The Pride Festivals I attended before this weekend were literally walled off events. The festival would rent part of a city park and surround it with chain link fence, then plaster the fence with signs. You couldn’t see in or out. These events were trying to carve out a safe space and do a little GLBT education in towns that had, at best, weakly accepting climates. The events were small, smaller even than you’d expect for the size of the town and were attended mostly by local GLBT people who seemed desperate for a little community, a space to be visible yet safe. I loved these events for their hope and solidarity and defiance and having that wonderful at home feeling of being surrounded by queers. But when you walked out of those walls, the feeling was gone.
Pride in Big City was completely different. The crowd was hundreds of thousands strong and incredibly diverse – everyone from Chinese grannies to the Cleaver family (and of course, all manner of queers) showed up.
The mood was welcoming and celebratory – the streets were lined with flags and every business decked out in Pride gear with special deals or free rainbow swag. The parade made it very clear that Big City values its queer community (or at least our money…) more than anywhere else I’ve lived. In addition to all the local queer community groups and organizations, major political figures made speeches and had floats, the police department not only marched in the parade, they were recruiting at the event, the school board and teachers marched in the event pledging to support their queer students and protect them from bullying (for US comparison, see here and here), and major banks built elaborate floats and costumes and paid fit, scantily clad men and women to dance and flirt with the crowd.