Okay, so this is cheating a bit because these pics are from the 2011 Pride Parade, but it’s not every year that you get to be on an actual float. This year was not nearly as flashy for me. Sorry.
When I think about holidays that actually mean something to me as an American, that are actually important to celebrate, the Gay Pride celebration is on the top of my list, because even though I happen to be straight, this is a day when people stand up for who they are and declare to the world that they are ready and willing to fight for their civil liberties. What is more American than that?
Growing up, my favorite holidays were Halloween and Christmas, mostly because I got to dress up/sing carols and eat lots of sugar-coated food. Since moving to D.C., American holidays have gained so much more meaning. Watching the cyclists from Rolling Thunder gather outside the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Memorial Day and seeing the Fourth of July fireworks explode over the Washington Monument turns forgotten meaning into a gut-wrenching reality of sacrifice. It’s eye opening to understand how American soldiers are willing to lay down their lives for the idea of freedom. That’s why the timing of Pride between two of our most important holidays is so appropriate: the perfect trio of past struggle colliding with current struggle in celebration of what’s been accomplished and what lies ahead.
D.C. is one of only 8 places in the US that legally allows same-sex marriage. Unlike other cities, we are not hindered by the conservative thinking of remote rural towns, which allows us to pass laws that New Yorkers and Bostonians only dream of passing. We are an independent city. We do what we want.
If you believe CNN (never sure that’s a great idea) and Gallup, D.C. is the most liberal “state” in the union, and it shows. This past weekend for Pride, we shut down Pennsylvania Ave all along the National Mall to celebrate our same-sex-loving friends. Thousands of people gathered this year to celebrate, many of them local, but many shipping in from other states as well. It brings out all sorts of people from the leather-clad men in thongs to suburbans families with children, reinforcing the fact that “gay” is not a lifestyle choice.
In fact, I’ve noticed that as our culture gets more accepting and gays are becoming part of the normal mainstream, Pride has gotten tamer. This year there were a lot of church groups in the parade. Families aren’t afraid to come out with their kids. It feels like a festival and not the angry “fight for our rights” that it used to be. America still has a long way to go on this issue, but watching the changes in Washington has given me confidence that it’s moving the right way at a relatively good pace.
Memorial Day reminded me that I’m proud to be an American. Pride reminded me I’m proud to be a Washingtonian.