Shannon had never been to a parade before. Ever. Of any kind. Whoa! My mom took us to parades all the time when I was a kid, probably at least 2 each year, so this lack of experience was pretty alien to me. I thought it was pretty neat, though, that he was heading off to this new cultural experience with me.
The weather was perfect; and we were on the right side of the street (in the shade). I remember past Parades when I roasted in the sun for hours.
We arrived only about half an hour before the start of the parade passed our spot (near Powell Street BART), and so didn't have to wait too long. It meant we couldn't see everything as well as the people who arrived at the crack of dawn, but it also meant we got to sleep considerably longer than those people who were right up in front. And we could see plenty well enough for me. I don't know if I would have wanted to be any more up-close-and-personal with the naked guys on bicycles, for example.
I saw more tutus and rainbow socks in any particular 10 minutes than perhaps in the entire rest of my lifetime (not including other Pride parades I've attended). I was wearing my own rainbow socks, but my jeans were long enough that no one but me would even know they were there. I was stealthily proud.
The two types of marchers who always move me the most are (1) people from churches (It really hurts me that lgbt people who want to worship are not welcome in many churches, or are made to feel terrible about themselves if they go, and so churches that extend a welcoming/accepting hand make me almost want to go to church, myself, just to express my admiration for their truly Christian attitude.) and (2) older people (usually women) carrying signs that say variations on "Proud of my gay kid," usually with a 20-something person marching with them.
Highlights for me:
- The Gay ROTC rifle folks, who performed synchronized maneuvers, including a very suggestive erection and stroking of their rifles. Very campy and absolutely hilarious.
- The Cheer San Francisco folks, who stopped right in front of us to perform energetically for a few minutes. They seemed so excited!
- Various people, at various points, who carried rainbow flags, weaving in and out among the marchers, and waved the flags in dramatic, graceful patterns.
- The gorgeously made-up drag queens, who were everywhere, because I think drag queens are brave. They obviously aren't trying to "pass," and so they are in-your-face nonconformists. I love it.
My overwhelming impression, though, was one of melded joy and admiration. I watched all these folks marching -- some dressed outrageously, some simply carrying signs, some with arms around their lovers, some dancing, all expressing themselves in their own ways -- and I saw how happy they were to have a chance once a year to get out into the world and really be themselves, really dress and act how they feel inside, and have the world -- which often treats them with disdain, disgust, or disinterest -- cheer and wave and admire them for it. How amazing is that? How amazing is it to bare your inner soul in front of thousands of people and have them tell you that you're wonderful? It was phenomenal just to be a part of that.
After we'd tired of the parade (about 90 minutes into it), when our feet/legs were starting to complain about just standing there, almost entirely still, for 2 hours straight, we headed off to find somewhere for lunch. The crowds hadn't bothered me at all while we were holding still and watching the parade, but once we started trying to walk down Market Street, holy moly! Soooo many people! It wasn't too bad until after lunch (Jack-in-the-Box, which was far enough from Market to not be crowded), when we decided to head toward Civic Center BART, in a hopes that trains that far back would be less crowded than if we got on at Powell. The sidewalk had been fenced extravagantly for some parade-related reason, all across one long block (or more), and so thousands of people were trying to travel through these very narrow walkways. I felt like a cow being herded down a chute, surrounded by a million other rushing bovines. Except that we were shuffling at a slow pace that reminded me more of "The Walking Dead."
FINALLY we got to Civic Center BART -- FINALLY!!! -- and the platform wasn't too insanely crowded, and the train came right away, and there were plenty of seats, and everything once we'd reached the train station was hunky-dory. It was only the approach that was painful.
So now we're home -- we've been home for a few hours -- and I'm wiped. It was wonderful, but tiring. I have no doubt I'll sleep well tonight, and with a lingering sense that the world is a happier, more supportive place than it might seem on other days.