Protest and Celebration: Atlanta Pride Parade 2015

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It’s that time of year again…  October. Nope, I’m not talking about pumpkins. I’m not talking about farms or scarecrows or black cats. I’m talking about PRIDE!

(For those who may not know:  the Pride Parade is an event that celebrates LGBTQ+ culture in all its forms. I blogged about it last year if you want to check that out).

It’s kind of like a moving festival, a party that walks around a few blocks of the city, in all its rainbow glory…

But it’s also a protest.

I made a point of highlighting that in last year’s post. Pride may resemble a festival on nearly every front, but there’s more than that under the surface.

There are so many people who do not have the freedom to say “this is who I am, deal with it.” For every happy, out-of-the-closet, comfortable-with-who-they-are person I saw yesterday? There’s someone else, living two lives: one on the inside, and one on the outside. And as much as Pride is a celebration of the former, it’s also a show of solidarity for the latter, a kind of proof that it can be better. And above all, it’s a way of showing that it should be better, that no one should have to live in fear.

People like to make a distinction between “gay rights” and HUMAN rights. But can we all agree that such a distinction is utterly, and useless, because those two categories are one and the same?

There were some definite similarities between Pride this year and last year.

As always, the people at the parade are incredibly friendly, and colorful, and bright. No one shows up to Pride unless they’re comfortable with being who they are, or at least comfortable believing what they believe. There’s a reason the event is called pride. I, personally, am proud to be an ally. I have friends who are proud to carry a rainbow flag. I marched with the Jewish group again this year, and I am proud to be in that community as well, a community that supports PEOPLE. Because, really, we’re all people.

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Last year, I noted that the LGBTQ+ community in Atlanta is much larger and much more diverse than I had thought.  This year, I was expecting much of what I saw: hundreds of people. Flooding the streets and the lawns and the sidewalks. Bright colors.  From all different backgrounds. And every one of them, screaming at the top of their lungs, “HAPPY PRIDE.”

As we walked, I got to watch one of my good friends figure out  what I realized last year. No matter who you are or what you are, there is someone who loves you and someone who will accept you.

I marched with a group of Jewish teens last year, and I marched with a group of Jewish teens this year. But last year, I was the wide-eyed newbie, who had only ever seen the parade from the sidelines. This year, I got to watch as my friends took in the scenery when we walked by.  I got to watch as they realized just how BIG and accepting the community in Atlanta really is.

I know that I tend to think of my city as much smaller than it is. But it’s actually enormous. And the number of people who showed up to march yesterday are only a small percentage of the people they/we represent.

The difference between this year and last year is also decidedly present in the protest itself. Last year, we were marching for the purpose of changing legislation, for shifting societal ideals, for making the world a better, more equal place. This year, all of that was still true. BUT IT WAS A CELEBRATION, because of the Supreme Court’s decision regarding gay marriage this summer.

We’re still fighting, and it’s a long and arduous struggle, no doubt about it. But we’re making progress, which is something that is really important to remember.

I talked about the Pansy Patrol last year. We were protesting, yes. But other people showed up to protest our protest, saying that the community we represent is somehow fundamentally wrong. They were carrying signs, on long poles. Within seconds of their showing up, the Pansy Patrol came to the rescue, holding signs with giant flowers on the ends of them, strategically placing them to block the nasty signs. But this year, the Pansy Patrol was about half the size it was last time. The reasoning? The number of people they were blocking was about half the size as well. One more small triumph.

Another difference, on a more localized scale: I, personally, was much more comfortable reaching out and talking to new people. Not just exchanging perfunctory “hellos,” but actually listening to what they had to say. NOTE: there are some unbelievable stories out there, and they all deserve to be heard. Snapchat-4850517411537377966

Fun fact: two people can always find a commonality if they talk to each other long enough.

In most cases yesterday, we were playing “Jewish Geography”, and finding common acquaintances. But in some cases, it was a lot simpler than that. I had a quote written on my arm, from a series of books by Jacqueline Carey. “Love as thou wilt.” In the books, this pretty much means: “Love whoever the heck you want. If it’s love, and you’re happy, then the rest of us don’t give a flying flip.”

I wasn’t expecting anyone to actually get that reference. But what do I know?

At least four people stopped me and said something about the words. Something like “OH MY GOSH I LOVE THAT SERIES,” or “you have good taste in books.”

That’s the thing about Pride: I wasn’t just a walker or a gawker. No one is. I was a participant. This is the point I am trying to hammer home: it’s a community, one in which it doesn’t matter who or what you are, because you’re a person, you’re strong, and you matter—and at Pride, people get that, from Republican politicians to Rabbis, to the Pansy Patrol.

I’m a straight, cisgender, female. I’m an ally. I love this community, and I am so far beyond proud to see my city embrace it.