Monday, June 30, 2008


There are two basic types of pride: the pride of being a part of something much larger than one’s self, and the stuff that we are cautioned “goeth before a fall,”which is largely of our own making.

Yesterday, June 29, 2008, was a perfect example of the former. It was Gay Pride day in Chicago and many other cities across the nation. Attendance in Chicago was estimated at over 450,000, and it was not only promoted by all the local TV stations and other media, but most—including the major networks—had floats. Before leaving for the parade, I stood at my window and looked down at the Diversey el station half a block from my apartment, watching train after train disgorging platform-filling crowds of people, which then poured out onto the street and flowed eastward, like a river, toward the parade route.

Participation or at least representation in the parade has become all but mandatory for any elected official in the state (especially in election years). Great gleaming red-and-white trucks of the Chicago Fire Department, horns blaring, lights flashing, move down the street as part of the parade, and the Chicago Police Department sponsors a float with dozens of uniformed gay and lesbian police riding on it, led by a convertible carrying the Police Commissioner. This was the 39th Chicago Gay Pride parade and it, for the gay community, truly epitomizes the word “Pride.”

After hundreds of years of persecution and being told we were unworthy, unwelcome, and beneath contempt, we are entitled, I think, to a taking a little pride in how far we’ve come. When I left Chicago to move to L.A. in 1966, the first gay pride event was four years away. When I first lived here, I could have lost my job for being gay, or been evicted from my apartment with absolutely no recourse. Being gay was reason enough.. Our old slogan”“We’re Here, We’re Queer; Get Used to It” finally seems to be paying off. The world is getting used to us.

As I have said so often before, no one who is not a member of an historically persecuted minority can be expected to understand how much that means to us.

For me, the second form of pride…pride in one’s self…has not come without conflict. It is not by accident, I think, that Pride is considered one of the seven deadly sins. My pride forbids me to do many things that I really, really would love to do for fear of standing out from all those who do something well and naturally and appearing foolish. As a result, I stand out and appear foolish by not doing what others do. My pride will not allow me to dance for fear of making a fool of myself. And so I refuse any offer to do so and stand on the sidelines while everyone else is out there dancing. I’ve reported several times how my friends would tell me: “No one will notice you!” and I would reply: “I will notice me.”

My pride has, all my life, set up arbitrary rules and limitations which it demands I must follow. At the parade, I bought a rainbow flag and, while I would not allow myself to cheer and whistle (which I couldn’t have done anyway, since I lost the ability to whistle after my Mayo stay). However, in defiance, I did force myself to raise the flag over my head and wave it as my people marched by. That’s progress.

Maybe there is hope for me yet.

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