In The Parade - The Power of a Parade
Being in a parade has always meant something special to me, as you can tell by the name of this column. Being in a parade also offers some rather funny insights as to what the parade is all about.
The small town where I grew up hosted the county fair, which meant we also had the county Labor Day Weekend Parade. C-list actors would show up to be grand marshal. We had a few floats, a marching band or two, midgets in golf carts, the reigning king and queen of Future Farmers of America, and of course the ubiquitous street sweepers. I always thought the street sweepers were hugely entertaining, because their job said something about what is left in the wake of such an event (horse poo and beer cans).
Back in the day, Gay Pride events in every city of any substantial size included a Pride Parade. It’s not really a novel idea. A parade shows the whole town that we are here and we are queer. It also reinforces to the community that we are your neighbors, your sons, your uncles, your daughters, your aunts, your mothers and your fathers.
Kansas City used to have Gay Pride parades. Many people have missed walking the route amid the shouts of support and the jeers from detractors. After all, a parade is a parade is a parade, and this year, we are having one! The Show Me Pride Parade is at 11 a.m. June 6. Be loud, be proud, be present and be colorful!
Many people wanted Kansas City to once again have a Gay Pride Parade. Not just to “have” one but to have a memorable one that includes the grand marshal. Will we have 1,000 people watching? As a community, what would it take to have 2,500 people along the parade route? Or 5,000 people following the parade?
In my mind I not only see the crowd, I see the crowd following along the parade route with banners, signs, and bull horns. In my mind, I see the crowd following the parade entrants to the site where the mayor welcomes us and where the congressional representative meets us, and, yes, where even a senator or two joins us in our celebration of freedom and the rights guaranteed to us by the Constitution. Voila. Now all you have to do is be there to make this happen.
We live in a country where all it takes is a permit to have a parade. In Lithuania, after a ruling by the country’s top appeals court, the city of Vilnius finally relented and allowed its first-ever Pride Parade, called “Baltic Pride 2010.” Nearly 400 people marched May 8 to support gay men and lesbians, and more than twice that many protested. Police officials said 19 people were detained for inciting violence, including two members of the Lithuanian Parliament.
The high court’s decision said that the parade, as a form of assembly and free speech, was protected by the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and that the government is obligated to defend such rights. And I say that this is as it should be.
For many years I made a point of visiting other cities in the United States for their Gay Pride celebrations. One of the most memorable was Chicago. The parade route up Halsted Street and down Broadway was spectacular. Not only were Chicago bars well-represented, but so were social groups, including PFLAG, Gay Rodeo, Biker Daddies, Leather Mamas, midgets dressed in drag, men in pink and women in yellow, and my forever-favorite, Tarzan.
I would probably have to be hypnotized to remember Tarzan’s real name, what float he was on or even why he was on a float (besides the obvious reason -- he looked like Tarzan and wore a breechcloth). When the parade was over and I had made my 30th trip back and forth between the two streets, I found myself in a bathroom with Tarzan and some straight female who could not hold her liquor (Tarzan, if you are reading this, email me!).
But there’s something about a parade, Chicago-sized or not, isn’t there? Let’s make the most of this one!