Outlandish. Festive. Convivial. Celebratory. My first gay pride parade ever. My good friend (a gay guy) had invited me years before…this year I said yes. After a dinner of fine Mexican food downtown, we walked over to 4th and Colorado and staked our spot near the reviewing stand to watch the Austin gay pride parade last night.
And then there were the usual Saturday night Austin club hoppers…the 20-something women in 5-inch heels, short tight skirts, skin-tight tops, and tons of makeup. Their male dates in sloppy shorts, Birkenstocks, and shirts that hung over their beltless pants. And of course the rest of the hetero crowd that came down to check out the action, but wasn’t out to find “love” for the evening. A lot of these people stared blankly as they walked by, not comprehending what they were seeing.
The crowd roared when the parade wound its way through the streets of downtown to where we were standing and sitting. As for every gay pride parade (per my friends), it was kicked off by the “dykes on bikes.” What followed was a 1.5 hour procession of people from church groups, clubs, arts groups, bands, restaurants, bars, retail stores, and miscellaneous organizations. Some marched, some rode in cars or trucks, and some rode on cheesy (and definitely not Rose Parade material) floats.
Particularly impressive was the sight of Austin Chief of Police Art Acevedo marching with his gay police men and women and Austin Fire Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr, one of only 30 women fire chiefs in the nation, marching with her gay fire men and women.
The non-uniformed marchers were in various states of dress and undress…with men in speedos seductively dancing getting the most cat calls. Some people dressed in costumes…the most memorable being two women in wedding dresses who held hands and walked together to make a point about gay marriage. In the spirit of a mardi gras parade, marchers flung cheap yet colorful beads into the crowd as well as t-shirts and condoms.
It was a fun evening, but in the midst of the hilarity and raucousness, the seriousness of the occasion was not lost. Many of the marchers held signs that proclaimed messages of equality, which reminded us in a quiet way why we were all even attending a gay pride parade.
I feel proud to live in a town (Austin) that is accepting of the diversity of people who came out for the parade. I think I’ll go back next year. Gay or straight, it doesn’t get much better than that.
Note: All photos are from the Austin American-Statesman’s online website www.statesman.com.