This weekend was Twin Cities Pride – our annual LGBTQA celebration – and there was a big gay party going on in Minneapolis! There were bar nights, a run, an art show, a boat cruise, concerts and more, but my favorite events were “Pride in the Park” and the Pride Parade.
On Friday night, vendors, artists and LGBTQA groups of all stripes descended upon Loring Park to set up their booths. Over the course of the weekend they would peddle wares, entertain, and spread information. I walked through on Saturday morning, picked up literature and stopped by booths to say hi to friends at Minnesota Atheists, Outfront, ROR Taxes and others, signed some petitions, and watched a few performances on different stages. I bought two theater-type papier-mâché masks from an artist, ate some tacos from one of the food trucks, and went on my annual Pride in the Park condom hunt – collecting condoms and safer-sex kits from the various groups handing them out. This year wasn’t as fruitful as some – only eight condoms and two dental dams. Ah well. Sometimes the catch is slow.
On Sunday morning over 130 groups marched down 12 blocks of Hennepin Avenue in the Ashley Rukes GLBT Pride Parade. The atmosphere was extra-charged with excitement this year, what with Minnesota legalizing gay marriage last month (it goes into effect August 1st!) and the overturning of DOMA. Many of the parade floats were wedding-themed and almost every group had signs and banners celebrating the recent victories.
Pride celebrations have been going on in Minneapolis since 1972, and the events are held in June to honor the Stonewall Riots, which took place on June 28th, 1969. Recent estimates of yearly attendance have been around 400,000 people, which means that little ol’ fly-over country Minnesota hosts one of the larger pride festivals in the United States.
Pride weekend means a lot to me; it’s a celebration of people being themselves, a celebration of recognizing and accepting our diversity. Even today – even in a year when our state and the federal governments have finally, grudingly said “Okay, we guess you lot should be treated as equals” - that kind of bravery is breathtaking. It takes a special kind of courage to find out and admit to ourselves who we are, who we love, where we feel comfortable, and what turns our crank. To get to that point of self-discovery, and then to share that with the world – wow. That makes me all feelsome.
There are a lot of people who aren’t free to celebrate publicly. Not everyone can openly take part in Pride weekend; the reasons for participating or sitting out of the public Pride events are vastly different. Our society still has prejudices against gay men and lesbian women, and against same-sex relationships and families. We are still pathetically lacking when it comes to accepting and respecting bisexual and trans* people, those who participate in one or more of the many flavors of non-monogamous relationships, and unconventional sexualities and fetishes. There are still judgments passed and real-world consequences for being different: Arrest, loss of jobs or opportunities to advance in a career, loss of family, loss of children, loss of friends, shaming, outing, embarrassment, exclusion, harassment, violence – these are still concerns for some people who dare to speak up and say “I’m different.”
My hat is off to everyone who came downtown to celebrate pride, as well as to those who joined in spirit (aside from those not able to take the risk of being outed, not everyone handles screaming, bustling crowds well!).
Happy Pride to all.
Bartenders at Insert Coins in downtown Minneapolis show off their Pride special – rainbow shots (As an aside – blech! So. Much. SUGAR!!!)
Arriving early to the park on Saturday meant that I had first dibs at the coffee tent in the Outfront Minnesota booth.
Me with a “queen-sized” rainbow slushie. Behind me is a very nice gentleman from the gay naturist group, Naked Minnesota. In their “party naked” barrels, they’re some of the most photographed people in the park!
After the parade was over we started our trek back from Loring Park to the beginning of the parade route where we had dropped the bike. The street was littered with garbage and discarded decorations, but the clean-up effort was amazing. As we walked east we ran into a small army of city employees picking up recycling and leaf-blowing the garbage from the sidewalks into the street. Next two huge trucks first swept the streets and then washed them. After they were done you couldn’t tell that there had been a parade!