Vietnam, Chicago, Michigan, Orlando
by Sasha Alyson
Vietnam for the adventurous, International Mr. Leather for the bold, Michigan for the communal, and Disney World for the young at heart.
Two decades ago, it seemed as if everything happening in the gay community was happening for the first time. Each new gay- or lesbian-themed book, film, or album was cause for note. Apart from Pride gatherings, it was rare to see thousands of people assemble around gay issues. And two men got booted out of Disneyland for dancing together.
No longer! Today we can pick from a number of annual events that, if they weren’t so lively, could be considered veritable institutions. Whether as a repeat participant, or a first-timer, this is the time of year to start planning for three of these events. But first, a look at something quite different.
* * *
The International Mr. Leather contest (773-381-4650 or 800-545-6753) strides into Chicago on Memorial Day weekend, May 25-29. A mere baby twenty years ago — albeit in leather diapers — IML has swapped those diapers for a jockstrap and unwary guests at some of the Windy City’s better hotels will probably wonder what blew in, when they find a table of leathermen next to them at the hotel’s cocktail lounge.
In addition to Sunday night’s IML competition and show are a four-day “world’s largest leather market” and plenty of parties, climaxing in the infamous Black & Blue Ball.
* * *
Keeping with the spirit of its founders, the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival (231-757-4766) Aug. 8 – 13, 2000 defines itself as “a town that is communally run by each womon who attends.” The town’s population will hit about 6,000, on 630 acres in the northern woods of Michigan. Attendees help with the workload: Preparing wood-fire cooked vegetarian dinners, providing childcare, and putting on over 300 workshops. The workshop schedule for 2000 hasn’t been announced yet, but will probably have as broad a range as 1999: from Practical Self Defense to Lesbian Polyamory and Flamenco Guitar Techniques
Don’t be misled by the name: the Music Festival includes a crafts bazaar, film festival, and networking opportunities for older women, younger women, deaf, and visitors from overseas.
* * *
The newest of these annual events is also the largest: GayDay at Disney World could draw as many as 100,000 gay and lesbian visitors on Saturday, June 3, to celebrate what the organizers call “10 (Y)EARS OF MAGIC”.
Those numbers ensure a fun atmosphere: We could find ourselves in the majority at many theme parks and discos during the weekend. But crowds of this size also require planning. Get your tickets in advance, at a Disney store, through the hotel concierge, or from a Disney ticket office. Arrive early at the theme park of your choice, especially if you’ve set your sights on the Magic Kingdom, or you may not get in.
Other advice from the organizers: Bring a photo ID for the clubs, as many have strict carding policies. Dress for warm weather (think mid-90’s), but also be prepared for a brief thunderstorm in the afternoon; a lightweight poncho could come in handy. Make it a point to thank the Disney staff, who still take considerable heat from the religious right for “allowing” such an event to occur.
Finally: Wear a red shirt! That’s how you’ll recognize others who are there for GayDay. Do not, however, design yourself a red costume. Disney enforces a dress code for its parks, and costumed guests, who would be competition for Mickey, are not allowed. Shirts with offensive slogans are also prohibited — a policy that leaves some room for interpretation — as is the shirtless look. The presence of tens of thousands of red shirts will be a strong enough statement in itself.
Disney World itself officially neither supports nor discourages all this, but cannot be disappointed by the numbers. Several unaffiliated businesses, clubs, and promoters sponsor events on GayDay, and throughout the long weekend.
As for you Californians: If Orlando is too far, wear that red shirt to the third annual Gay Day at the original (Anaheim, Calif.) Disneyland, set for Saturday, October 7, 2000.