Reflections of an Olde Queen
Yes, I spelled "Olde" with an "e".... that's how old I feel sometimes!
There have been comments here on my Blog lately (I've heard it elsewhere as well), questioning how partying at a parade shows your Pride. The media always shows the drag queens, the leather guys with the assless chaps, the "bull dyke on a motorbike", etc. The pride parade has turned into a big ole Mardis Gras- people flashing their breasts for beads, people drinking a little too much, people showing a little more skin than usual, and enough people wearing costumes to give the appearance that it's a Halloween parade!
If I wear a dress and carry a whip while riding my motorcycle drunk down Peachtree Street, am I really telling the world that I am Proud?
I've been reflecting on this ever since the Parade on Sunday. Here's what I came up with......
Things have changed a lot... I remember the first Pride Parade that I attended. It was in the early 80's. I was a kid and scared to death to go, but I went. In those days, you could lose your job for being gay. Everyone that attended the parade risked their job. TV crews were everywhere filming-- if that camera focused on you, you might as well move to another city because you would definately be ostracised. Back then the parade wasn't nearly as big... maybe a couple of hundred participants. I remember watching the marchers pass by while some people on the sidelines threw rocks and beer bottles at them. It was dangerous to attend the parade, and even more dangerous to march in it.
Fast forward a couple of decades and it's a world of difference. The media isn't nearly as present as in the past. Most people don't fear repurcussions for attending the parade, aside from maybe a hangover the following morning. There is no danger now. In fact, I'd bet that half of the people marching in the parade are straight. This year in my parade entry we had two cars and 15 people. Four of us were gay. The "float" ahead of me was the SWISH float (Straight Women in Support of Homosexuals). The float behind me was PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians And Gays). It's not a Gay Pride thing anymore, it's a Human Pride thing now. That's why they changed the name from the Gay Pride Parade to just the Pride Festival.
The fact that I can walk down Peachtree St holding hands with a man and not fear losing my job or my life makes me proud. The fact that I have a friend that can pull off wearing a dress and a pair of rollerskates to the parade and not fear ridicule, but instead receives applause, makes me proud. The fact that there is such a thing as a gay swim team, rugby team, bowling league, rodeo and softball team (and that they all showed up in uniform) makes me proud. The fact that not only my job is secure, but that I was marching with my boss and coworkers makes me proud. The fact that I can walk down Peachtree St. once a year and wear or do anything I want to and be greeted by applause from over 300,000 people makes me proud.
Times have changed, and for the better. Twenty something years ago I came home from the parade and waited to see if anyone would find out that I had attended. Would my parents disown me? Would I lose my job? This year, I came away from the Parade feeling proud to be an American... proud to be Gay... and proud to live in this great city.