Gay Pride Month Sashays Through Town and Serves Up Lesson in History
A previous Gay Pride in Houston parade
Photo by Francisco Montes
Why do we have gay pride parades? Because we can, darling! The Houston Gay Pride Parade is sashaying through downtown Houston, and it’s bringing all its rainbow-flavored fun with it.
The annual event is nothing short of show-stopping. In total, the day’s festivities include a pride festival, a parade and an after party. Starting with the festival, expect an exciting group of vendors almost as diverse as the people in attendance.
Crowds can visit an LGBT History exhibit, a family fun zone, the Health and Wellness Pavilion, and other free services like HIV testing. There will be multiple entertainment stages, along with performances from the Pride Superstar contestants. RuPaul’s Drag Race's season 7 finalist Pearl will also be on hand to serve face, beauty and high-fashion drama.
Then, there’s the parade itself. It attracts more than 700,000 attendees, making it the second-largest parade in Houston as well as a pretty wild spectacle for onlookers. Drag queens, muscle men on floats and everything in between can be found in this year’s parade.
But that’s not all, folks. Leave it to the gays to make this an all-night celebration, and to do it in the lap of luxury. The after party will continue at South Beach The Nightclub, with free shuttle buses before and after the parade running between Montrose and downtown.
What's a good party without a hat?
Photo by Francisco Montes
Born from the struggle for equality, the Pride Parade remains relevant.
While Houston is no stranger to having a pride parade, the need for one is still as important today as it has ever been. It’s a celebration of where we started and how far we’ve come.
“Amidst the change, it’s easy to forget why we still hold the Houston LGBT Pride Celebration. Pride events continue to offer a safe place to come together and be ourselves - a privilege that is still not available in some families, communities, and countries where LGBT people continue to live in fear,” said Pride Houston Inc. CEO Frankie Quijano in his Pride Week Guide letter.
The acts of the Stonewall Riots of 1969 were the first major signs that the rights of GLBT people were not going to be ignored. The police in New York City were brutalizing members of the community, and once pushed too far, the community fought back – an act we’ve been doing the same pretty much ever since.
Gays were marginalized by the American Psychiatric Association until 1974. To help protect society from what was considered a threat, groups created and showed films about a sickness of the mind. Namely, homosexuality was the concern. The films gave all the background music of a Donna Reed show wrapped up with the messaging of stereotyped confusion, somehow in an attempt to make this advertisement seem normal.
The GLBT community was also deeply affected by the AIDS crisis, yet even then-President Reagan didn’t take time to recognize the epidemic – an act that still leaves people in shock. It's estimated that more than 34 million lives have been lost so far to people infected with AIDS, and a large number of them are from the GLBT community. While we now recognize that AIDS affects everyone regardless of sexuality, it was at one time referenced to as the "gay cancer," a stinging reminder of how stigmatized our community once was.
The community was terrorized by a slew of public attacks, which led to legislation named in honor of our fallen brethren. The Matthew Shepard Act – which created landmark rulings about hate crimes - still remains one of the largest, most important pieces of legislation to date regarding sexually or gender motivated assaults in America. Judy Shepard, Matthew’s mom and the spearhead behind a lot of this legislation, is truly a saint among us.
We’ve also, as a group, have had the pleasure of experiencing the Westboro Baptist
Cult Church (WBC), who in return enjoy the joy of being labeled by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group. Armed with their “God Hates Fags” picket signs, they cause nothing but controversy. They’ve shown a pair of brass knockers larger than Dolly Parton’s breasts by having the audacity to protest soldier funerals and pop diva concerts in a demonstration of belief that all evil is due to the queer lifestyle.
The joke is on them though – one fiercely brave soul purchased the house directly across the street from the WBC’s home base in Kansas (ironically also the same home state as Dorothy) and painted it the colors of the rainbow. It has come to be known as The Equality House, and it serves the community with anti-bullying campaigns along with a message of self-acceptance and pride.
To that individual who served the WBC their own lunch, we say, rainbow onward and keep fighting the good fight! That’s a testament of how love overcomes hate.
On a side note, might we suggest The Equality House organizers to get a Rainbow Bright impersonator to ride in a pair of roller skates around the block while waving a gay pride flag and loudly singing Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors” every so often…just to remind the WBC of their ignorance?
Waving the rainbow flag with pride
Photo by Francisco Montes
Moving on to even larger issues, it’s illegal to be gay in several other countries. We still have the “kill the gays” pastor Kevin Swanson, who is busy at work shouting his hatred to the world instead of showing Christ-like love. We have countries that stone people to death simply for loving another person who happens to be of their own gender. And it’s happening every single day.
Lest we forget, homophobia is not a unique occurrence reserved for other countries. It happens here in Houston, too.
We’ve attended too many funerals for teenagers who have committed suicide because of bullying centered on their sexuality. We’ve seen too many people fall into the sexual trade simply because they are transgender and that is the only place they can find work.
We’ve even seen our own rights be stripped from us when the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance was passed and then disallowed. And what was the main reason for that? Fear over a man entering a woman’s bathroom to take sexual advantage of young girls – something that has never happened.
