Saturday, June 29th, 2002 | Gay

I just took a little walk down the street, into the chaos that’s developing on Castro. Scantily clad go-go boys in the window of All American Boy gyrating and beckoning to the passers-by, a gaggle of leather clad daddies in front of Daddy’s, dancing bears—and me shopping for DVD’s at Tower. I can’t remember exactly when the term “pride” came to encompass the entire celebration and activity surrounding the anniversary of the Stonewall riots, but I miss going to the “Gay Parade.” That’s what it was when I first moved out here in 1984, actually, it was called the “International Lesbian and Gay Freedom Day Parade.” Freedom meant something to me then, coming from Pinson, Alabama, where you didn’t walk down the street with your boyfriend in bottomless chaps. In my first parade I was surrounded by hundreds of thousands of people who were so much weirder than I, dressed outrageously, having so much fun, being themselves, and feeling free. We could be ourselves and celebrate our differences, and feel safe and loved and welcomed.

At a parade with Manny one year, he suddenly leaped into the street and joined a flag corps at the tail end of the parade, grabbing the lavender flag from a much-bemused carrier. He waved that flag and danced in the street and kicked up his heels and laughed and sang. It was beautiful, to see him so free and happy, almost delirious. And in the middle of Market Street. At that moment I thought that there was no way that a soul like that could ever be repressed. Or die.

I’m not particularly “proud” to be gay. I’m proud of how I’ve helped raise my stepson, of what I’ve given to the art community, of how I care about other people, of how I’ve eased the suffering of my friends who’ve died. I’m not proud to be different, I’m just awfully glad.

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