I was lucky enough to take in the Victoria Pride Parade today. It was the most colourful, vibrant, joyful celebration -- and I cried through the whole thing.
I teared up as soon as I found a place to sit; when I saw the crowd that had gathered. Tens of thousands of people out to celebrate love. All kinds of love.
The parade took a full hour to pass. So many people, laughing and dancing. Back and forth from people in the parade to people watching, there were constant shouts of, Happy Pride!
It was amazing to me. It’s been a few years since I took in a Pride parade and the scope of the event was almost overwhelming.
Overwhelming, largely, because of the juxtaposition between this day and my first Pride parade:
It is 1988. My stomach is a mass of tension as my partner and I grimly prepare to walk out the door of our safe little house and go stand on a downtown sidewalk, out in the open where everyone can see, and watch the Pride March. I don’t think I manage a full breath the whole way. We are both teachers and know that we can lose our jobs in a heartbeat. Finding a spot that seems less conspicuous, we watch as the “parade” marches past us. It takes less than ten minutes. Several participants walk with paper bags over their heads to protect their identities. I clap for the young men who have the courage to sing and dance and shout. To rage against the machine while the machine systematically chews through their community. More than 30 million people will die worldwide, but today it is still the “gay disease” no-one cares about. And AIDS is not their only worry. I hope they plan to travel in groups today following the parade, as “Faggot Hunting” often accompanies Pride events. My partner and I scurry home to our safe haven. I vow to march the following year. I will wear a paper bag if need be.
Today, through my tears, I see a woman walking with a hand-made sign that says, “Out since 1978.” I don’t know her, but I recognize her instantly. The strength in her gait, the steadiness that has kept her going through 50 years of living a life I know. Rejection, pain, fear, disappointment. Rinse and repeat.
I never thought I would live to see what I am witnessing now.
A school district float filled with happy kids of all ages rolls past and my throat aches with the sobs I’m saving for later.
Not a single heckler here. The tide has turned. The haters are vastly outnumbered at long last, and they are the ones cowering in their homes. The streets are for everyone today. The streets are for love today.
Image by Sara Rampazzo
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