Some individuals, and those youth who are fortunate enough to live in a progressive location, have a capacity to attend multiple gay pride parades every year, thus making the event seem less spectacular over time. Yet, once upon a time they attended their first ever pride parade: this is my story; from the anxious waiting, to the colorful fun, and fulfilling end, the trappings of the liberation struggle left this revolutionary filled with a sense of awe.
Awe, however, wasn’t exactly the word to describe how I felt on the morning of June 16th. Not at least when I had only received a pittance of several hours of sleep and was tired and sore at the prospect of spending the day with no caffeine. Still, my excitement, I knew, would carry the day and overcome the night of prior excitement.
As with most of my activist events I didn’t so much as “plan” my attendance at Pride this year so much as I stumbled into it. As a result I hastily cobbled together several strings of transportation: the first string consisted of my father dropping me off at a Universalist church on his way to work, while the second string was meeting the organizers to which the remainder of the distance would be traveled. The only problem, you ask? Well, my father dropped me off at six in the morning while the organizers didn’t arrive until ten. So fast forward through four hours of me waiting and pacing and reading (I had brought a book) and you will find the others finally trickling in.
By the time the others had arrived I was happier than a dog greeting its master after a long day. Primarily this was because my mind was almost gone after so long but realistically it was due to the fact that after about twenty minutes I was in the car with my queer mates heading to the Portland Pride Parade.
On the way there our little caravan stopped for a moment to gather up the banner which we planned to use in the parade. This locale in our story is worth mentioning not for its importance to the parade but because it was important for me. With the banner held within one of the lead organizers partner’s house this was a rare moment in which I saw older queer women in their own light. One can internalize their understanding of queer culture though movies and television but that is not enough for it does not compare to seeing the way we interact in person, without Hollywood’s neoliberal agenda.
Though I left that house with a renewed sense of happiness at seeing the life two lesbians had made for each other my excitement for the parade didn’t loosen up even a smidgen. After about another twenty or so minutes of driving we finally found our parking place and walked up to the event. When we first entered the street which our banner would be located I would never forget the sight of dozens of rainbow flags surrounding a horse painted a rainbow hue of colors with a unicorn’s horn placed on its head.
This was but only a small selection, however, of the total marchers; as the attendees would soon fill several whole blocks, drowning out any detractors within a veritable sea of rainbows. The floats, eccentric characters grabbed in gem-stone encrusted clothing, the youths draped in rainbow peace flags offering free hugs along with the drag queens, cross dressers, Butches and leather bound muscle head Bears, made this year’s events one of wonderful variety. Again though, this even does not surpass the moment in which I had waited for all day- the march.
An hour of mild exploring, in which I volunteered to help canvassing the state capital with a local equality group, and all the groups were finally organized and ready to march. Though slow to start eventually the line picked up steam and I marveled at the thousands of onlookers cheering the marchers on waving rainbow flags. Through my mind floated, “this is my day. The one day of the year in which I am not looked down on by society or cursed, the day in which I am cheered for who I am and the obstacles I overcome!” This was a moment in which I would never forget.
With over ten thousand marchers in attendance, several thousand more supports watching form the sidelines, and over 55 sponsoring organizations (including 25 religious groups) this year’s Pride was the largest in Maine’s history. With the big gay marriage vote in the fall and equality groups raising twice as much money as their bigoted opponents, this event was a well-used coordinated part of an vital campaign against the right-wing.
Political maneuverings, however, were still far in the future. And when you are attending a Pride event in the summer you can always expect a festival and this year was no different. For after the parade there was a large celebration in the local park where vendors sold the typical assortment of delectable fair foods. Swearing off such food, however, I was content to window shop the vendors while I enjoyed the aroma.
Being strong and only purchasing a necklace in the shape of a tooth from a local Native American booth I was happy to spend the remainder of the day walking around the festival and taking in all the sights and sounds. This included being introduced to a drag king, watching a strip show (though the exact title was a little more graceful), and walking around with a queer youth of color while we ogled hot guys. In short it was a day which would have been impossible during any other time.
Yet that old radical saying comes to mind at this part: be realistic, demand the impossible.
As with all oppressed peoples we Queers are not unaware of the oppressive intuitions which grip our existence so we understand that before liberation can be total we must fight for the same rights which our heterosexual couples possess. This means defying the heterosexist state and battling against overwhelming odds for a dream which is still far in the distance; never once giving up when the times grow tough and the chains heavy. We know this to be the only true course of action: everything else it just smoke.
So with a heart content and a soul filled with joy so ended my first experience at Pride. The music was loud; the people were flamboyant, though not in a stereotypical manner, and the atmosphere delightful (even with that one odd protestor waving a cryptic sign relating to morality). I returned home tired, exhausted and ready for some rest but more willing than ever to resume my peoples epic battle for freedom.