Cincinnati Pride 2007 – the parade goes by
Finally, a moment to reflect on this past weekend. This is going to be long (and terribly disorganized).
If you’d rather just see the photos, I didn’t take many – but there’s a small gallery here (with some choice shots for sure).
I like Pride. It’s one of the rare times when you can be in a public crowd that probably didn’t vote to take away anyone’s rights. You might think that sounds silly, but voting statistics suggest more than half of the people in my state think gay folk should not have the same rights afforded to others.
Back in 2004, Cincinnati Pride had a large call to action to repeal Article 12 (an amendment to a Cincinnati ordinance that allowed no protection for those discriminated against because of their sexual orientation). That year it was repealed (though the margin should have been much larger).
This year we’re out of the election cycle, so there wasn’t too much ballyhoo from candidates. And maybe it was because the weather was absolutely spectacular, but this Pride seemed free of those heavy weights. It was joyous and fun. Then again, I didn’t catch too much of the festivities as we worked it under the tent selling shirts.
And we saw a lot of smiles.
Folks would walk by and see the big type and break out in a grin. Then they’d get in closer and see some of the details of our work, strike up a conversation, maybe they’d buy something, maybe not. It was all good.
But this is not just about wearing your heart on your sleeve. It’s something bigger and I’m still trying to get my arms around it. Maybe I need to examine that heavy weight.
LAURENCE AND MOVEMENTS
When I first met a fine character by the name of Laurence H. Scott he was 68 years old and welcomed me into his Ann Arbor home for dinner. While his partner created a delicious meal, I toured the house and all the artifacts from their life together. They stood at the front of the lines through gay liberation in the late 60’s and into the next decades.
A button on the fridge lodged in my mind. I’ve mocked it up to the best of my memory over there to the right. It struck me for its simplicity and I perhaps wondered at the time, in my fledgling delicate nature – did I have the gumption to wear that on my lapel?
Laurence passed on in 2005 and man I wish I could have spent more time with him. I would have asked him if he ever felt like his work was done. I’d imagine he would have said no. He witnessed the backsliding—how acceptance for all stripes of orientation was whittled away.
Maybe it was AIDS that gave rise to the ignorance and hatred. Maybe it was the release of Viagra that empowered flaccid self-proclaimed heterosexual males with political clout some confidence to point fingers and shun.
I’m reaching, but the hate – it happened. It’s still happening.
So yeah. It was good to see some smiles this weekend.
THE LADY ON THE SCOOTER
While Wendy and I broke down the tent that evening, and I was coming back from a trip packing up our cars, she asked me if I saw the lady on the motorcycle who just rode through the park. I could see her bright orange shirt some 30 yards away. I waved my arms.
Her face brightened in that distance and she rode back to our spot. “I just wanted you to see how good my new shirt looks” and I asked to make a photo.
It was a perfect ending to the long day.
But the one of the most moving experiences wasn’t mine.
After it was all over, I sat at home with Dan and had a beer, recalling the good bits while muscles pleasantly ached. He asked me if I ever went into the confessional tent. No, I hadn’t, even though he prodded me to break away and go many times throughout the day.
Since I didn’t, he felt it was okay to share what went down.
It wasn’t a typical confessional booth, like I said it was a tent. He told me it was nice inside – gauzy draperies and a comfortable height. Candles lit. A woman sat opposite him and said (consider it with error as this is a game of telephone):
This is not a confessional for you, it is a confession for me.
I want to confess that, as a Christian, I know that you have been hurt by society and Christians in general, and I just want you to know that God loves you and I love you, and I’m sorry.
I just wanted to apologize for all of the wrongs that have been committed against you.
Dan, who grew up in a Catholic family, wiped away tears and asked why she was doing this.
I grew up in a conservative Baptist family that taught me certain people weren’t deserving of love.
It took a long time to realize that these people were wrong.
She’s been doing this for three Prides so far, and it’s a part of the process to heal some of the harm that’s been done.
Now I’m not one to pick apart anyone’s beliefs (unless it affects me). To hear this, even second hand, was moving.
A movement in the right direction.