Celebrating Diversity at a Gay Pride Parade

7 06 2009

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.

Attendees at Austin Gay Pride Parade June 6 09 - StatesmanThe crowd of several thousand grew as the 8:30 starting time approached. The streets blocked to traffic, this was people watching at its finest. Lean young men in black briefs wearing white feathery angel wings with a five foot span. Lots of tattoos. Women who looked more like men than some of the men did. Bleached blond…and even green… spiked hair.
Tranvestites…men dressed as women…with full makeup, hair, and dresses. Men with bare chests and tight leather pants. Androgynous women. Men holding hands with men. Women holding hands with women. Lots of dogs on leashes. Children. Rainbow flags and leis. A rowdy but controlled crowd of people of all ages, sizes, and looks.

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 Best Buy Austin Gay Pride Parade - Statesmancomprehending 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 moLove Peace Equality Sign at Gay Pride Parade - Statesmanst 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 Sign at Gay Pride Parade - Statesmanoccasion 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.

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That’s SO… Think B4 You Speak

31 05 2009
Source: GLSEN

Source: GLSEN

That’s so…CHEERLEADER! What if you said that when someone said something vacuous? How do you think that would make cheerleaders feel? Or what if you said “That’s so jock” if someone talks like they are dumb…like a football player who can complete a pass, but not a sentence?

Now imagine that you’re gay and people make the comment “That’s so gay!” as if to say that’s stupid or queer or effeminate or whatever. How do you think that makes you feel as a gay person? Do you ever stop to think about your language and how it affects others?

The Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) is running a campaign now called ThinkB4YouSpeak to make people aware of their use of homophobic language and to reduce bullying of gay people. The campaign to reduce bullying kicked off with the 4/17/09 Day of Silence, which I wrote about in a blog post entitled LGBT (Gay) in America, LGBT in Iraq.

This is from the GLSEN website and tells what the organization stands for:

GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. Established nationally in 1995, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. GLSEN seeks to develop school climates where difference is valued for the positive contribution it makes to creating a more vibrant and diverse community.

Dr. Jill Biden, a lifelong educator and wife of the vice president, will speak at the GLSEN Respect Awards, a gala in New York on 6/1/09.

Carl Walker-Hoover - Credit: www.towleroad.com

Carl Walker-Hoover - Credit: http://www.towleroad.com

Perhaps you think that every kid gets teased in school so what’s the big deal, right? Think again. Children are committing suicide after being bullied and called gay repeatedly. An example is Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, an 11-year-old Massachusetts sixth grader who hanged himself after yet another day of school bullies calling him gay, making fun of the way he dressed, and threatening him. His mother had called the school repeatedly before this happened. Now she lives with the devastating and senseless loss of her son.

What can you do? Stand up and call people on it when they use language that belittles, diminishes, or bullies gay people. Notify the school if your child is being bullied and make sure that steps are being taken for it to stop. If your child is a bully, educate them on the possibly devastating effects of their actions and let them know that there will be zero tolerance for that kind of language. Educate yourself by reading the materials on the GLSEN website.

Here’s a video from the ThinkB4YouSpeak campaign that makes the point of how ridiculous and hurtful it is to call something gay and what you can do about it.