Jesus Christ on parade

My premiere gay parade took place in Syracuse, New York, in the early 90s, heralding the theme of Out*Rage*Us, which hopefully is self-explanatory as a message. We were 300 brave-enough-to-march souls: the owner of My Sister’s Words, the feminist bookstore, several students and staff from Syracuse University, a few employees of Carrier air conditioners, a few more from the local Phillips Magnavox factory, and some other locals. We took all morning to ready some jury-rigged floats and signs, and marched down what was likely the shortest parade route I’ve ever seen—four blocks in Syracuse’s downtown. The actual marching was over in minutes. We didn’t even have a chance to get bunched up as paraders, and that never gets avoided. It would be a couple of years before I would march in New York City’s Pride parade and if this was a triumphant moment for a newbie gay, that was like being dropped in the middle of Mecca at pilgrimage time.

Many years later, I moved to DC and grimaced every time I saw the “Capital” Pride signs. It’s Capitol, people, like the place, not like the investment. Whatever, they stick with this egregious error like it’s a tradition. Maybe nobody wants to buy out whoever owns

I’ve gone to this DC parade at least a half dozen times since I moved here, and it’s always the same:

  • It’s totally over-commercialized. I swear I have heard an MC at the musical stage, next to the actual Capitol building, proclaim, “Welcome to DC Pride, sponsored by Absolut! and Bank of America! Because every LGBT-identifying person needs to be drunk while wielding a checking account. What? This year they even had a “float” for Frito-Lay. Frito-freakin-Lay, people. This “float” was a Frito-Lay delivery truck with some rainbow flags duct-taped to the sides. This is what Susanne refers to as a “phoned in” float, cuz I know that truck just ditched the flags and turned the corner onto Massachusetts to make deliveries to the Giant Foods store like it’d never been throwing bags of Doritos into the streets for free. Damn closeted Frito-Lay truck.
  • It’s too hot to cheer. I understand the Stonewall Inn riots happened on June 28, 1969. It was New York City’s finests’ problem that they pissed people off in the heat. And now it’s every queermo’s problem, as we stand around fanning ourselves with moist paper, waiting for an interesting float to pass by, or at least the DC Cowboys. They shoulda done better at the America’s Got Talent show. If they can stay synchronized on a moving truck bed, well, that would throw people like Susan Boyle, I bet. The heat melts us all so quickly, even with the parade starting at 6:30, the best we can do is attempt to remain vertical, although clapping does generate a pithy breeze.
  • There are too many straight people. I can tell that DuPont isn’t the gay central it used to be, because I saw a hell of a lot of confused-looking straightniks yesterday, walking across the street, some of them in the middle of say, marching bands. People, that is rude as all get out! Pretend just for this evening that you’re afraid of us, okay? Next thing you know they’ll be pushing their baby strollers through Robert Novak’s funeral procession. I bet that actually happened.
  • Too many politicians come a’calling. Every single person running for every single office in a 40-mile radius was in the parade yesterday. The current mayor. The wannabe mayors. The folks running for council. The council-at-large contenders. Sheesh, I just wanted them to go away. Ain’t nobody gonna vote for them just because they showed up for the Big Gay Parade. It’s a Democratic city, you better be gay-friendly! Walking in a parade is the least you can do, especially when your GLBT Affairs Office does nothing for the community (I’m looking at you, Fenty).
  • Confusion regarding what kind of parade this was. All of the aforementioned politicians brought with them mardi gras beads, each some kind of color that was supposed to indicate which politician one supported. In this regard, it was coincidental that many of the folks running for office had colors for surnames: Orange, Gray, Brown. But clearly, the most gay-friendly pols were the ones who tossed us rainbow-colored necklaces. Susanne remarked that no way was she going to flash anyone for beads.

We watched, we waited, we saw all manner of church groups trolling for more congregants—excuse me, recruiting, excuse me communicating about their services—and we began wondering where the leather-clad men wearing chaps were all at. It’s not a gay parade without furry butts to avoid seeing.

At some point, our feet began signaling their discomfort, but there was nary a bench or spare spot of curb. The parade was in full tilt, bands of PFLAG people, united Methodists, gay foreign service workers (only in DC’s parade), and the always lively Different Drummers. Very few activist groups, and certainly none of the intentional freaks of the April Fool’s Day Parade in San Francisco graced the asphalt. If conservatives like Rush and Ann Coulter are concerned for the revolutionary potential of this assembly, rest assured they need not be.

The parade was drawing down, and I heard someone near me catch their breath. Up in the sky, a rainbow. A real rainbow.

Apparently God showed up at the event!

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Categories: visiting


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