Monday, June 27, 2011

The Pride Parade

I was expecting spectacle—casual nudity, decidedly not casual costumes—when I attended my first San Francisco Pride Parade yesterday, and I got it.

(These gentlemen have made me seriously reconsider my sartorial aesthetic. Photos by Audrey Whitmeyer-Weathers at the Chronicle; full slideshow available here.)

But I wasn’t expecting to be deeply moved—by national organizations whose members had traveled many miles to represent their hometowns, reminding us that outside the SF bubble there does exist a broad network of support for the LGBT community, by that community themselves, of course, and, most interestingly, by their family members. To watch people march down the street carrying signs that say, “I love my gay son” or “I’m proud of my bi mom,” as a crowd wildly cheers them on, is to be, for a moment, part of a spontaneous community that’s better, more neighborly, than the one we soon return to.

(Photo by Lacy Atkins.)

I’m not sure what made that last group, the family members, the most important for me. Maybe because I’d never really gotten the chance to show my support for them before. Maybe because, as my limited perception imagines, they don’t “have to take a stand” in the way that their outed family members “have to.” Or maybe because the LGBT identity politics of “I am” can sometimes obscure the simple fact of “I love,” in all its different varieties.

On a different note, in terms of its performance event implications, the Pride Parade accomplishes two feats that most theatre projects don’t even attempt: to be genuinely of the people in the way that centuries-gone processional theatre once was, and yet to be deeply subversive (on a national level, that is). Let us never forget that to walk in public is always to perform, or at least to make a statement. Sometimes you can’t say something any other way!

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