June 9, 2014

Sunday Reflections, Now v. Then: 1) Gay Pride Parades

Yesterday brought more great weather, with the comfortable temperatures and low humidity we've enjoyed for several weeks. So far, we've been spared the extreme discomfort of typical summers in Washington. Our Founding Fathers made many remarkably good decisions. Building the nation's capital on a swamp wasn't one of them. 

I spent much of the day sitting around, as we old geezers do, thinking about today and yesterday. (You can guess which side typically wins.) One of those musings concerned gay pride -- then and now -- since the big pride parade occurred on Saturday.

Gay Pride Parade Today
Saturday's huge Gay Pride Day parade in Washington worked its way through DC's cultural centers (ergo gay centers). For the first time in any American city, a U.S. Military Color Guard unit led the way:

This military presence felt particularly ironic for me. About 65 years ago, I confided -- for the first time in my life -- that I was gay... to the U.S. Army's draft recruiter. It worked.

I was happy the color guard wasn't given the No. 1 spot in the parade. That went, as it does in virtually every gay pride parade anywhere, to Dykes on Bikes.

Dykes on Bikes!

This year's lead corporate sponsor was Marriott, which I've dubbed "The Hotel of Mormon."

I went to last year's parade, which was too long and boring. It seemed dominated by contingents from organizations and corporations with little connection to the GLBT community, aside from their desire to attract gay dollars.

Gay Pride Back in the Old Days 
Here's a shot from Gay Pride Day 1980 -- a time I remember well. Marion Barry -- smiling in the middle -- was one of the era's rare politicians who actively supported gay rights.

The city's Gay Pride Day began in 1975 as a small block party on S Street just off Connecticut Avenue -- adjacent to the gay/lesbian bookstore, Lambda Rising. It grew every year, and in 1980 moved to P Street, then the center of a growing gay community.

These are significant dates for me. Thanks to therapy in 1975, I realized that leading a life as a closeted married gay man would not have a happy ending for me, or for my family. I came out in 1977, and became actively involved in the gay community. I gave lots of time to the gay/lesbian Whitman-Walker health clinic. Six months after coming out, I got sober, and established many new friends in gay AA.

Years passed, and the parade grew and grew. Here's Deacon Maccubbin, Lambda Rising's founder, riding on his bookstore's float in the 2002 parade:

Reliving those old days in my mind, I searched my old pre-digital photo albums for some of my own gay pride parade photos. Before I knew it, three hours had passed. Those old pictures chronicled many parades and many protests. No question: Washington, DC was a fascinating  place in the '60s and '70s.

We marched for gay rights, civil rights, women's lib, and against the Vietnam War. Those times were so exciting. We were filled with hope for change, and damned if we didn't achieve a lot of it. I couldn't work up much steam (pun intended) for a global warming protest these days; there's little hope for change, considering the ever-growing gridlock in Congress.

I loved the gay pride parades in those early days. They were smaller, but more intense and defiant, with an "up yours" attitude and an in-your-face sexuality.

Since we started with a gays-and-the-military note, we'll end that way. Here's a shot -- from the '80s, I think -- I found in my album search. Suppose they're still together?

As this post's title suggests, Sunday brought another then v. now reflection, too. I'll share that one later this week.

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