We just celebrated Pride Weekend in Chicago. If you're reading this blog, you probably already know what that is. But just in case, here's the nutshell explanation.
Pride Weekend, which is some places is still only Pride Day or may have expanded to Pride Month (is anybody that gay?) is the time of year when the part of the population that is in some way a sexual minority (it started with gay men and lesbians, then incorporated bisexuals, and in now in many places also includes transgendered folks) gets out onto the streets en masse to say–when you get down to the bottom of it–we're here, we're not ashamed of who we are, and we're always going to be here.
When all this began in the early 1970s, it had a very defiant, activist tone which faded somewhat during the 80s and 90s and now, with the advent of near-theocracy in the United States, seems to be resurfacing.
I went to my very first Pride Parade on the sly back when I was a kid in Hawaii and wasn't yet out to my family. It was small, and it took guts for the people in the parade to walk down the street behind those banners. I still have the "Gay Pride Hawaii" tank top I bought and hid in the bottom of my dresser drawer.
My second Pride Parade was in Boston, during the summer after my sophomore year. I loved it, though I was pissed off with the coverage the event received in the newspapers. As I recall, about 100,000 people showed up, the parade was two hours long, and the Boston Globe gave the story two inches at the bottom of page 20.
You see some of everything at Pride. Exactly what "everything" encompasses depends on where you are. In Chicago, we're famous (or infamous) for the politicians who ride or march in order to curry favor. This year, we even got the governor and at least a dozen others, including a clerk of the court, an assessor, and somebody who does something with water reclamation. This is to be expected in a city where our favorite spectator sports are baseball, politics, and architecture.
The general rule, however, is that no matter who marches in the parade, the straight media only ever shows pictures of either drag queens or leathermen walking slaves on leashes. This is intended to shock and titillate, though why even straights would find the sight of either shocking in this day and age is beyond me.
Groups who march who will probably never appear in the newspapers: church groups, gay parenting groups, police officers, firefighters, veterans of the armed forces, contingents from Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) and members of gay/straight alliances from high schools.
I'll admit that Chicago is much better about this than Boston was, but that's a pretty low standard to beat.
The crowds of spectators have changed a lot. You see many, many more straight people than you used to, and more children overall, many of them there with their gay parent or parents.
There is an anti-Pride sentiment among some gay people. The viewpoint seems to be that the parade is passé and unnecessary, though I noticed one didn't hear quite so much of that this year with the government taking pot-shots at our right to exist.
Me, I enjoy the spectacle, and I will keep going and celebrating and being visible until it's safe for a 12-year-old kid in Peoria to take another boy to school dances. Until we get to that point, I will not agree that we have nothing left to march about.
I have nothing sterling in the way of photos from the March but here's a small sample. Heavy on drag as by luck of the draw the shots happened to come out the best. You go, girls.
The Lakeside Pride Marching Band.
Two of the Harley motorcycle riders.
Lead singer of the band Barely Standing.
One of the women from the Brazilian contingent.
More Brazilians, some not actually women.
The Illinois State Lottery float (I kid you not).
The Little Mermaid, non-Disney version.
With Chris after the parade. I now have a very weird camera strap tan-line.