Saturday, June 13, 2009

Happy Pride to you and you and you

Happy Pride
About a decade ago, I went to my first gay pride parade. I was just coming out and figuring out what it meant to be queer. I read a lot of great books during that time, and my wonderful girlfriend, who had always been in touch with who she was, encouraged me to learn more about the gay community, issues, and the subculture surrounding queers.

So I went to my first Pride parade with my friend G. G was a little older, and whole lot more "out" than I was. He had worked professionally in the gay cause, and was an awesome gay role model for me. He and I talked about my coming out, about the early dramas of my now 10-year relationship, and his amazing stories of being gay and coming out in the decade prior, and what it meant to him as a proud, gay man.

G and I had a prime spot for the parade on SW Broadway. He wore his “I Marched on DC” 1980's-something t-shirt, taken out of the drawer and worn with pride that day. He was so excited. I didn’t know what to expect. I thought there’d be a few hundred fellow queers, a couple of floats, and some drag queens. My only other memory of Pride was from when I was 12, and on a family vacation in San Francisco. We discovered our vacation in the motherload of gay cities coincided with Pride weekend. (There were a few uncomfortable moments.)

What I discovered on the day of my first Pride parade, attending as a newly-found queer, was something that has and will always stay with me. Thousands of others—male, female, androgynous, old, young, families (!)—I had never seen such a cross-section together, in one place, at one time. Couples holding hands. In public! And pure, unadulterated celebration. In the light of day. Celebration for who we are. I was in awe.

G clapped and hooted and hollered for every contingent walking in the parade. Political representatives marched or rode in cars, and he ran out there, shook their hands, and thanked them for supporting us. All with excitement, happiness and pride. We danced along with the dancers on the Boxxes float. We saw people we knew marching, and cheered for them.

I saw fierce, amazing women, riding without shirts, on fast, loud motorcycles. I was in awe. I was embarrassed. I was excited. I was surrounded by people who were either just like me, or who embraced people like me. I was in a place that I felt safe. And I realized that was a very rare thing in my life. I was safe.

G and I applauded for every single marching contingent. But when PFLAG approached, G got misty. There were mothers, and fathers, and brothers and sisters, all marching in support of their gay family members. “I Love My Gay Son” was a sign carried by a mother walking hand in hand with her son. I was speechless.

And they came, one chapter after another, from Roseburg, Medford, Eugene, Portland: all vocalizing, and marching in support of those they loved. G told me how important this was, and how incredible these people were. I knew. My biggest fear at the time was coming out to my family, and not knowing if they would support me. We clapped as hard as we could, and thanked them for marching—mouthing THANK YOU when it was too loud to hear our voices. And we cried, for the families that loved their children so much to march in Pride, publicly declaring their love.
Tomorrow is another Portland Pride parade. It’s been 10 years or so since I went to my first. A lot of queers don’t “get” Pride, and I understand. I used to not get it either. But G taught me it’s about our history, about connecting with our family, and celebrating who we are. For so many of us we hide parts—or all—of our authentic selves, being queer in a straight society. Pride, historically, has been about letting that go and being true to ourselves. And seeing the thousands of others around us who are doing the same. We're not alone.

Tomorrow I’ll be true to myself, to the love of my life who will be by my side, and to the memory of G. Sometimes I think if he had been able to connect with the love he felt on Pride, he could have loved himself to keep living. But he’s gone.

And tomorrow I’ll clap for those marching, I’ll thank the politicos for making a statement by being there, and I’ll dance to the disco floats and their dancers. But when PFLAG appears, I’ll cry for G, and clap as loud as I can. And thank them.
This was first posted here on my blog June 2005. I either repost or link to it every year.


Wacky Mommy said...

Great post, Lelo, thank you. I was just looking at pix yesterday from my kid's baby book from the Pride Parade (he was still in a front carrier, sis was in a stroller) -- such sweet memories.

Glad it's not on Father's Day this year since that's when the Sunday Parkways thing is.

katherynei said...

You're making me all misty too. Thanks for the great post. I'm hoping my kids and I will make it tomorrow.

voiceless musings said...

i've recently stumbled into your beautiful blog world and feel compelled to say that your writing, your photography, the sense of spirit with which you've created this space appeals very much to me.

as a young queer person, this is an exceptional post on celebrating our lives that are so often cast into the invisible shadows of silent worlds.

thank you =)

A Lewis said...

I'm so disappointed that I will be working tomorrow. I think I "get it" and always look forward to the celebration, the friendship, the happy folks. It seems to be a sort of gathering place. Which I love.

Unknown said...

I can't wait for the day when it's totally normal to see a gay couple with their kids walking down the street in happy joy, and Pride becomes more like Father's Day or the 4th of July A day to celebrate GLBT, but not the only day where people feel free to express themselves.

Amy W said...

Beautifully expressed -- this is exactly how awestruck I felt at my first Pride when I was just coming out 6 years ago, and why my partner and I celebrate Pride each year.

It's our first Portland Pride after moving here from Minneapolis last fall. We're looking forward to celebrating here with our new community, and starting some new traditions of our own.

Happy Pride!

CrackerLilo said...

L'Ailee and I let it lapse a few years--we're ourselves all the time, and we have our friends. We didn't see the need anymore. The debacle that was Moscow's pride rallies convinced us that we need to celebrate our freedoms and our spiritual ancestors. Anyway, it's the 40th anniversary of Stonewall this month!

You reminded me of how I felt in my late teens and early 20s, going to Pride parades and Gay Days at Disney. Just how I felt like part of something amazing and like I wasn't alone. I felt like I'd been thrown into the deep end of the queer pool the first couple times. It was good to find out that I could swim.

I'm sorry G. won't be with you. I'm glad he was with you when you first came out.

small town dyke said...

this was just beautiful. We have to miss pride this year and i will miss it.

TP said...

Hope you had a great one! I STILL get misty when the PFLAG contingent goes by. Never fails ...

Adam said...

Hello, Lelo! Marie ( just recommended me this post, as I am about to go to my third pride parade. I really liked it, when you write about the "daylight", I think you say it all!

Adam (