Gay Pride Month Sashays Through Town and Serves Up Lesson in History

A previous Gay Pride in Houston parade
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?
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.

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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?

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