I attended my first Pride parade and festival on June 25 in Cincinnati, as part of my company’s community outreach efforts, and it was awesome! Even cooler than attending was that because it was a company effort, we actually walked in the parade, displaying our t-shirts to hopefully encourage people to register as organ, eye, and tissue donors and give the gift of life.
Even with the caveat that I’m extremely uncomfortable in large crowds and especially when a thousand-some people are looking at me (and they’re not really looking at me, as I was an insignificant part of the parade), there are a few reasons I found it so awesome.
One of the most fundamental qualities of being a human being is to live your authentically true life without fear of reprisal or oppression. To be in a space where thousands of people were doing just that was galvanizing to my human spirit. Admittedly, as a white, heterosexual male, with all the due privileges conferred to me by such identifiers, I’m a bit envious of their ability to be so authentically, and carefreely, themselves! I’m such a socially anxious person, it’s difficult to relinquish the “mask” I wear at times to get through social moments.
And I know cynical people have wondered, why pride? Isn’t this just taking pride in immutable, unchosen characteristics? Isn’t this sort of identitarianism the problem with our current culture? I vehemently disagree. Precisely because the aforementioned cannot always legally and culturally live their authentically true lives without fear of reprisal or oppression, and certainly couldn’t historically, is reason to show pride in a space where they can do that with love and compassion all around them.
Importantly, too, when others are living an authentically true life, and showing that, it has the effect of inspiring others to do so as well. Along the parade route, I saw many teens who were just so damn amped up by the parade, the drag queens we were walking with (they were freaking superstars!), and the moment. Seeing all of that love and compassion and authenticity undoubtedly mattered for them. I genuinely had goosebumps at those moments when I sensed this connection being made.
Another reason the parade was awesome is that I love the allying. Along the parade route, there were individuals who seemed by designation of their t-shirts or signs — among my favorites were the “free dad/mom hugs!” and such — to be allies to the LGBTQ community, and it is important to have allies! Because again, allies tend to be the ones who traditionally, historically, and presently, have the institutional and systemic power in society. To have such people on your side, listening, engaging, and advocating for you matters. To be able to even be a small part of that with my company, and for our company to take that initiative as an ally, matters. I posted a photo of myself with my LOVE hat and t-shirt on social media the other day, and after someone asked me if I was coming out, asked me why I would post it, if I wasn’t? The simple answer, “To show support.” To show support matters, even on a small scale like that, and such reactions only solidify why.
My other reason for the parade being awesome is somewhat related to the first point: I love the array of human expression on display. We had plenty of time to people watch ahead of the actual parade, and I remarked to my colleague something along the lines of, “Imagine hating this.” I don’t understand how you could! It’s just so beautiful and lovely to see how diverse the continuum of human expression can be. I love it. It’s empowering in the sense of, humans are far more interesting than any traditional notions of being a human could ever hold within a box labeled “normal” or “morally right” or “godly” or “legally permissible.” It’s subversive in the best way. I’m not saying you have to love it, but to actively hate it is beyond my comprehension.
And I have to expand upon this, too, so as not to make it an aside: I loved the drag queens who marched with us! They brought the energy, and as I mentioned, were superstars. So many people along the route wanted pictures with them. Imagine being so afraid of drag queens. That’s a salient topic at the moment because of this conjured up fear by conservatives that drag queens will be teaching our children or around our children or something. But you know what? I saw many children along the parade route, some who took pictures with and/or engaged with the drag queens, and I think the children will be alright. Children seeing that sort of authenticity and love is never a bad thing.
If you ever get a chance, I highly recommend experiencing Pride in your own city. It will make you feel better about humans.
Here are more photos I took: