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My First Pride Parade

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October 3, 2014

About two weeks ago I attended my first Pride festival in my state’s capital of Austin, Texas. Even though National LGBT Pride Month was declared every June to honor the 1969 Stonewall Riots, Austin likes to be weird and have their celebration in September.

I’ve been out for a number of years so it was a surprise to may of my friends that this was the first Pride celebration I’d ever been to. It didn’t feel odd to me however because I’ve never been so vocal about my sexuality to where I felt pride was necessary. I know that sentence may come off as strange because Pride is all about celebrating diversity and acceptance and togetherness but for a long time the thought of publicly waving a rainbow flag around thousands of people made me uncomfortable.

But not for the reasons you might think. I am not ashamed of my sexuality. I don’t try to hide it, even though there was a point in my life where I did. Now, saying I’m queer comes almost as easily as saying my favorite color’s pink, or that I love macaroni and cheese. I say almost because I do have to put into consideration whether revealing my sexuality could put me in danger or not. It’s a sad reality, but a large amount of intolerance still exists in our world and we need to be aware of it.

Even though I’m completely comfortable revealing my sexuality, for the most part, it’s never been the primary descriptor I use to self identify. When I think of ways to describe myself I think of me being a woman first and foremost. Following that I identify as mixed race (Hispanic and White) and then I identify as queer. Of course that ordering can change depending on what environment I’m in but more often than not I identify a lot of other ways before I see myself as queer.

That in and of itself is the main reason I never felt such an urge to attend a Pride parade until now.  When I first entered college two years ago, and the opportunity to attend Pride first presented itself to me, I realized it felt like something I had to do in order to show solidarity and proclaim myself as part of the community, but it wasn’t necessarily something I wanted to do.

I’m naturally a kind of shy person and my sexuality is something very personal to me. Which seems odd to write now that I’m coming out on the Internet but nevertheless, it’s not something that I tell people every time I get the chance. It’s something that you’ll learn about me the deeper and longer you get to know me as a person. For that reason I felt that Pride never really fit with my personality.

This fall my mindset changed after seeing my college town of San Marcos have their first Pride celebration and I realized how important it can be to people especially in more conservative towns. Pride is a physical representation to people who are struggling that there are like-minded people all around them.

So after being enlightened by my small town’s first Pride I decided to check out Austin’s with a group of friends. Austin has an entire week dedicated to Pride that culminates in a nighttime parade downtown. My friends and I attended the parade and I left with a lot of mixed feelings. On the one hand I really enjoyed the sense of community I felt, it was obvious that I was in an environment where I was accepted and loved. It was amazing to see all kinds of people of different genders, races, and ages showing their support.

But on the other hand there were aspects of the parade that felt very commercialized. At one point in the parade they had a long line of Apple employees parade down the street, and when I say long I mean long, the group must’ve taken a good five minutes to get through. More and more companies have come out with their support for the LBGT community, which is fantastic, but it’s when those companies spill into a space that I feel should shouldn’t be for advertising but should be about community that I start to feel a bit uneasy. Towards the end of the parade there was also a very large religious component. It felt like church after church was parading down the street and handing me flyers. Once again, I completely recognize the importance of having churches be represented at Pride to try and bridge the gap between the LBGTQ community and religious discrimination but at times I felt like I was being recruited, and as non-religious person that made me a bit uncomfortable.

Overall, I’m glad I attended the Pride events I did this year, especially because visibility is such an important aspect of the community. I don’t agree with everything that took place at Pride though and I hope that in the future they can  move away from cooperate sponsorship and have more of the focus be on history and the people who fought for our freedom to celebrate today.

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