Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The First Time

LGBT Pride parades and festivals are a part of an American ritual.

In four days San Diego begins its version of what is now a nationally recognized tradition: LGBT Pride Weekend. While many communities have days that are cause for public celebrations, visible actions and collective remembering -- Martin Luther King Day, Cesar Chavez Day, St. Patrick's Day -- this one's ours. And it is widely recognized as one that is the most fun for the most people.

Days that include proclamations, festivals, parades, parties, picnics and political actions are an American tradition. It's the way Americans call out to each other and to their neighbors, friends, families and larger city surround: "We're here. We are a unique and valuable part of the nation's fabric. We are your neighbors, your doctors, your businessmen and women, your volunteers, members of your congregations, your contractors, your armed services, your educators, your police, your nurses, your politicians, your sons and daughters and grandchildren."

On such days of celebration and remembering, we celebrate together how far a community has come and how much they have contributed, we remember all those who have fought the good fight and have inspired us to do more, and we are outraged together at how far we still have to go to achieve full equality and justice.

Across the last decade there has been much discussion of the continued relevance and meaning of Pride celebrations. My intent is not to rehash all that here. Instead, it's to say that most of that discussion is really about "how" to celebrate and protest, not whether we should. It's also about who "needs" to celebrate.

We are one of the most diverse communities in the nation. We are business owners and working-class folks. We are brown, black, red, white and a mixture of all. We are seniors, middle-aged, young adults, high-schoolers, parents, grandparents and babies. We are democrats, republicans and decline-to-states. We are progressive, centrist and conservative. We are men, women, transgender and those who refuse binary gender labels. We are gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, and have lots of heterosexual friends and family members. We are leather-men and women, bears, drag queens, businessmen and more vanilla-types.

That's a whole lot of awesome and incredible diversity, and it makes for a zillion different ways to celebrate Pride.

Not all of us enjoy parades. Not all of us love politics and actions. Some of us aren't fond of any kind of sexy public displays or loud music. Some of us don't care for huge parties. Others of us love the chance to celebrate a sex-positive and embracing message, love the celebration of the amazing electoral power we have come to possess in some places. Others love private pool parties with friends, neighbors and family. Some people own a thousand rainbow flags. Others have just one they courageously put out twice a year (Pride and Harvey Milk Day) in their more conservative suburban neighborhoods.

And some of us love all of it, love the view and vision of all those different kinds of people marching together, or watching together as a crowd of 200,000.

And somewhere in that crowd are way more than a handful of folks, often on the edges, who have never before seen the pride, the power and the joyful celebration and affirmation of LGBT persons. Too often those of us privileged to have seen it a thousand times, privileged to be connected to community, fail to see or remember the quiet tears of the closeted or fearful seniors and youth, and the joyful wonder of feeling the love and hope for the first time.

So however you like to celebrate, to remember, to protest or to live, join us Pride weekend in your own way, with your own style and tradition…and feel the love and the celebration of all of who we are.

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