Several years ago I wrote descriptions of three parades I’d attended in Seattle. The Seafair Torchlight Family Parade had been full of drunkenness, near-nudity (and more than a few flashed nipples and butts), and many floats built around a sexual innuendo or erotic pun. The Fremont Arts Council Solstice Parade had featured (as it does every year) the nude bicyclists, among other things. While the Pride Parade that year had had a lot of families, several church groups, fully-clothed people dancing, one large group with their adorable Corgi dogs… and in general a lot less nudity and sexual innuendo than I had seen the year before at the Seafair Family parade.
Which isn’t to say there wasn’t nudity and innuendo, along with brightly-colored feathers, beads, and way more body glitter than you can imagine. But the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Pride Parade and Freedom Day March (if I am correctly recalling what the official title was that year) contained a lot less flaunting of sexuality than either of the other two.
Another big difference between the Pride Parade and those others is a tradition that’s been around since the very first: as the parade goes by, members of the community that have been watching step off the curb and join, performing the simple (yet significant) act of walking up the street proclaiming that you refuse to keep hiding in the closet. That’s how a dozen fully clothed people with Gay Pride signs who started marching up New York City’s Fifth Avenue that June morning in 1970 became a crowd of thousands of Gay men and Lesbians by the time it reached Central Park.
It’s not the same closet that each of us is refusing to return to. The first time I joined the march, I was only at the, “I’m not sure where I fit, exactly, but I know I’m not heterosexual and I’m ready to stop hiding” stage. A couple years later I was at the “Yeah, I’m Gay or Queer or whatever you call it; You have a problem with that?” Then I mellowed to the “Yep! I’m Gay!” which quickly became “What do you mean, you didn’t know we’re Gay?”
Others march to say, “I’m way too fabulous for any label!” While others march to say, “People I knew and loved have died, but I’ve survived, and I will not let you forget them!” or “No matter how many times you beat me down, I’m standing back up!” Others join the march to say, “I’m not gay or bisexual or any of those things, but people I love are, and if you have a problem with them, then you’ve got a problem with me!”
And because there are people who do have problems with us, because kids are bullied (sometimes to death) just because other people think they might be one of us, because we’ve come so far, because we’ve still got battles before us, because each and every person is a miracle, because no one should be ashamed to love, we need to keep having these parades.
So, let’s celebrate!