Yet, fear and hate – something that has always been an oppressive factor used against GLBT folk – reared its ugly head and showed us that even today – in 2016 – society is still clinging to outdated views and beliefs.
The moral right’s ability to disavow the rest of us is nothing short of amazing. But then again, that’s just the world GLBT people live in. We’re used to being looked at as “less than” or somehow unequal.
Last week’s assault in an Orlando night club – a targeted attack on the GLBT community – brought us to a fever point. It made us realize that we can do better, and we will do better. We simply must, as a society, do better than this. To allow a gunman to carry out the country’s largest mass shooting, and to know he specifically looked to kill gays, is unacceptable.
As a nation, we grieve. Likewise, as a nation, we shall overcome. Much like the words of a civil rights anthem tell us, “We shall overcome…We’ll walk hand in hand…We shall live in peace.” Who better than the fabulous, lion-haired Diana Ross circa 1996 to remind us of that message? Yes, Ms. Ross, deep in my heart, I too believe that one day we will all be free.
Peace and positivity are things we all can use these days. And the opportunity to come together and celebrate our individual traits is why the Pride Parade is so important.
Regardless of all the injustice, GLBT folks have been at the forefront of the battlegrounds, and we’ve been relentless in our desire for equality. Just like a drag queen’s fake nails, we have pressed on. Despite all the nastiness we’ve faced throughout the decades, as a community, we have banded together, shown solidarity and kept moving forward with a smile on our face and love in our hearts.
We’ve grouped together to get rid of that old “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” rule for military members. Tony Wilkerson, retired army colonel and Houstonian, chimes in on this subject regarding the challenges GLBT service members have faced.
“All I can say is ‘progress.’ There’s nothing like trying to be two different people. When your friends know who you are but your job doesn’t, how are you supposed to be a complete person?” said Wilkerson. “In light of things that have happened lately, it allows us to show that we are one…we are united. We can stand tall and be free.”
He adds, “You just need to be yourself.” That’s good advice, if you ask us. The military, by the way, eradicated “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” before the country eliminated discrimination about gay marriage. That signaled a shift in perception that would soon become national policy.
Speaking of gay marriage, while a Kentucky county clerk by the name of Kim Davis was busy showing by example why people should use a VO5 hot oil treatment, she simultaneously was systematically denying a group of people free rights. Gays, however, have been busy not giving a damn about her limited opinion and instead living their lives to the fullest. We’ve been brazen enough to fight for the legal ability to get married – a struggle we finally overcame in 2015 with the Obergefell v. Hodges ruling, much to Ms. Davis’s denim-on-denim chagrin.
The irony is that Davis’s aesthetics could have benefited from the wise guidance of a gay best friend, but no one wanted to tackle that role. Even the gays have standards — and they don't include listening to Davis's foul-mouthed stupidity.
On the positive side, we’ve seen a group named Out At The Rodeo recently come together to celebrate GLBT Texans who enjoy a good time at one of Houston’s largest draws. We’ve seen Discovery Green embrace us with open arms at Rainbow On The Green. Organizations like Theatre Under The Stars and the Houston Opera have designed affinity groups for GLBT members to gather together and enjoy the artistic offerings of our community. Pride Idol has become a huge sensation attracting hundreds upon hundreds of followers each night to watch people compete in an American Idol-style competition. We’ve even had an openly lesbian mayor serve as the Head Bitch In Charge of our city. Imagine that — an openly gay mayor of one of the largest cities.
Photo by Francisco Montes
We've witnessed growth throughout the years for the Houston AIDS Walk. Organizations like AIDS Foundation Houston, Legacy Community Health, and Live Consortium have risen to help offer health services. People overall have changed their minds and attitudes about what is it like to be gay, bisexual or questioning.
Do we even need to mention the awesomeness of television's best show: RuPaul’s Drag Race? Ru would be the ideal running mate for Hillary Clinton, by the way. Between Ru’s dresses and wigs, Hillary’s pantsuits, and the endless one-liners that would occur between the two, who wouldn’t line up for that ticket?
In short, GLBT people have refused to back down from what was once looked upon as a mental disorder. A group of people who used to be regarded as deranged have shown to the world that we won’t be silenced, nor should we be. We’ve fought to get where we are, and we’re proving one step at a time that we’re just the same as everyone else, regardless of whom we love.
If there is a fight, there is not one other person I can imagine who has the gumption and intestinal fortitude to handle the long and winding road ahead than someone from the GLBT community. Because of all we’ve faced, it’s made us tough as nails.
So, in light of seeing both the negative and the positive experiences of GLBT folks, I can think of no better time than June – Gay Pride Month – to celebrate the strength of a group of people to overcome obstacles and make a difference in the world.
To all my GLBT friends, families and allies, let’s celebrate at the Gay Pride Parade. It’s our month to shine our light and let our glitter be bright!
The festival is open from noon to 7 p.m. The parade begins at 8:30 p.m. Saturday. The festival is held at Houston’s historic City Hall, Hermann Square and Tranquility Park. 901 Bagby. The parade starts at Lamar and Smith . VIP seating available. Visit PrideHouston.org for more information. Free.
Photo by Francisco Montes
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