6.11.09 Editor’s Desk

By : Steve Blanchard
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SteveBlanchardHeadshotGBT Pride season is once again upon us and the June 27 St. Pete Pride celebration of LGBT history, equality and community is expected to bring even more people to the city than last year’s 75,000 estimated attendees. And somewhere among the throngs of dancing men, lesbian moms and rainbow flags, a wide-eyed person is experiencing the joy of Pride for the first time.

I went to my first Pride event in 2004, when I was 27. At the time, I didn’t understand the hype or the history surrounding the annual celebration, and I had never really had an opportunity to attend any Pride event before. Admittedly, my expectations weren’t high.

I pictured an outdoor meat market with men cruising for meaningless parking lot sex. I thought the true “gay agenda” would have an embarrassing light shone directly on it because that’s what I had been taught growing up in a conservative home.

Was I wrong! I attended the Second Annual St. Pete Pride after reading about it in Watermark and it was a day I’ll never forget.

My most outstanding recollection is how happy and friendly everyone was that day. I immediately felt a sense of community even before we got out of the car when a lesbian couple helped us find a safe parking spot.

We arrived just as the promenade was ending, and the street was jam-packed. I remember seeing the extremely long rainbow flag stretching down the middle of Central Avenue and thinking how cool it was.

I visited every booth possible and collected every free item I could get my gay hands on. By the end of the day I was sunburned, exhausted and buried in beer cozies, flyers, fans and beads. But as I left, I realized I was in a great mood and much more educated about the LGBT experience.
Before my first Pride, I had never heard of the Stonewall Riots. I didn’t know that Pride commemorated the weekend that LGBT people at a small gay bar in New York finally decided they were tired of harassment.

In four short decades, the battle that began the weekend of Judy Garland’s death has turned into a global crusade for equality. Imagine discussing same-sex marriage back in 1969 while the world was focused on man’s first moon landing! That was a time when the American Psychological Association still had homosexuality listed as a mental illness.

Since my first St. Pete Pride, I’ve become more involved in the community, landed my position here with Watermark and have come to know LGBT people from all walks of life. Many of those people are understandably frustrated with the seemingly slow progress we’ve made toward equality.

Late last month the California Supreme Court ruled that Proposition 8—the law banning same-sex marriage that was passed by voters last November—will stand. The decision did not come as a surprise, but it was disheartening nonetheless to know that despite granting marriage equality for nearly nine months, the state could change course and add a constitutional amendment banning the practice.

Now, more than 18,000 couples—including my partner and me—find themselves in an uncomfortable situation. We are celebrating our still-legal California marriages while sharing in the disappointment of our LGBT brothers and sisters who, as of now, cannot follow in our footsteps.

But 2009 continues to be a banner year for LGBT people and our allies. As of this issue, six states have legalized same-sex marriage and at least two more—New York and New Jersey—are poised to do the same by year’s end. We have a president in the White House who has officially acknowledged Pride month as a “time to turn the page on the bitterness and bigotry that fill so much of today’s LGBT rights debate.”

Pride is about possibilities and acceptance, and for those few who have never attended a Pride event before, it’s about finding a community.

 

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