I say this every year, and every year I mean it. But last Saturday’s Pride Parade really was one of Rochester’s best. There could have been more floats. And sure, there could have been a few more bare-chested male dancers. But what made this year’s parade so interesting was the huge number of straight families, friends, and allies who lined the street to watch and share in the fun.
There were dads lugging the outdoor folding chairs and coolers, mothers toting newborns, and grannies and grandpas waving their gay flags. A family with four kids camped next to me. Mom and some of the kids were sporting rainbow-colored wigs and socks, and having a great time.
The first gay parade I went to was in New York City during the late 1970’s, and it was huge. Thousands of marchers went on for blocks. But it was much more of a protest than a parade — a confrontation instead of a celebration. And looking back, it was missing a key ingredient: pride.
That’s not meant to disparage those early efforts; the country was indeed rife with discrimination and injustice toward the LGBT community, and there was plenty to be angry about. But Saturday’s parade in Rochester, a mid-size city with some Midwestern values, was proof that the world has changed a lot since the ‘70’s when the gay movement began.
Instead of heterosexual parents thinking they need to protect their children from the LGBT community, they’re teaching them about diversity. Instead of local businesses ignoring the LGBT community, they’re developing marketing campaigns to increase LGBT customers and to sell products and services. Instead of politicians reflexively condemning the community, more are marching in the parades and soliciting the LGBT community’s support.
City Council members Elaine Spaull and Matt Haag, and State Assembly member Harry Bronson were among the pols in this year’s Pride Parade.
Yes, discrimination still haunts the LGBT community. Our youth are often bullied, beaten, and traumatized. Trans people especially face housing, health care, and employment discrimination. And many states are still blocking marriage equality. But look how far we've come.
Maybe I’m seeing the world through rainbow-colored glasses, but at this rate, Pride celebrations could someday be more like St. Patrick’s Day when just about everyone is happy to be a little bit Irish. I’m looking forward to the day when everyone is just as happy to be a little bit gay.