feels like fresh oxygen.

But about 80 miles south of our Asbury Park paradise another storm is taking shape. Under a worn baseball hat, doing her thing at a poker table in the corner of a room of one of those Atlantic City glittermonsters sits a seasoned player — missing Pride to participate in a not to be missed tournament. She plays with the big boys, always has, and more times then not, she beats them. This is a pack of boys that do not like to be beat. They don’t like to be beat by a woman. And they really don’t like to be beat by a woman who doesn’t know how to be quiet.

Even novice players will tell you that tons of trash gets talked across the felt. If you don’t have the stomach for it, you won’t make it through the first day of play. It just comes with the territory. Baseball Hat can hold her own, forgive what is best to forgive, and keep her mind on the game because giving in to that kind of crap can spoil a good hand and cost you a lot of money.

Today though, things will play out differently. When the guy across the table decides that he doesn’t like how the hand played, his trash talk dives to another level. Out of some arsenal of ignorance he spits the words “dyke” and “mister” and finds himself toe to toe with the floor manager and arm in arm with security, sashaying away from the play and out of the room.

This not so elegant exit didn’t happen because of some socially conscious casino powers that be — it happened because Baseball Hat stood up, and demanded it happen. It took over two hours, waiting until the supervisors’ supervisor came back from lunch, to have someone pay attention.

“It is not ok for me to be spoken to that way, and I wonder, had he used words against my skin color or religion, how well would that be tolerated? Let me tell you loud and clear, and in the middle of this very crowded poker room, that if you do not have this gentleman taken out of the room, I will do what I can to make sure both mine, and my friends’ money, is spent somewhere more gay friendly.”

No parade. No rainbow flags. Not one fried Oreo® in sight.

On our way out of the festival, I heard a woman in designer sportswear and $150 highlights refuse the offer of a rainbow sticker for her bumper. “Oh no, I really couldn’t. I’m just not that out right now.”

Commentary writer Lynn Klionsky may be reached via email at lynn.klionsky@gmail.com

commentary.

Blowing kisses at women on motorcycles and cheering for men in tutus is a New Jersey Gay Pride tradition I almost never miss. We get there early, set up our chairs and blankets, inventory the picnic baskets and do what we must to make sure the drinks stay cold while we go take our place on Grand Avenue in Asbury Park. We wave our flags for the parade, cheer on PFLAG, the truck full of free condoms and the growing contingent of corporate supporters. We meander the festival, grab a fried Oreo®, do a little shopping, and return to our blanket in a sea of out and proud with our “ain’t it great to be gay” smiles.