Last Saturday I popped out of bed around 5:30 am. That is evidence of a miracle because I never pop out of bed at 5:30 am on a Saturday. As I was preparing my coffee, I said out loud, “I can’t WAIT to go to pride!”
Early on a friend asked, “Are you excited? Do you have high expectations for the day?” I said that yes I was excited, but I had no idea what to expect. Of course, there would be a large crowd of LGBT and affirming people. You know, and a parade and stuff, but I didn’t know what all that would look like or how I would react. Even so, it went well beyond anything I could imagine.
What Didn’t Happen
For so long, watching from afar, I had believed that “Gay Pride” was hedonism on display. The right-wing activists I used to work with and pay attention to (no longer the case) only posted incredibly racy and “licentious” photos of men dressed in almost nothing, leather gear, and Drag Queens prancing their way down the double yellow line in the middle of the streets. Pride parades were described as ungodly and a horrible influence on our communities and country. Back then, I knew they were exaggerating but expected that this description was probably accurate about a lot of what happens at these events.
Nope. Far from it.
I realize it is impossible for me to have seen all 50,000 people (estimated) at yesterday’s Orlando Pride, but I was ALL over the festival and the parade. I saw, maybe a dozen barely clothed muscle men, and they were not doing drugs and hanging from harnesses, they were very joyful, handing out water, and taking photos with all kinds of folks. In reality, the Drag Queens I did see were incredibly gracious and kind. Still a little prancy but if you looked that fierce, in those heels, you would prance too!
Honestly, I kinda’ wished for more barely clothed muscle men and Daniel Craig to parachute in and rescue me from a sneering mean Drag queens trying to forcibly redo my wig, but … you know… maybe next year.
What Did Happen
At the HRC booth, I said to the fun person signing up as a new member, “If you increase your membership donation by $5 I will give you a hug!” They said, “Well, I will increase it by $10 so I can get two hugs!” I said, “Deal!” And they got their two hugs with a bonus hug. I am sure that is not an HRC approved method of soliciting new members, but it happened.
In general, I talked to everyone about everything all day. I was in extrovert Utopia! In fact, I think I set a personal best for my HPH (Hug Per Hour) rate! I was hugging friends, strangers, strange friends, a statue of Mickey Mouse, people at booths, people in and along the parade, puppies (lots of dogs around)… more people.
In fact, I had so much fun and met so many friends and new friends, the first draft of this post was sailing effortlessly toward 3,000 words and honestly could go higher with all the quality conversation and topics encountered at the parade. That’s too long for a blog post so that I will create more blog posts for specific topics and scenes throughout this week.
The crowd was full of families, local businesses, people of all ages, groups of friends, entertainers, affirming church groups, and local leaders. They were yelling fun chants with the PHouse float (Parliament House) right in front of us. I was waving my HRC Marriage equality flag with about 50 other parade walkers. The sidewalks on both sides were full of people, and every one of them was cheering with great bit smiles. I looked up and waved at the people leaning over the condo balconies, and they were waving and cheering, too. My face was sore from the huge perma-grin that had developed and won’t go away.
But as I turned to look from the Balconies back down to the myriad of people on the parade route, the strangest feeling came over me. It was one of bliss but not a bright joy beams of light kind of bliss; it was a deep soul blessed contentment. I was in a crowd full of LGBT people, my community, and didn’t feel like a third wheel, or an interloper.
Right there, in the middle of the street in a Pride Parade, I was humbled and grateful. I will never forget the gentle comforting breeze, taking in that joyous smile-filled scene, and saying under my breath, “I’m finally, truly, home.”
Being free is good,
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