As many of you know the first permit issued for a pride Parade was obtained by Chris Sloan (aka Christi Layne) for the princely sum of $4.00. Chris has attended this Story Telling Group on several occasions and as I recall brought the original copy of the permit for those in attendance to see. It was issued for June 25th, 1976 taking the same route as it does today from Cheesman Park up Franklin Street to Colfax and then west down Colfax to Civic Center. No one apparently contested the permit despite the fact that ‘Cheesman’ was spelled wrong. It is not spelled C-h-e-s-s-e-m-a-n but rather C-h-e-e-s-m-a-n.
That was also the year I became a phone volunteer at the then Gay Community Center on Lafayette Street. We occupied one half of a brick duplex just a block away from where we sit today. It would be quite a few years into the future before Pridefest became an event sponsored by The Center. For the life of me I cannot remember if I participated in that first parade or not. I was in the medical biz already by that time and I may have had to work that day. Or perhaps if I am being brutally honest walking down a public street in broad daylight announcing to the world I was queer in 1976 lacked appeal. I was in many of the early parades and I could have actually been in that first parade but I do lack verifying documentation.
Since I seem to be approaching my 70th birthday at warp speed in was only appropriate that I marched this year with the SAGE contingent. Though few in number we were a spirited bunch that was well received by the crowds lining the parade route which included many thousands of seniors opting not to march but shout encouragement from the sidelines. Always appreciated.
I have run hot and cold over the past 42 years of the parade’s history as to its relevance or perhaps whether I should skip it all together as an act of protest. For example one bit of crazy political correctness from the early 1980’s was should we be parading or marching and should those choosing to wear high heels as part of their attire be allowed to ride rather than march. I am not making this up!
I have always come down on the side of marching rather than parading but have come around to the power of a parade even one sponsored by Coors. I do believe especially for folks of all ages who are just coming out that to see and maybe even actively participate is very empowering and validating of identity.
The inoculations of validated Queerdom by the thousands back into the world at large on the Monday morning following Pride has had, I do firmly believe, great change creating potential. The revolutionary ripples of individual LGBTQIA persons participating in an event with hundreds of thousands of participants certainly helped get us to where we are today. For this reason I support Pride festivities despite the fact of the often odious corporate sponsorships and the at times smothering take over of “rainbow capitalism”. That is a term I ran across on Facebook posted by someone associated with the Democratic Socialists of America. The entire phrase is “Queer liberation, not Rainbow Capitalism”. Though I do in large part agree with that battle cry I do too appreciate the potential power of the rainbow tutu to shake the status quo especially when worn with attitude in public.
So I hopefully expect to participate in Pride next year as part of my 70th year here on planet earth. I must though defer to the sad reality that I simply do not look good in a rainbow tutu or any tutu for that matter but it warms my heart seeing others twirl around in them especially in front of the Catholic Cathedral on Colfax.