By Buddy Early, April 2020 Issue.
This column ought to come with a warning: you may interpret this as one
of those “things used to be better back in the day” meditations.
That’s certainly not the intent. But when
you become a person of a certain age your proclivity toward nostalgia
grows strong. This time of year, I always think of past Phoenix Pride festivals
and how much fun I had. I did it all: marched in the parade and/or rode on a
float — sometimes in the same parade with two different groups; I staffed
booths; I handed out Echo Readers Choice awards from the mainstage; I
worked at a beverage stand raising money for one group or another; and I
partied pretty hard.
Nowadays if I find myself anywhere in the
vicinity of the festival, I remember to make a quick U-turn because, ugh,
Truth is, I don’t think Pride is any
better or worse than the two decades I attended. It’s just … different. If you
were to ask 100 people, you’d get positive and negative responses about Phoenix
Pride. Back in the day, now, and in the future. I firmly believe that on the date of the
second annual Phoenix Pride, there were folks complaining that it’s not the way
it used to be. It’s in people’s nature to complain, I suppose.
I’ve seen and even participated in all
these debates about Pride:
· It should be free.
· It should be in February.
· It should be in November.
· It should feature more local talent.
· It should feature more big names.
· It should be family-friendly.
· It should be a celebration of sexuality.
· The parade should be on Saturday.
· The parade should be on Sunday.
· Beyoncé should be the headliner.
Some things definitely were better back in
the day. These things include the way we taught math, the way we didn’t wear
pajamas on airplanes, and the way the original Invasion of the Body
Snatchers was superior to any that followed.
But the number of things that are way
better today are exponentially greater. These things include 14 flavors of
Cheerios, the College Football Playoff, and the most recent A Star Is Born.
I’d argue the Phoenix Pride Festival falls
somewhere in between. The volunteers have worked tirelessly over the years to
improve every aspect of the event, making it inclusive, accessible, and
relevant to as many people as possible. Changes in venue, time of year,
strategic philosophy, and technology have all been important to improving the
In fact, when I say the Festival falls
somewhere between better and worse, I’m really just talking about how it’s not
the same for me. That’s not the fault of Phoenix Pride.
When I first attended Pride in the
mid-1990s, it was still an act of courage. Showing up at Pride, for a lot of
us, was essentially “coming out.” Today’s Pride is so mainstream that a person
is not even assumed to be gay just because they are there. In the 90s our
community was still on the margins of society, had experienced very few
victories in the social/political arenas, and was slow and calculated when
addressing inequality. (“Now is not the time to push a bill for marriage
equality” was common back then.) Today’s Pride celebrates many victories and
demands equality across the board.
I won’t even attempt to say what Pride
festivals were like in the 1970s and 1980s, other than to state that being a
participant could cost you your job, your friends and family, your freedom, and
I’ll probably never enjoy Pride the way I
used to. And that’s ok. Sometimes memories are all we’re meant to have.
However, my hope for everyone else presently in their Pride glory days is that
you find something worth celebrating. Please don’t waste your time complaining
that your favorite artist isn’t performing, or that there are long lines at the
beer truck, or that a lesbian is wearing pasties. Make memories. Please.
And do another thing (to humor me). Thank a Pride volunteer or board member while you’re there. Theirs is a thankless job, so even the slightest acknowledgment will brighten their weekend.