Why I marched the other times

Oh, the many reasons one continues to march in Pride Parades after that first exhilarating time…

One reason I marched in so many parades was because I was a founding member of the (now defunct) Seattle Lesbian and Gay Chorus. Every year we marched together with our banner. Some years we had candy to hand out. Some years we had fliers. Some years we just waved. People always shouted at us to sing, but you can’t do big choral singing in the middle of a loud street. If you try, no one can hear you over the ambient noise unless you scream. You can’t hear each other well enough to stay in key or in rhythm. We tried, a few times, to get a good mobile sound system to play recordings of us singing, but that doesn’t work well, either.

So one reason I was there in the parade year after year was to march with my fellow choristers. To show people we were there, maybe get a few more people coming to our concerts. Maybe find a few new recruits. It was always a fun group to march with.

I was also there for the same reason I marched the first time. Saying to the world that I’m here, I won’t be invisible, I’m not going away.

I was there to see all the people standing on the sidewalk. Some in couples. Some in family groups. Some were there specifically waiting to cheer for a friend, family member, or significant other who was marching with one of the groups. Some were just there to cheer everyone. Some of the folks watching together had gone to more trouble dressing up than some of the people marching. There always seemed to be at least one group like that watching from a big balcony or deck overlooking some part of the parade route.

I was there, yes, so that I’d have the satisfaction each year of either glaring at or blowing kisses at that one guy who was always there at one corner with his big sign with a bible verse on it telling us how much he thought god hated us all. I never yelled at him. One year, Ray and I stopped right in front of him, french kissed, then turned and blew kisses to him. Ray kept turning around, waving, and making yoo-hoo sounds as our group marched on. Which was hardly original, but it was fun. I don’t know if it was literally the same guy year after year. It seemed like it was. He always seemed to be alone. He was very grim-faced but always silent. At least when I saw him. I like to imagine that he eventually came out, got some therapy, and settled down with a nice leather daddy in Palm Springs.

I marched to smile and wave at the people watching. To accept the applause and return it. “Hey! We all made it another year!”

I marched to show that we’re not all cute fashion-conscious young men—some of us are chubby, grey-bearded, sci fi nerds in t-shirts and tacky Hawaiian shirts.

I marched for the friends and loved ones who are no longer with us: for Ray, who promised to stay with me for the rest of his life, who loved Disney movies and old books, who danced with an abandon I envied, who even made jokes about the chemo, and whose last words on this earth were “I love you” spoken to me; for Jim, a friend from high school who didn’t come out of the closet until he was dying of AIDS, and I don’t think ever marched at Pride; for Chet, a cousin who was sent away when he came out, who vanished for years until one day his mother got a call from a hospice, and whose immediate family continued to reject him even refusing list his name in his grandfather’s (my great-uncle) obituary; for Stacy who sang like a TV version of an opera singer and loved a good joke; for Frank who didn’t sing so well, but never missed a rehearsal; for Mikey who was as tall as a pro basketball player but would rather play Dungeons and Dragons; for Scott, who was so sure that if we prayed harder we’d both turn straight, but died in a car accident before graduation; for Kerry who was always defensive about his Vespa; for David who played even the impossible accompaniments written by Mr M and made the piano dance; for Tim who sang like an angel and loved David so much it took your breath away when you caught him smiling in David’s direction; for Todd who was diagnosed with the disorder that would become AIDS before it had a name, who made the most morbid jokes about the disease, and never allowed anyone but his partner see him cry each time he saw another funeral notice for someone he knew; for Phil who was kicked out by his parents before graduation, but put himself through college despite them; for the other Todd who moved in with one boyfriend after the next, never able to keep a relationship going for more than a couple of months until he met Jack; for Glen who had problems with labels; for Mike who had problems with middle C… and for so many others who I only knew briefly.

I marched because someone needs to and I could.

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